Wild, Wonderful, White Criminality: Images of “White Trash” Appalachia

Abstract

Films in no small way have the ability to reflect and shape public perceptions. The following is a discussion of how three documentaries set in rural West Virginia, Dancing Outlaw (1991), The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009), and Oxyana (2013) have strengthened the idea of the “white trash criminal” in American discourse. The films draw upon stereotypical understandings of rural people—poverty, drug use, domestic violence, dependence—and contribute to the cultural production and exclusion of a “white trash” other. However, creation of this particular figure often occurs without consideration of a broader history, local political economies, intra-race conflict (whites vs. “white trash”) and generational poverty. The aim here is to confront and contest contemporary understandings of the “white trash” other, in order to refocus everyday discussions on the lived realities of rural Appalachia.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Alexander, M. (2010). The new jim crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York, NY: The New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barak, G. (1995). Media, process, and the social construction of crime: Studies in news making criminology (Vol. 10). United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bell, D. (1997). Anti-Idyll: Rural horror. In P. Cloke & J. Little (Eds.), Contested countryside cultures (pp. 94–108). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bell, S. E., & York, R. (2010). Community economic identity: The coal industry and ideology construction in West Virginia. Rural Sociology, 75(1), 111–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brown, M. (2008). Aftermath: Living with the crisis: From PTC to governing through crime. Crime, Media, Culture, 4(1), 131–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chiricos, T., & Eschholz, S. (2002). The racial and ethnic typification of crime and the criminal typification of race and ethnicity in local television news. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 39(4), 400–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. DeKeseredy, W. S., Donnermeyer, J. F., Schwartz, M. D., Tunnell, K. D., & Hall, M. (2007). Thinking critically about rural gender relations: Toward a rural masculinity crisis/male peer support model of separation/divorce sexual assault. Critical Criminology, 15, 295–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. DeKeseredy, W. S., Muzzatti, S. L., & Donnermeyer, J. F. (2014). Mad men in bib overalls: Media’s horrification and pornification of rural culture. Critical Criminology, 22(2), 179–197.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. DeKeseredy, W. S., Rogness, M., & Schwartz, M. D. (2004). Separation/divorce sexual assault: The current state of social scientific knowledge. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 675–691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Donnermeyer, J. F., & DeKeseredy, W. (2014). Rural criminology (Vol. 3). Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Dowler, K., Fleming, T., & Muzzatti, S. L. (2006). Constructing crime: Media, crime, and popular culture. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 48(6), 837–850.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dunne, S. (2013). Oxyana (Motion Picture). United States: Cadillac Hash Productions.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Entman, R. M. (1994). Representation and reality in the portrayal of blacks on network television news. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 71(3), 509–520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gustafson, K. S. (2011). Cheating welfare: Public assistance and the criminalization of poverty. NewYork: NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hall, S., Winlow, S., & Ancrum, C. (2005). Radgies, gangstas, and mugs: Imaginary criminal identities in the twilight of the pseudo-pacification process. Social Justice, 32, 100–112.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Harkins, A. (2004). Hillbilly: A cultural history of an American icon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hartigan, J. (2005). Odd tribes: Toward a cultural analysis of white people. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hayward, K., & Yar, M. (2006). The ‘Chav’ phenomenon: Consumption, media and the construction of a new underclass. Crime, Media, and Culture, 2(9), 9–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Heise, L. L. (1998). Violence against women: An integrated ecological framework. Violence Against Women, 4(3), 262–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Jargowsky, P. A. (1997). Poverty and place: Ghettos, barrios, and the American city. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Lewis, R. L. (1993). Appalachian restructuring in historical perspective: Coal, culture, and social change in West Virginia. Urban Studies, 30, 299–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Linnemann, T. (2013). Governing through meth: Local politics, drug control and the drift toward securitization. Crime, Media, Culture, 9(1), 38–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Linnemann, T., Hanson, L., & Williams, L. S. (2013). With scenes of blood and pain: Crime control and the punitive imagination of the meth project. The British Journal of Criminology, 53(4), 605–623.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Linnemann, T., & Wall, T. (2013). ‘This is your face on meth’: The punitive spectacle of “white trash” in the rural war on drugs. Theoretical Criminology,. doi:10.1177/1362480612468934.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Murray, C. (1984). Losing ground. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Murray, C. (2001). The British underclass ten years later (pp. 25–37). Fall: The Public Interest.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Nitzberg, J. (2009). The wild and wonderful Whites of West Virginia. DVD. Dickhouse Productions: Los Angeles.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Payne, B. J., & Gainey, R. R. (2010). Family violence and criminal justice: A life-course approach. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Phillips, T. M. (2007). Influence of appalachian fatalism on adolescent identity processes. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 99(2), 11.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Rafter, N. H. (2001). Seeing and believing: Images of heredity in biological theories of crime. Brooklyn Law Review, 67, 71.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Rafter, N., & Brown, M. (2011). Criminology goes to the movies: Crime theory and popular culture. New York: New York University.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Reinarman, C. (1994). The social construction of drug scares. In: P. A. Adler & P. Adler (Eds.), Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction (pp. 92–105). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Rennison, C. M., DeKeseredy, W. S., & Dragiewicz, M. (2012). Urban, suburban, and rural variations in separation/divorce rape/sexual assault: Results from the national crime victimization survey. Feminist Criminology, 7, 282–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Rennison, C. M., DeKeseredy, W. S., & Dragiewicz, M. (2013). Intimate relationship status variations in violence against women: Urban, suburban, and rural differences. Violence Against Women,. doi:10.1177/1077801213514487.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Rigakos, G. (2011). To extend the scope of productive labour”: Pacification as a police project. In M. Neocleous & G. Rigakos (Eds.), Anti-Security. Canada: Red Quill Books.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Schept, J. (2014). (Un) seeing like a prison: Counter-visual ethnography of the carceral state. Theoretical Criminology, 18(2), 198–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Simon, J. (2007). Governing through crime: How the war on crime transformed American democracy and created a culture of fear. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Stubblefield, A. (2007). “Beyond the pale”: Tainted whiteness, cognitive disability, and eugenic sterilization. Hypatia, 22(2), 162–181.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Tonnies, F. (1940). Fundamental principles of sociology (Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft). New York: American Book.

    Google Scholar 

  40. United States Census Bureau. (2014). State and county quick facts. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/54/54109.html. Accessed Feb 23 2014.

  41. Welch, K. (2007). Black criminal stereotypes and racial profiling. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 23(3), 276–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Welch, M., Price, E. A., & Yankey, N. (2002). Moral panic over youth violence wilding and the manufacture of menace in the media. Youth & Society, 34(1), 3–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. (2014). Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities 2014 county profiles. http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bhhf/Sections/programs/ProgramsPartnerships/AlcoholismandDrugAbuse/Research/Pages/2014-County-Profiles.aspx. Accessed Jan 20 2016.

  44. Wilson, J. Z. (2002). Invisible racism: The language and ontology of ‘White trash’. Critique of Anthropology, 22, 387–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Wray, M. (2006). Not quite white: White trash and the boundaries of whiteness. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Young, J. (1991). Dancing outlaw (Motion Picture). United States: MovieFish Productions.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen T. Young.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Young, S.T. Wild, Wonderful, White Criminality: Images of “White Trash” Appalachia. Crit Crim 25, 103–117 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-016-9326-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Domestic Violence
  • Critical Criminology
  • White Family
  • Criminal Justice Policy
  • Appalachian Region