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"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wThursday, September 23, 2004


WALKER/LOTT SMACKDOWN: In which the Reason managing editor crushes me like a bug. Here's what my friend Jesse Walker had to say about my piece in yesterday's L.A. Times:

You've forgotten the cardinal rule of pop-culture journalism: Never say anything is "first." I could probably reel off a dozen or more country hits from the last few decades that do the exact same thing that "Redneck Woman" does. Start with David Allan Coe, who recorded the infamous "If That Ain't Country" back in 1977.

Here's the offending graph from the Times piece:

The song that has caught people's attention, "Redneck Woman," is interesting for sociological reasons. It MAY be the first really in-your-face mass expression of redneck pride. Country artists have often taken pride in their blue-collar roots, but this tune takes it to a new level. It takes the traditional outsider criticisms of rednecks — poor, ignorant hicks without any taste — and celebrates them instead.

Now I've highlighted the weasel word by rendering it in all caps, but the really horrible words there were "first" and "new." I was trying not to make a definitive statement about the history of country music and rather focus on the audience reception angle, but I don't think I pulled the trick off.

When it comes to country bona fides, I'll note that Walker has me licked and then some. Though I looked through the lyrics of a lot of country songs to see if they rose to the level of "Redneck Woman" and found them wanting, I didn't listen to everything. I'll also note that there's a possible young snot bias here. The song Walker notes was released in 1977 and I wasn't born until '78.

That said, the example that Walker provides differs from "Redneck Woman" in some important ways. "If That Ain't Country," if one were to summarize its message would be, "Yeah, we're poor white trash. So what?" "Redneck Woman" is more "Who you calling poor white trash?" The point that I was trying to make is that most past expressions of redneckery accepted the inferiority of rednecks, even if they pitched some objections to that judgment. Wilson does not, and I think her audience is responding to her expression of redneck of redneck pride, this time shorn of any shame.

posted by Jeremy at 1:59 PM