Since posting the trailer to The Wild, Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia last Friday, this blog has been overrun (if, by "overrun," I mean triple the daily traffic) by folks searching for a peek into the hillbilly lifestyle.
(At least what they presume is the typical hillbilly lifestyle.)
As I mentioned when I posted the trailer, I wasn't sure what to think. The footage was off-putting, yet strangely interesting. The behaviors depicted by the Whites were clearly over the top, but I've known others with similar lifestyles and world views; sure, the family presents as an exaggeration, but not so much that most of us living in Appalachia don't recognize something familiar about Jesco and his clan. Step outside Taylor Books, the Huntington Mall or off a college campus, then drive a few miles off the Interstate and see how long it takes you to find Jesco.
Appalachian Being recently published a terrific commentary about this (which can be found here) in which blogger BuzzardBilly articulates quite well how cultural, societal and educational paths cross to produce the exaggerated, stereotypical lifestyle of the Whites. It's insightful, and well worth the read.
But a post published Friday by Spike Nesmith, on his blog, Blog! The Musical, caused me to flip my thoughts a bit on the White saga. In his post, Nesmith confesses to searching for and watching the video-taped death of comedian Tommy Cooper, and asks the question that made me care less about the behavior of the White family, and become more interested in the people a-google-in' up their movie trailer : "What draws us to these clips?"
What is it about the unusual, the forbidden and the shocking that causes people to seek out and watch activity we'd otherwise turn our eyes away from if witnessed in real life? It's an interesting question that deserves a thoughtful, genuine answer.
Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle may hold a clue.