So, Hollywood Hillbillies is my first reality show. Ever. (It was on You Tube a few days ago, but is gone again now…see if you can find it.)
And I will be honest with you. My first reaction was, “I must never, ever, EVER, set foot in the South again.” That was probably just because this family may have triggered a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder from my own visits south of the Mason-Dixon line. I have many, many relatives, and friends, in the South. But–you friends and relatives in the South have to admit that y’all have no kale whatsoever in your damn grocery stores. (You know, kale? It’s a cruciferous vegetable. Like broccoli and spinach and cauliflower. Yes, people eat it and it’s delicious.) No tofu either. And that is a fact. I have checked. (Y’all need to write some letters to Winn-Dixie, stat!)
My second reaction was, “Why do these people have to talk like they have a mouthful of marbles? This is not My Fair Lady! We are not all being taught by Henry Higgins! Can’t we talk like it’s not painful?” (Did you realize that the Southern drawl is based on an upper crust British accent? Listen to it, people! Neither accent is my personal favorite, but, you know what, that’s really okay.)
But my third reaction was, “You know, though, I kind of like Memaw.” (The show doesn’t spell her name that way, but I honestly think you have to if you’re going to pronounce it right.)
And my fourth reaction was, “Actually, in some ways this family is really rather sweet.” How can I say that? Because they hold hands walking down the street! Could we start there? This is a loving family of people who are deeply loyal to and protective of each other. Is that wrong? Actually, no. Now, if my whole family came with me to a job interview or a business meeting, I’d have some words with them. But that’s my personal problem because I am just that intolerant and/or independent and because I have a bit of a temper when it comes to family members bossing me around. But those are my own flaws, which don’t give me the right to judge other people who are kind, sweet, and tolerant enough to cope with family being right up in their faces all the time.
And then there’s the fact that they stop and talk to the people working on the side of the road and ask to try the cactus they are eating for lunch! When was the last time YOU stopped to chat with a road worker and shared his lunch? To me, being willing to talk to and relate to and share food with ANYONE is the heart of democracy.
But let’s talk about Memaw, since she’s the heart and soul of this show. And Memaw TOTALLY is the Queen of Swords. Why? (I know some of you are thinking, “how can Bonnie denigrate the Queen of Swords like this?” Well, just listen for a minute.)
1. She doesn’t like phonies and she doesn’t like people acting like they are highfalutin’. She believes in honesty and in being yourself. And God bless her for that! We see too little honesty in this world. And I agree with her: I am tired of phonies, frauds, and lying.
2. She cuts through the bullshit. And in Hollywood, there is plenty of it. In fact, Memaw even cuts through her own bullshit. She tells her grandson that she doesn’t want to see any sexual activity going on while he’s living with her but then adds, “but if you do, make sure you use some protection.”
3. She IS the unrivaled queen of her family. No argument there. They all agree on it! She is the boss and there is “no negotiating with her,” according to her son.
4. Yes, she’s overweight, and no, that’s probably not technically any of your business, actually. What of it? Big deal! She looks pretty healthy to me despite the weight. You know what being overweight means? It does not mean you eat too much (even if it did, that would be nobody’s business but your own). But usually, being overweight means you maybe eat the wrong stuff, probably because you are too busy taking care of other people to take care of yourself, and it means you have led a stressful life so far and so your fat-producing hormones have gone into overdrive. That is what it means. These are NOT moral failings. Quite the contrary. They just indicate that like all queens, Memaw is preoccupied with looking after and protecting people. That’s her priority — not making a fashion statement.
4. You may think Memaw’s racist but I think she’s just plain interested. Yeah, she makes comments about people of different cultures and ethnicities. But have you noticed? All her comments in that department (or all the ones I’ve heard so far) have been complimentary. She frankly seems to admire diversity. “Japanese people are so smart,” does not sound like hate to me. “The only thing David Weintraub’s got going for him is he’s a Jew” does not sound like hate to me. To me, racism is a type of hate. Racism leads to violence and genocide. What I see here is not that. What I see in Memaw, and many, many other people like her, is racial stereotyping that stems from ignorance of other cultures combined with total fascination with those cultures. She’s thirsty for diversity — and that’s wonderful. What could be wrong with that?
And by the way, if you think she’s “white trash,” then you are more hateful than she is. And way more shallow. By far. Because this is a woman who walks up to literally everyone she meets and gives them a hug. She is love.