Selling Out the Rural Folks

I grew up watching Hee Haw and I know folks have written shit-tons of material about Hee Haw and I’m not going to say anything that other folks haven’t already said. But I liked it. I thought it was subversive. It took the truth and stereotypes and artistry and comedy and mixed them all up until the lines between them were all blurred.

And there was for sure an element of “we’re going to make fun our ourselves before you can make fun of us” to it.

And, sure, yes, in the early days of the Opry, folks who had come to town wearing their Sunday best were encouraged to dress like “hillbillies” and so the line between when are we showing you something everyone knows to be an act? and when are we showing you a stylized version of how things are? has indeed always already been blurred.

But CMT making a reality show where “stars” run an inn in east Tennessee and the conceit of the show is city slicker is out of water among all these hicks?

I don’t know. Yes, Green Acres. Yes, Newhart. I know. Shoot, even Northern Exposure.

But I don’t like it on CMT.

The thing I don’t like about it most is exactly what R. Neal gets at in his post. The inn they’re “running” is a world-class bed and breakfast well-known for being GLBT friendly that is only an hour outside of Knoxville. So, it is exactly not the kind of spot where you are trapped back in the woods with “scary” hillbillies who don’t know any better than to keep their farm animals out of nice places (if such places and people even exist).

So, here’s what I want to know? Is CMT a television station–even if it doesn’t play a whole lot of country music any more–where fans of country music go to watch other stuff that reflects our lives and things that might interest us? Or is something else going on here?

Now, we all know that country radio is geared towards women–that’s the audience stations are trying to deliver to advertisers and, as such, the audience mainstream artists are mostly trying to appeal to–and that these women mostly live in town or at least the suburbs and have all their lives. Country music radio’s main audience is no longer people who live in the country, at least, that’s not the audience they give a shit about. They want the ears and the dollars of suburban women.

My question is “Is that what’s going on at CMT as well?”

I think the evidence points to “Yes.” Look at the popular videos, the shows (like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader one and the Coyote Ugly one or the repeats of ABC shows about nannies and wife-swapping, even the redneck wedding show), the ditching of the Opry, everything.

So, if we can agree that CMT’s goal is to attract more suburban women, even at the expense of its traditional audience, how then do we understand “Pigeon Inn”?

And this, to me, gets at the heart of why this bothers me. It seems to me that we’re supposed to find amusement, not in our own silliness (which was, to me, one of the basic premises of Hee Haw) but in the silliness of those folks who are not like us, both the stars and the folks from Appalachia.

This, to me, then, says that the “us” of country music is not expanding to also appeal to more urban people but is shifting in ways that could exclude the very people whose music it was in the first place.

I don’t like it.

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An Open Letter to You, Mr. Anonymous Internet Searcher

Dear Sir (or Ma’am, but I’m guessing ‘Sir’):

When you search for “‘tiny cat pants’ fat bitch” or “‘tiny cat pants’ sloppy bitch,” and you then click on results that bring you to Tiny Cat Pants, I can see that you’ve been using those search terms.  If, in the future, you’d like to see if anyone else thinks I’m a fat bitch or a sloppy bitch, you have a couple of semi-honorable ways to do that and a couple of sneaky ways.

One, you could email me and ask if you’re the only person who thinks I’m a fat, sloppy bitch.  I would then, of course, know who you were and have your IP address and all your email header information, so maybe that doesn’t appeal to you.  Two, you could leave a comment here asking if you’re the only person who thinks I’m a fat, sloppy bitch.  I would, again, have your IP address, so, if that would lead me to any interesting realizations, perhaps that’s not a good option for you.

Or you could choose to be sneaky.  You could email folks and say “Oh, I heard that someone is running around the internets calling Aunt B. a fat, sloppy bitch.  Who would do such a thing?” and folks might email you back and say “It wasn’t me, but god.  Isn’t she?”

Or, perhaps the most simple, you could just not click on search results that bring you here, because I assure you, other than in this post, there’s no place on Tiny Cat Pants where I’m calling myself or anyone else a fat, sloppy bitch.

But, in case you’re wondering, yes, yes I am.  I am a fat, sloppy bitch.

Worry your pretty little head about it no more.

