Saturday, March 21, 2015

Going South to Irony

Any understanding of the Southern United States is necessarily incomplete unless you realize that there's a lot of irony and self-satire going on in some places. Of course, Southerners are serious, too damned serious, when it comes to topics such as football and barbecue. However, even some irony comes into play even with those institutions. Many of the folkways have this self-effacing irony to them, like we're really not taking ourselves seriously. Indeed, that's the key to Southern identity: being able to be amused at Southern stereotypes.

Take the trashy bit of irony in lawn decorations: the plastic flamingos. It is not unknown for people with otherwise impeccable lawns and landscaping to place one or two of these pink plastic avians on the lawn; perhaps as an aww shucks statement lest people think they're full of themselves.

And that Possum Drop in western North Carolina that PETA got so hot and bothered about a few years ago? In fact, the possum was ceremoniously lowered with the New Year, treated royally up to then, and no possums were hurt with that bit of local tomfoolery.

Southern dialogue sometimes has a mild irony to it: "It takes two men and a boy to look at her," "That dog don't hunt," "Whoever does that doesn't love the Lord and Southeastern Conference football." Not to mention "Bless his heart." That comment carries an implication of "he's so dumb as dirt he can't help himself."

A few years ago an owner of a garden statuary store displayed a number of nude garden statues that were not moving fast enough, so she dressed them in little bikinis and they started selling. Prudishness? No, acute saleswomanship!

Jeff Foxworthy redneck jokes are enjoyed nowadays within the South. Few necessarily associate the term redneck with dermatitis, historically one of the symptoms of pellagra. Some people enjoy playing redneck too.

And sometimes local festivals feature redneck games such as axe-throwing, watermelon seed spitting, the mud pit belly flop, the armpit serenade, and tossing the hubcap.

Also, there are redneck beauty contests, featuring contests dressed in Daisy Dukes and exhibiting redneck talents. Contestants try to combine beauty with a subtle irony. Here's a comely contestant for the one in Woodstock, AL.

So it always pays to take Southerners acting stereotypically Southern with a grain of salt. There's a lot of leg-pulling going on.


Grand Crapaud said...

A redneck beauty contest sounds awesome!

Dixie@dcrelief said...

You forgot "Hot damn!"

I like your post. (hot damn).

Linda Kay said...

The big thing in Texas right now is the girls in their lacy short shorts with their cowboy boots on, instead of the daisy may outfits. Fun post, Angel.

The Bastard King of England said...

Those redneck games sound fun! Especially with the Daisy Duke wearing women!

The Bastard King of England said...

Those redneck games sound fun! Especially with the Daisy Duke wearing women!

Bilbo said...

You left out, "Hey, y'all - watch this!" ... which is usually followed by the wail of sirens.

TexWisGirl said...

i like her suspenders. :)

Big Sky Heidi said...

I never thought of it that way before; but it feels right.

Mike said...

My daughter and her friends 'flock' each other. They will look outside and see 20 to 30 plastic pink flamingos on their lawn that were set up over night.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Dixie and Bilbo got it right: those are classical Southernisms.

Grand and King, you got it right.

Linda Kay, that style should move east and north.

TexWisGirl: me too!

Mike, that's a grand prank, plus the flamingoes are beautiful!

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

Too serious about football? Naw. Look at KY and NC.

Dixie@dcrelief said...

"Lawdy, sumbody done called the ambalance!"

Cloudia said...

Another acute little paper on an interesting topic! You could do it as a presentation at conferences and VFW halls! [next slide]

ALOHA from Honolulu

Cherdo said...

Playing dumb is the best catches people unaware, ha ha.

I live in the land of Dolly Parton.