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
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT