Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Rednecks' turn to shine?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
March 9, 2013 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
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
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT