Redneck Masterpiece Theater: Episode 4: The Hillbilly Heels
Bad guys. Usually they’re more interesting than the heroes. This is a fact. Every good adventure needs a good villain, and the same goes for redneck entertainment. But too often we’re left with the sort of villains from Deliverance or Wrong Turn. You know, bad guys of the squealing inbred sodomizer variety. But redneck pathology goes much deeper than pig farmers raping city folk. There are plenty of wicked bumpkins causing trouble for heroes like Burt Reynolds and those Duke Boys. So I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the most interesting villains in redneck lore. Some are pure evil. Some are pure stupidity. But all are dangerous. After all, there’s nothing more frightening than the vengeful bad guy, especially when his vengeance tastes of raw liver and collards…..
#10: BUFORD T JUSTICE: I try to say the word “sumbit” at least once a week in honor of Buford T Justice. He was a drawling hellhound and Sally Field was his fox. Sheriff Justice is a lawman determined not to be made a possum pecker of. His villainous motivations lie in protecting the family legacy. Leave it to Sally Field to escape a clan of raging racist simpletons before she can be turned into their breeding sow, all so she could take up with Burt Fucking Reynolds. Or, in Sheriff Justice’s own words: “This happens every time one of these floozies starts poontangin’ around with those show folk fags.” I’m no fan of racism, but I think everyone can admit that ignorant limericks like this one have a certain vulgar poetry.
#9: MEATLOAF: Well, not Meatloaf himself, but his character from Black Dog, Red. Red was a rampaging hellhound driving a gigantic “I-promise-my-dick’s-not-little” diesel pickup. Meatloaf was like Homer’s raging Cyclops in this trucker epic: big, mean, and only threatening if you’re too retarded to outsmart him.
#8: BOSS HOGG: I loved the Dukes of Hazzard as a boy. But I hated the humans on the show. The real star was the General Lee, that badass orange Charger that could jump over lakes, valleys, and God Almighty Himself. As a kid, it always pissed me off a little that the General Lee didn’t transform into a big robot and start stomping rednecks to death. Then he could fight Kit from Knight Rider. Anyway, as cartoonish as that idea is, it’s nothing compared to Boss Hogg, the Duke Boys’ main antagonist. Hogg is surely a horrid human being, the very definition of the greedy and scheming politician. His character was deliciously sinful, and nothing was too nefarious if it meant he could make a quick buck. Fortunately, the Duke family managed to foil all of his schemes without the help of robot stomping.
#7: MAYOR BUCKMAN: In the gory/hilarious flick Two Thousand Maniacs! the bloody shenanigans are overseen by this charming small-town mayor. And like the movie itself, Buckman is the embodiment of Confederate vengeance. He and his town of Pleasant Valley welcome in wayward Yankees, professing their sense of Southern hospitality while holding a deep grudge against any and all outsiders. These maniacs are straight out of history, the undying rage of a would-be nation that never was. What makes Buckman and his town disturbing villains is that they administer their tortures with gleeful smiles and folksy dialogue, repeatedly referring to their victims as “guests of honor.” This mixture of manners and blood splatter reflects the proper history of the South, one of genteel nobility mixed with brutal violence.
#6: DAVE MATTHEWS: One day Dave Matthews took time away from making music for shallow douchebags to play this highly stereotypical white supremacist in an Adam Sandler movie (2008′s Don’t Mess With the Zohan). Unlike others on this list, this villain does not play against a heroic good-ol-boy. Instead, he represents the redneck villain’s capacity for xenophobia, standing true against the dreaded scourge of a complex multicultural melting pot that threatens to throw his simple understandings of the world and himself into a catastrophic tailspin.
#5: KID ROCK: Specifically I’m talking about his character in Joe Dirt, but honestly, was he really even acting? Sure Robby is a bad guy, but so’s Kid Rock himself. He’s like a redneck James Bond villain, both inconceivably wealthy and completely devoid of taste.
#4: MAX CADY: Here we see the redneck as the anti-elitist avenger. The interesting thing about Cady is his sheer capacity for intellect, which is tainted by the sins of his ignorant past. Max Cady came from a family of twisted snake handlers. He is an illiterate and violent rapist, thrown into jail by his repulsed legal defender (played by Nick Nolte). A modern savage is locked away from society, but it doesn’t end there. Cady uses his fourteen years in the slammer to become far more dangerous. He learns to read and begins to educate himself. He studies law and comes to realize just how badly his pious lawyer fucked him over. Upon his release, Max Cady uses his new knowledge to track down Nick Nolte and pick apart his idyllic life, all within the confines of the law. Played by the great Robert DeNiro, Cady is the sort of backwoods maniac that strikes real fear into the audience’s heart. He is probably the most scary villain on this list.
#3: JR EWING: And here we have the redneck AS the elitist. JR Ewing from Dallas is proof positive that when an ignorant Texas shitkicker strikes it rich, he just becomes an ignorant Texas shitkicker with a ton of cash. Apparently people loved the character of JR, and “Who shot JR?” became an immortal television slogan. But to me JR is the epitome of rustic patriarchy, the sort of uber-rich dynasty member that tends to spell bad news for the surrounding regular folk. Villains like JR wear cowboy boots and wear a friendly smile, but they’d slit your throat over a few head of cattle. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter who shot JR as long as the bastard winds up dead.
#2: LEONARD SMALLS: In the Coen’s absolutely brilliant Raising Arizona, Leonard Smalls is the mythical angel of death given scraggly leather-clad form. Who is this man? Where did he come from? Is that a Woody Woodpecker tattoo? This Lone Biker of the Apocalypse is the redneck as a SUPERvillain, an unstoppable force of nature with all the inevitability of the grim reaper, and woe be to those who stand in his way. To defeat the biker Nicolas Cage had to literally blow him up. I realize that Nic Cage explodes people all the time these days, but back in ’87 this was a big deal.
#1: THE CAPTAIN: The worst villain of this list is the nameless Captain from Cool Hand Luke. The film is sort of a southern morality tale about noble rebellion against arrogant power. Captain runs a Florida prison camp in the 1940′s. I’m sure you can imagine what sort of place that would have been, and I assure you that Captain is just the sort of hard lawman you’d expect to run it. He partly reflects the typical drawling authority figure we’ve seen elsewhere, but Captain brings a cold logic to his cruelty. He’s not a humorous stereotype or a source of hard wisdom. Captain is a monumental obstacle that only Paul Newman has any hope of overcoming (and then only barely). And while Nurse Ratched and Warden Norton were merciless in their own ways, Captain is downright fascist in his methods. He runs an entire system designed to break a man’s spirit or kill him in the process if he experiences “a failure to communicate.” Captain’s not out to get you. He’s not going to chase you. But if you are unlucky enough to wind up in his grasp, you’re pretty much done for already. He’ll beat you, starve you, and put you in a box until you’re half dead. All to get your mind right.
Hope you enjoyed this installment of Redneck Masterpiece Theater! All sorts of other shit will be covered in the next episode, including REDNECKS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!!! In the meantime check out a book with plenty of badass hillbillies right here