Appalachia Used to Be Simply Scary. Now Its Hipness Is Frightening.

AppalachiaToday The New Republic posted my piece on the culture’s recent rash of pop-yokelism and our changing cultural depictions of Appalachia. Here’s the link.

Here’s the opening of the essay:

For four decades Ned Beatty has been the unofficial spokesmodel of Appalachian tourism. Even if Beatty, scrambling around in the woods wearing his tighty-whities, isn’t anchored in your somatic memory—even if you have no idea who Ned Beatty is—you know what his character endured in the 1972 film Deliverance. Four words: “squeal like a pig.” With that scene, Appalachia, a complex, beautiful, troubled region running from Mississippi to New York and home to 25 million people, became synonymous with a rape joke. The image of backwoods Appalachian viciousness wasn’t born with Deliverance—the Appalachia of the American imagination took form following the Civil War, when urban journalists scribbled about the hardscrabble mountain primitive for such publications as The Atlantic—but the film did present the most lurid, popular modern image of the hillbilly grotesque.

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