America is small-minded about the South
I’m Just Sayin’
by SHEILA SMITH
She came from Mississippi but her parents were from New Hampshire and, judging from her stories, they were not at all appreciative of Southern culture – or accents.
“My mother enrolled me in elocution school so I wouldn’t pick up the accent,” she said matter-of-factly. “She hated the accents in the South.”
“Really?” I said sarcastically, throwing out my words in my best Southern drawl and butchering all grammar. “’Round these parts, we talk real good.”
The world that exists beyond Louisiana and, even further, beyond the South, likes to make it seem that the people here are so different; that we all have closed minds or judge people based on their skin color; or that we lack education, even though these assumptions are as small-minded as the Southern life is accused of being.
I thought about this recently while watching the Discovery ID, HBO and Showtime channels.
Now, there are millions set aside for production on the many shows these channels produce; little money is set aside for research, apparently.
I already knew Discovery ID is the go-to station for sensationalized murder stories. The channel boasts such gems as “Dates from Hell”, “Happily Never After”, “I Killed my BFF”, “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?” and “Wives with Knives.” Classy lineup, I tell you.
So I should not be surprised that Discovery ID, the same network that produced a laughable 2012 “Dark Minds” episode that focused on the unsolved murders of eight Jeff Davis women, has added “Swamp Murders” and “Southern Fried Homicide (SFH)” to its schedule.
Before I even turned up the volume on the television, I asked myself, “Self, how badly will the narrators and actors butcher the accent and any French, Spanish or Native-inspired words?”
The channel’s official descriptions for “Swamp Murders” and “SFH” are stereotypical of any murders mystery in the South: “Across the Deep South, heat, humidity and darn good hiding places provide a perfect backdrop for dark, despicable deeds. Murky waters take secrets to the grave in SWAMP MURDERS when bogs, bayous and decrepit docks surrounded by a tangle of marshland and moss-covered trees set the scene for mucky murder… SOUTHERN FRIED HOMICIDE probes the juiciest stories from down in the Bible Belt, from the Carolinas to Louisiana and Tennessee.”
Sure shootin’, that sounds good.
Now, the episodes I saw were set in Louisiana. The narrator was using some sort of rural Texas-meets rural Georgia-meets the hills of Kentucky “accent” and talking about Baton Rouge and the Derek Todd Lee murders.
“Someone’s killin’ Southern belles in their prime,” she whined, not drawled.
Belles are Southern, I will give the Discovery ID producers that. Louisiana is in the South; the producers have that part right. However, Louisiana does not have belles. We tried once but then the 1800’s ended.
After watching the shows that portrayed all Southern murder victims as the “aw, shucks” type who were too naïve to sense danger and referenced swamps and bayous more than 30 times per episode, I finally changed the channel.
I watched an episode of that “True Blood” junk so many people are enamored with (but I was only confused.) It’s about Southern – supposedly Cajun and Creole – vampires living amongst the living in a fictional Southeast Louisiana town called Bon Temps. I was surprised every character pronounced the town’s name correctly.
I was horrified that the actors’ attempts at accents sounded more like Donna Douglas as Ellie May Clampett.
So I switched to another show, “Dexter”, which is set in Florida, and listened as one character explained that he was moving on to Louisiana, where he had dibs on a crawfish farm near Lafayette and was planning to send his catch to buyers around the country.
“There’s a market for that?” one asked.
“Oh, yeah! Crawfish boils are the biggest thing.”
“He didn’t even say ‘crayfish’,” I mumbled, giving the television a thumbs-up. Thank you, producers of a show about a forensics investigator who is actually a serial killer of serial killers, for getting something about Louisiana right without making us look like “Deliverance”-type inbreds who ride alligators like horses and cannot speak properly.
Yes, we do have some people who do those things but we never publicize them. That only happens after major natural disasters, when those are the only types of people the news stations seem able to find for live interviews.
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