By Steve Boggs, publisher of The Saline Courier
All things rural are hot in America right now.
Thanks to shows like Duck Dynasty, Moonshiners and Hillbilly Hand Fishing, life in the sticks is all over the boob tube these days. At any given time, on any number of channels, one can watch city folks learn how to noodle, or watch film crews look for Bigfoot. We can watch moonshine being made, or see a bunch of idiot high school kids in rural West Virginia running wild.
The whole backwoods phenomenon has been around for a while, but Duck Dynasty really amped up TV’s interest in rural America. Shot only two hours south of here, Duck Dynasty is the single highest rated show on cable TV and attracts a broad audience of rural and urban viewers alike.
It was reported by the Arkansas Business last week that one of the Bigfoot shows was filming an episode in Fouke, Arkansas about the legendary Fouke Monster. How many Legend of Boggy Creek movies are there these days?
I recall one of those Bigfoot shows that filmed in Pushmataha County, Okla. a few years back. This film crew had recruited a “guide” to help them look for Sasquatch in the heavily wooded areas of southeastern Oklahoma. As it turns out, their guide was a guy I knew from college. We used to play pool every weekend at a nightclub in Ada. He hustled me back then, and he was certainly hustling this film crew.
There are people who pay big bucks to come to rural America and learn how to noodle. If you’re not familiar with noodling, it’s the process of wading through a muddy river or creek and sticking your bare hand under water to catch large catfish. I don’t recommend it, by the way. Too many snakes.
MTV dumped Jersey Shore in favor of Buckwild, a new reality show that follows the lives of a bunch of idiot high schoolers in rural West Virginia. They have a lot of sex, and drive their trucks through a lot of mud and fight just like Snooki did. All while film crews capture it all for posterity.
Doomsday preparation nuts almost have their own channel these days. Most of these idiots are survivalist wannabees who prepare for the end of the world by shopping at Walmart. They’ve decided that moving out into the sticks is their best chance at living beyond the zombie apocalypse. Here’s a hint: Move to my hometown. When your nearest gallon of milk is 20 miles away, you’re survival skills will come soon enough.
What ever happened to us folks out here in rural America watching the city people fight crime, put out fires or try cases in court? When did the cameras begin pointing in the other direction?
When did making moonshine become interesting enough to watch on television? Probably about the same time those American Pickers guys showed up with their van.
Like it or not, shows about rural America are becoming more popular and more plentiful these days. In the vein of Hee Haw and Evening Shade, popular depictions of rural life in America are gaining traction unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Few of these shows cast rural America in a positive light. Most reflect only a caricature of what rural life is really like and play to stereotypical behavior. Some are better than others, and a few even treat with respect the values that rural Americans live by every day.
Will this trend continue? Are there other ways to exploit life in the sticks? Hopefully they don’t involve Paris Hilton. Maybe it’s time to strike while the iron is hot, and come up with new show concepts like Rub-board Road Blues (and its sister show, Potholes Aplenty). How about Stumps Gone Wild, or Webworm Diaries?
Or we could just find Bigfoot once and for all, so they’ll all go home.