Love,

Aunt B.

p.s.  I know it’s a hard concept, but “Tiny Cat Pants” is the name of this blog.  “Aunt B.” is the nom de plume of this blogger.  Tiny Cat Pants is not a person.  It is a blog and therefore can neither be fat nor sloppy nor a bitch.  It’s a little like you wondering if a piece of paper with some words written on it is a fat, sloppy bitch.  No, see, you want to know if the author is a fat, sloppy bitch, not the medium.

Why Am I Not Surprised?

As you know, paganism isn’t some giant monolythic movement.  I, for instance, prefer to think of myself as a heathenish polytheist, meaning, I believe in most gods but prefer to stick with a loose confederation of germanic gods.  But even among folks who prefer those same gods, there is a wide spectrum of belief and folks call themselves different things and it’s not always easy to say what someone believes based solely on what they call themselves.

I, for instance, tend to think of the term “heathen” as being the broadest of terms, though I would expect, even among that, that you would find disagreements about how much “acknowledging” of other gods is acceptable.  Then, under that umbrella, you have other, overlapping groups–the Asatru, the Odinists, and so on.  Many folks in those groups join together regularly for religious and social purposes and so those terms can mean “I worship these gods” or they can be “I worship these gods in these specific ways and have these specific beliefs and if you don’t, you can’t call yourself what I call myself.”

And for anyone who comes to this set of beliefs (again speaking very broadly), there are usually two questions one has to settle pretty urgently in order to figure out where you’re situated on the heathen spectrum.  Do you believe that the gods are real?  Do you believe that a person’s relationship to the gods is blood-deep and inherited and, if so, does that mean that only white people can be heathens?

I, myself, do believe that the gods are real, as certain as I can be, while also allowing for the possibility that this is where I’m most obviously crazy.  I also do believe that a person’s relationship to the gods is blood-deep and inherited, no, I would say blood-deep and inheritable.  So, no, I don’t think that you have to be white to be tied in with the germanic gods, though, it seems reasonable to me that more white people than not would be heathen because we don’t have that whole “convert the non-believers” mentality and so, if people are going to come to the gods, it’s most likely going to be because of some old blood-deep stirring or because the gods have come to you and said “Hey.”

It’s not my place to question anyone’s claim that the gods have come to them and said “hey.”  If that’s true, I expect I will recognize it as being so.  And I would then expect that their descendents would be more likely to feel that blood-deep stirring.

But, you can bet that there are some folks who believe that the only people who can claim affinity with the germanic gods are germanic people.  This belief is called “folkish.”  And, as you can imagine, the folkish heathens and the racist heathens often overlap.  (Though, there are many folkish heathens who make strong distinctions between believing that their religion is only for white people and believing that that makes white people the best people ever and that all other people aren’t really people.  Each person has to decide for herself how convincing that argument is.)

For a while, it seemed like people wanted to make a broad generalization and say that anyone who said she was “heathen” probably wasn’t racist but anyone who said that she was “Asatru” probably was and then the opposite was true and then the Asatru folks were like “Hold the fuck on.  That’s not true at all.”  And then it seemed as if the Odinists were the racists and then the Odinists were like “What the fuck are you talking about?”

And the whole thing is made even more confusing because racists love heathen things–especially our runes.  I mean, no one sees sowilo tattooed on a dude and thinks “Oh, there’s a guy who can help me understand what the drawbacks to this translation of the Voluspa is” and for good reason.

Couple that with the resurgence of heathenism in the U.S. prison system and you can see all kinds of potential pitfalls.

So, the Indiana prison system was trying to ban group worship for Odinists, on the premise that white power folks might claim to practice Odinism and, I presume, corrections officials would not be able to tell the difference between Odinists practices (which might border on folkish) and racist propeganda being reinforced.  And the federal court just ruled that you can’t ban religious practices in prison based on what problems there might be.  Which is good and as it should be.

But, of course, it’s not as if the corrections officials were without legitimate worry.  The Wotanists do have a large prison outreach and they are openly racist (though I wouldn’t call them heathen, because they don’t seem to believe in the reality of the gods, but instead see them as archetypes).

But, to finally get to the point of this post, from Wikipedia, I bring you the least surprising sentence in the history of Midwest racism.

Wotanist groups include the Gambanreidi Statement, WotansVolk and the Temple of Wotan. WotansVolk and the Temple of Wotan were both founded under the direct influence of David Lane, by his wife Katja Lane (Katuscha Maddox) and Ron McVan, a former high ranking member of the World Church of the Creator.

Oh, Ron McVan, of course you were.