Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Rednecks' turn to shine?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 11:56 AM EST, Sat March 9, 2013
A scene from
A scene from "Duck Dynasty."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Shows about rednecks are making Hollywood a lot of money
  • Obeidallah: For years, Hollywood has demonized rednecks in movies, TV shows
  • He says now the networks like shows such as "Duck Dynasty," which gets high ratings
  • Obeidallah: In time, redneck shows will pass and Hollywood will focus on other groups

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Move over Kim Kardashian, your crown as queen of reality TV has been stolen by rednecks. And not just one redneck, but many of them. Hollywood can't get enough redneck culture. Why? Because shows about rednecks are making Hollywood a lot of money.

The most popular reality shows on cable no longer star "beautiful people" like the Kardashians or "The Real Housewives." Nope. Now that title is held by the likes of the men from A&E's "Duck Dynasty," who make duck calls for hunters and look like a ZZ Top cover band.

Also sharing that crown is 7-year-old Alana Thompson, better known as "Honey Boo Boo." She has coined expressions like, "You'd better Redneckognize." Her show even featured a visit to the "Redneck Games," which her mother described as, "a lot like the Olympics but with a lot of missing teeth and butt cracks showing."

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Then there's History Channel's smash hit, "Swamp People," which features alligator hunters in the Louisiana bayou. Also, don't forget National Geographic's "Rocket City Rednecks" and MTV's new show, "Buckwild," which stars West Virginian teens and has been dubbed the "Jersey Shore of Appalachia."

A quick look at the ratings for these programs makes it clear why the networks are red hot for rednecks. The third season of "Duck Dynasty" premiered on February 27 and the episode set the record for the highest rated show in the history of A&E. Amazingly, the premiere actually beat "American Idol" and "Modern Family" that night in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic. Add to that, just last week, "Duck Dynasty" held four of the top 20 spots on all of cable, while "Swamp People" came in as the 14th highest rated cable show.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Comedian Jeff Foxworthy once joked: "You may be a redneck if your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand." But now that line might more accurately be revised to, "You may be a redneck if your goal is to have a hit reality TV show."

What makes Hollywood's current love affair with redneck culture so intriguing is that it has demonized these folks for years. Hollywood has portrayed rednecks almost exclusively via a parade of inbreeds, morons and bigots. The film "Deliverance" is the most famous over-the-top example of this trend. There are also lighter redneck caricatures such as those in "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." The list goes on.

When Hollywood hasn't been demonizing rednecks, it has simply been dismissing them as being part of the "flyover" people who live between New York and Los Angeles.

Some people in the South are understandably not happy with these new reality shows because they may be propagating negative stereotypes. In December, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia called on MTV to cancel "Buckwild" for fear it would present "shameful behavior" and advance negative stereotypes about people from his state.

Object all you want, but the TV executives truly don't care. How can I say this? I'm from New Jersey, where we were subjected to an onslaught of similar reality shows. "Jersey Shore," "Jersey Couture" and "Jerseylicious" are our equivalent of the horsemen of the apocalypse.

"Jersey Shore" didn't end because New Jersey residents complained about the negative depiction, especially of Italian-Americans. (I'm half Italian so I was keenly aware of this issue.) No, the shows ended when America got bored with seeing people covered in self-tanner get drunk and hook up in a hot tub or punch each other in a Seaside Beach bar.

With the redneck shows, there is a silver lining that was absent with "Jersey Shore." Most of us have never seen rednecks be themselves. We have only seen Hollywood's interpretation. So while I'm sure there are things that "Honey Boo Boo" says or does that make some cringe, there are also real moments with her and her family that are endearing.

In the "Swamp People" episodes I've watched, the hunters are portrayed as resourceful people trying to outwit their hunting opponents. With "Duck Dynasty," I'll be honest, I truly have no idea what the fascination is, but I'm sure many from other parts of the country asked the same thing about "Jersey Shore."

In time, redneck reality shows will pass. A new group of Americans will become the focus of Hollywood's reality show factory. I'm not sure who that will be but I'm confident that before the reality show craze ends, every profession, race and culture in the United States will get their 15 minutes of fame.

But as long as redneck shows get ratings, Hollywood will keep pumping them out. To them, it's not about the "red" of the people's neck, it's only about the green.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT