Tuesday, February 26, 2008


No matter who's responsible, you and I are blamed for things like this:

Film's casting call wants that 'inbred' look

A movie about to be filmed in Pittsburgh is casting Gothic characters -- including an albino-like girl and deformed people -- to depict West Virginia mountain people.

"'Regular-looking" children need not apply.

That's the gist of an open casting call for paid extras for "Shelter," a horror film starring Julianne Moore that will begin shooting in Pittsburgh in March....

"It's the way it was described in the script," Belajac said Monday. "Some of these 'holler' people -- because they are insular and clannish, and they don't leave their area -- there is literally inbreeding, and the people there often have a different kind of look. That's what we're trying to get." ...

Asked if she felt the characterization might be offensive to West Virginians, Belajac said: "We tried to word it in a way that's not offensive. I hope it's not an offensive thing. It's not meant to be a generalization about everyone in West Virginia. That's why we put that it's in a 'holler' in the mountains." ...

Oh, so you only want to stereotype thousands of West Virginians, not all West Virginians. That makes it so much less offensive, doesn't it?

The notion that the Appalachians produce inbred, misshapen people is an artifact of the eugenics era. Go read this for a bit of background. The notion is actually more myth than fact.

Look, for all I know, the screenwriter and casting director of Shelter are Republicans. It doesn't matter -- stereotyping of "dumb hicks," and flyover-country dwellers in general, is blamed on the party associated with cultural sophistication, the Democratic Party. And, well, some of us do say stupid things like this.

And I really think it shows up at the ballot box -- I think a lot of red-state non-urbane people care more about respect for the way they live their lives than they do about, say, Laffer-curve tax policy.

Yeah, I'm not perfect on this score. I generalize once in a while -- I do rag on the South, for instance. But I try to limit my criticism to political opinions Southerners themselves would acknowledge as widespread in their region. I'll criticize you if you reject evolution or if you think closing the gun-show loophole is an act of fascism. On the other hand, if you like hunting or NASCAR, it's just not my idea of fun; I don't think enjoying these things makes you a shoeless cousin-humper with no teeth.

The problem, of course, is that issue debates become lifestyle debates. If I want the gun-show loophole closed, I'm said to have contempt for rural hunters. If I want evolution taught, I'm said to hate devout rural Christians. We're going to be banging heads over these issues for a long time to come -- but, on our side, I wish we'd just keep it political; gratuitous cultural stereotyping on our side, I'd say, just leads the other side to get more dug in.

By the way, the big problem in Appalachia isn't inbreeding; the real problem is plain old poverty. Being yuppie scum myself, I'll recommend some yuppie cultural product -- Frontline's Country Boys and Rory Kennedy's American Hollow. Meanwhile, lose the Deliverance jokes. They're not helping.

No comments: