Sunday, August 13, 2017

The South's Hollywood Resurgence

Well, this isn't what you'd expect from the far-left Los Angeles Times: an amazingly sympathetic and refreshing piece on the comeback of the good old boys in Hollywood.

Check it out, "The high jinks and despair of the Southern man from 'Smokey and the Bandit' to the new 'Logan Lucky'":

The country was two years out of Vietnam and still bruised by Watergate when a wise guy in a Pontiac Trans Am roared through a movie that celebrated and poked fun at Southern culture with the affable charm of a moonshiner whispering tall tales in a roadhouse on a humid night.

“Smokey and the Bandit” is 40 years old, a raucous good ol’ boy tale that made Burt Reynolds a brand and left the screen crackling with country music, CB radios, car chases and the irascible and out-foxed Sheriff Buford T. Justice, played with gun-toting aplomb by Jackie Gleason. The movie is the South winking at itself, playing stereotypes for humor and laughing along at caricatures. It was a blockbuster.

It arrived as America was drifting from the turbulence of the ’60s and into the shaken aftermath of a misbegotten war in Southeast Asia and the disgrace of President Nixon’s resignation. “Smokey” was a salve, a lightweight rush of steel, beer and corny one-liners that epitomized an escapist (some would argue vacuous) pop culture as it raced through a land that flew the Rebel flag and strummed tunes of Dixie.

That folksy if simplistic notion drove other films and TV shows, including “The Dukes of Hazzard,” but Hollywood’s light-heartedness often belied the South’s deeper conflicts and scars over racism and civil rights in an often brutal history. That vexed legacy has been roused in the recent backlash over HBO’s “Confederate,” a proposed alternative history series that reimagines the South seceded from the North during the Civil War and continues to practice slavery today.

The cultural battleground the South has become also complicated portrayals of white working-class men who felt isolated and disenfranchised at a time of shifting demographics and technologically driven job markets. The country, many of them felt, was slipping beyond them, misunderstanding their pride and insecurities while turning them into punchlines and cautionary tales. Reynolds, who grew up in Florida, said he was long disturbed by films that mischaracterized the South.“Lots of movies ridiculed Southerners, and I resented them,” Reynolds, 81, wrote in his 2015 memoir “But Enough About Me.” “I wanted to play a Southern hero, a guy who was proud of being from the South. … Most of those folks are middle-of-the-road, not left or right. They believe in God, they work hard, and they love their country. They’re the people I grew up with, and I like them.”

He continued: “But Billy Bob Thornton had the last word. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘down South, we consider “Smokey and the Bandit” a documentary.’”