Here we go again. As a native of Harlan, Kentucky, I am used to stereotypes. I run up against them all the time. As soon as someone knows where I was born and raised, they feel compelled to make remarks like: (looking down at my feet) "Well...you're wearing shoes!" Or...(squinting as they pretend to take a closer look at my mouth) "You have all your teeth!" Or they ask me if I grew up with indoor plumbing. If my family tree actually forks. Do we have electricity? Phone service? Are my daddy and grandaddy and brother coalminers? I have even been asked if we have television in Harlan. Usually, I would make smart comments like, "Well, we only have ONE television in town....it's down at the courthouse, and all of us go down there on Saturday nights to watch 'HeeHaw'." You would be surprised at how many people believed me.
If you have followed this blog for long, you will remember my anger over the Diane Sawyer piece, "Hidden America: Children of the Mountains." Oh, I was upset...and justifiably so! But now I have a new one to focus on...the latest in the long list of (inaccurate?) portrayals of my hometown.
FX will present a new series, Justified, beginning March 16th. My husband keeps saying, "Paula, watch the first episode before you get so upset." I do not need to watch the first episode to tell you how it is going to represent us. It has been done before. We know. It will make us all look like gun toting, barefoot (or boot wearing), uneducated, unethical, primitive-living, moonshine making hillbillies. I will be shocked if it is anything BUT that.
I did managed to calm down enough to watch the trailer and their video on the History of Harlan. What did I see within the first couple of seconds? A flannel-wearing man carrying a shotgun, running through the woods, looking behind him like he was running from someone. The only thing missing was his hound dog. Oh wait...they had that, too.
I AM FURIOUS!
I was born in Harlan County to a middle class family. My father worked for the state, my mother owned her own business. My grandfather was president of a local wholesale company. My grandmother was a kindergarten teacher. All of us wore shoes. I was not allowed to use the word "ain't." If I spoke with a double negative in my sentences, I was corrected. I was educated. I grew up with a telephone AND a television in my house. I did not know any moonshiners.....well...that I knew of. My mother's father and grandfather were coal miners. Nothing to be ashamed of there! They were honest men who earned an honest living. That I know of, neither of them carried shotguns with them on a regular basis. Please.
I hope that this newest series set in Harlan does not portray the entire population with the same mentality that we are used to seeing when it comes to the media. I hope that someone did their homework and has enough intelligence to look at the place as a whole and tell your made up stories that do not portray the area as a wasteland when it comes to IQ's and morals. I am skeptical...again.
I believe the media thinks that telling the positive aspects of Harlan County won't bring them ratings. Perhaps the world would discover that our problems in Harlan are not very different from those in any other place in America. The myth would be exposed, and then who would the media have to exploit?! We cannot fight stereotypes in Eastern Kentucky with this kind of thing out there! This series is just one more nail in the coffin of my hometown...and one more slap in the face of the place and the people I love.
Come on, FX and Mr. Leonard....prove me wrong. I dare you.