If you lived anywhere below Maryland and east of New Mexico in the year 2003, you could luckily count on redneck comedians to be your cultural spokesmen. In that time frame, they outnumbered cockroaches 4-to-1. But, as intricate and widespread as their messages of deer hunting, comical incest and dilapidated trucks were, they left out a few ways that growing up in the rural South changes your mindset.
Surprisingly, I ended up being adequately literate, and I am almost completely unattracted to my second and third cousins, but there were a few bizarre ideas that I held for a long time that "redneck culture" equipped me with. For instance ...
#6. Oddly Shaped Kitchen Ware Is From the Future
Growing up in what people would call a "redneck" environment transforms you into a time traveler whenever you leave your comfort zones the first few times, even if you're just visiting other places in the South that are simply more affluent than the place you grew up in. "Blimey! These buildings must reach the heavens! And moving pictures? What devilry is this?" One of the many Back to the Future Part II moments that I endured happened at 22, when I ate off of square dishes and used more than one fork at my girlfriend's wealthy parents' house. I imagine that they probably expected me to show them my cave paintings when I got done splattering my meal around.
I'd seen square plates at local Walmarts, but I had no idea that anyone actually used them, outside of the people in science fiction films who ate nondescript puddings out of their space trays. And if it was square, it absolutely had to be in tray-form, because you could portion out the food into the different areas that way. If you used the square plate, so often created with an exaggerated dip in the surface, anarchy would erupt, at least according to my 9-year-old, sheltered brain. The food would either slide down towards the middle or chaotically be unable to stay separated from the other foods.
WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?!
A circular plate is logical. You could ration out the different locations on a circular plate. Every one of the Grandma Uncle's Country-Home-Cooked Barbecue Diner-type restaurants near my home used circular plates, and all the small-town, kick-your-boots-off-and-sit-a-spell, ain't-nothin'-wrong-with-hard-work-and-Jesus-Christ-Almighty food they served was arranged according to a sort of unspoken pie chart rule. Finally, and this is just aesthetics, but square plates stacked rigidly, while circular plates were warm, colloquial, and more likely to be enjoyed by Mark Twain.
Multiple types of the same kind of silverware also never made sense to me as a kid, as they were mainly reserved for slapstick scenes involving boorish men visiting the royal parts of England and not understanding that you can't talk about farts while at dinner with the Queen. Finding that I had the choice to not remember which was the salad fork and which was the dessert fork made me feel as if I had been thrust into the plot of My Fair Lady. The role of the redneck is used in the media as a way to either assert someone else's higher intelligence, or prove how much better the redneck lifestyle is than that of those boys from New York City, who might wear fancy suits and drink champagne but ain't never gazed at the beauty of the moon. Thus, many in the South assimilate this mindset, including my younger self. They become a living stereotype, because for their whole lives, they're either presented with the idea that they're being attacked by people looking to make a joke of them, or that they're fish out of water in the harsh, soulless machinations of an America that would be way better off if it had a Jack Palance character to impart valuable lessons to.
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"And that's why all the love you ever need resides in the heart of a lost calf."
I'm sure that if I had used square plates extensively, I'd be thinking about how weird it was that all those bumpkins ate off of ceramic Frisbees. But square plates were advanced technology, and they were perfect for carrying ...
#5. Sushi, Which Is for Rich and Disgusting People
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In country music star Justin Moore's song "Bait A Hook," in which the ability to bait a hook is the primary indicator of not only masculinity, but of human worth, he sings "My buddies said he saw y'all eatin' that sushi stuff/Baby, that don't sound like you, that don't sound like love/Sounds like it sucks." Not only does he refer to it as "sushi stuff," because he's so fucking country that he can't be bothered to know about the apparently effeminate, well-known term "sushi," but he says that it "doesn't sound like love," which I disagree with. I know enough Southern girls to recognize that they don't interrupt makeout sessions in their Justin Moore-approved barn loft to ask you if a dragon roll is the reason for your limp handshake.
The South isn't exactly a prime location for raw fish. Many parts of it often have the kind of hot air and humidity that can best be described as "asshole at midnight," and when hot air learns that anything raw exists, that plate will turn into a mound of wasabi, flies and more flies. I'm not saying that the South, as a whole, hasn't discovered air conditioning yet, but I've been in enough poorly managed Dairy Queens to know that, if it's summer and the air conditioning isn't turned down to "absurdly cold," anything that you want to stay fresh and potentially unmelted is going to be dumpster-bound by the end of first shift.
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Keep those flies away from that sushi! It'll make them sick!
Sushi, because of the odd "sterile" quality that it seemed to have, was an item that the rich consumed, because only they could afford these combinations of unspoiled, recently deceased sea creatures. Now I'm old enough to know that sushi can be bought for suspiciously low prices, but my parents didn't eat it and neither did any of the older figures in my life. I didn't have a lot of exposure to it, and the sushi I did see had been shoved into the back corner of the local Chinese buffets, as if it was an eyesore and an embarrassment to the superior chicken and broccoli, and the fiercely lukewarm lo mein.
Adding to this notion of sushi as an unreachable status symbol was the ever-present childhood warning that, if something wasn't cooked (fried), it would kill me. The paranoia of any food that didn't drip grease was encompassed under the blanket term "salmonella," a mysterious disease that attached itself to every item that didn't have a breaded epidermis. If you ate raw fish, you would immediately come down with the salmonella, and your days of fort-building and backyard-wrasslin' would be over.
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"Why won't anyone accept my challenge?"
#4. Going to Coffee Shops Is a Symbol of Class
Another staple of country music and redneck culture is the ultimate rejection of anything that isn't simple. Aimlessly riding a tractor for hours and hours may seem like an abstract way to eliminate the nation's supply of diesel fuel, but to a country music lyricist, it's hitting the jackpot. If you've ever seen any movie that glorifies redneck existence, their days' work begins with getting coffee from a machine that looks like it was invented before the electricity that powers it. Coffee shops, with their often artificial atmospheres and seemingly unnecessary complexity, are the antithesis to this.
Maybe it's because hearing someone with a Southern accent pronounce "cappuccino" sounds like Hank Williams Jr. trying to explain all the things that he enjoys about Asia, but it could also be due to the way coffee shops present themselves. They, despite their miniscule efforts, have been established as the barometers of trendiness in society. Just as you'll see Southern people presented on film as a constant loop of duct-tape mishap, the inside of every coffee shop is shown to be an insufferably cool place, where a stream of people in their mid-20s spout buzzwords with a lethal mix of snobbishness and irony.
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"Google how to avoid thrown rocks while leaving a Southern coffeehouse."
This outlook turned every trip to a coffee shop into a treat, including Starbucks, which serves bean-grinder piss. The antique ambiance and long, silly names were special in comparison to the places that we usually went -- places built around how plainly efficient they were, like Big Lots. Coffee shops were citadels of hipness, something that camouflage jackets are allergic to. Never mind the fact that most of the people in every high school in the area wore camouflage jackets because a large number of other people they knew wore camouflage jackets, not because they had been creeping through the woods that morning and decided to try for an education.
To be an effective "redneck craze," the fashion must, at all costs, emphasize simplicity. This is something that coffee shops and every portrayal of coffee shops refuse to do. "Venti mocha latte Frappuccino with cream, please. Can you use soy milk? And can you make sure that all the soy is local? Is this plastic cup biodegradable? Also, can I add a shot of organic, fair trade espresso?" Oh, every movie joke about coffee shops. You're hilarious!
"Sorry, my order is kind of complex. I'll need a Mac to map it out for you."