CNN's "The 'forgotten tribe' in West Virginia; why America's white working class feels left behind"
This five minute CNN story on West Virginia's McDowell County first aired two weeks ago.
I found it significant that the West Virginians in the video are part of a "tribe" and that they "look different" and they "talk different" which further allows the viewer to distance themselves from these "other" Americans. Consequently, it wouldn't surprise me that the non-Appalachian viewer's reaction to the fatalism that pervades the video is sympathy rather than empathy. Sympathy allows them to say "that's too bad" and then walk away; empathy says "I feel your pain" that perhaps garners some support for change. (Of course, another reaction might be, given the way the video uses the stereotype, "they got what they deserve.")
BBC's "Eating Roadkill in West Virginia"
This photo essay from the BBC News was placed online earlier today.
For the most part, the essay treats the Roadkill Festival in Marlinton seriously with only two panels noting that the natives' tongues might be planted in their cheeks. ("Miss Grandma Roadkill 2016"? C'mon.)
And that may be the danger of locals having some fun with this stereotype. Exaggerating, satirizing, or co-opting a stereotype is certainly one way to undercut a stereotype’s power. That works, it seems to me, only when the audience recognizes that what they are seeing is a stereotype; otherwise playing to the stereotype (even satirically) only reinforces it. With few exceptions, the notes that accompany the pictures are serious and only further the essay's stronger visuals which suggest that West Virginians are very strange.
This is one of those posts which might start an excellent reader discussion. I'm going to check again to see if there are alternatives to Disqus.