Don’t Hate: Five Reasons Why It’s Okay to Like the South

south mainIf there’s one thing pop culture tells us about the South, it’s that it’s full of yokels. If there are two things pop culture tells us about the South, it’s that it’s full of yokels who have all married their cousins. And they’re all racists, idiots, Bible-thumpers and just have really poor dental health, overall.

Even the news seems to feature a story about something dumb happening in the South every other week, from trying to block mosques from being built to some dude being forced to eat his own beard. What could anyone see in this land of obviously deranged human beings?

Obviously, you can’t reasonably believe all the things the media says about the South. The media has a tendency to, y’know, distort things. A massive anti-Muslim demonstration usually breaks down like this: 100 misguided assholes protest, 100 more stand across the street and counter-protest, and hundreds of thousands of others sit at home and look at the TV and say “Why is this even a thing?”

Not only are the majority of Southerners almost certainly not racist, idiotic, Bible-thumping cousin-fuckers with bad oral hygiene, but there are actually some really awesome things about the South that we can totally get behind. Things like…

The Music

musicThe South is home to a lot of really great music. Blues, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, and yes, country music were born there. Even if you don’t listen to those particular genres, they’ve shaped basically every bit of popular music.

If it weren’t for Elvis and guys like Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell before him, you wouldn’t have the majority of your record collection today. Everything that’s on the radio now can be connected to Southern musical pioneers in four steps or less. It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon but with a hell of a lot less Kevin Bacon (which is a grand improvement if you ask us).

The People

peopleSoutherners are known for their great hospitality. Why, you might even believe that Southerners just have some mystical property that just makes them plain nicer. This is untrue. What is true is that there are a hell of a lot less people, and thus a smaller overall population of utter shitheads. See, it’s not until people get into big groups where they’re essentially anonymous that they feel compelled to act like assholes.

Believe it or not, the majority of people you meet anywhere in life are actually decent and cool, one-on-one. Even if you disagree with their politics or their religion or whatever else, most people on an individual level aren’t really all that bad. With fewer people around, you form stronger bonds with your friends and neighbors. This is because you probably know their name and where they live in case you need to throw down with them.

So in the South, where there are far fewer people than in the city, you’re far more likely to know that your neighbor likes the Braves, and even if you like the Red Sox instead, you’ve still got yourself someone with whom you can drink beers and watch the game. He’s more likely to help you move heavy furniture, too, because hey, you guys know each other. You’re neighbors. He knows that even though you like Star Trek instead of Star Wars, at least you both like cars, and so on. If you live in the city, you’re lucky to catch your neighbor’s eye as she slams the door of her apartment in your face.

Everything’s Cheaper

cheaperThis one may not affect you so much if you don’t live in the South, but it’s nice if you plan to visit. Because the southern United States has a much lower cost of living than the rest of the country, primarily due to lower wages and higher unemployment, the cost of goods (and many other commodities) is far lower. More simply put: A bag of chips and a Mountain Dew are like two bucks and smokes are a fiver or less. Compare that with your $15 packs in NYC.

And yeah, it’s only that way because most of the people are so poor that that’s all they can afford, but consider that even a job flipping burgers for the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) goes a lot further in the South than it does for most of the rest of the country. The highest state-mandated minimum wage in the country, $8.67 per hour in Washington state, is less than a buck fifty higher. That’s just a raise or two away. Could you live on a job that paid $8.67 in Washington state, much less most of this country? Not a fucking chance. But at 40 hours a week you’d make $18k a year before taxes, which puts you at about average throughout many rural parts of the country. It’s not living like a king, but you’re not pulling used condoms off of food you dig out of dumpsters, either.

The Accents

accentsWe love accents in this country. We think of any kind of accent is exotic and sexy… except Southern accents. Most people believe that anyone with a twinge to their voice is a dumb hick. Never mind that it’s the largest accent group in this country and one of the only genuine dialects we have. Presidents (and presidential hopefuls), pop stars, actors and even respected businessmen have spoken with Southern accents, and yet the easiest way to show a character is an idiot on TV is to give him an exaggerated Southern accent.

But if you get past the stereotypes, a good Southern accent can actually be a pleasing thing. Think of Sawyer on LOST. He had a Southern accent, and it only got him laid for six straight seasons. That’s that actor’s real accent. He’s just a dude from Georgia. It’s not a put-on.
But even the poorest of the poor, the Appalachian Mountain people, the real hillbillies as it were, have something in their accent that’s just musical. It sounds genuine and honest. It’s not the voice of someone who’d yell cuss words at you in traffic. That’s the voice of someone who’d shoot a bear who was coming after you and then invite you in for dinner afterward. And speaking of dinner…

The Food

foodYou knew it was coming, so here it is: Southern food is freaking amazing. There’s nothing better than a home-cooked country meal. Deep fried everything, barbecue, chicken. Some of the manliest foods in history come from the South, even if Paula Deen is the one cooking them. Southerners don’t have time for any of that pussy vegan stuff. Eat your damn chili and shut the hell up.

Only in the South are biscuits and gravy a whole meal all to themselves. In fact, if you can put gravy on it, you might as well go for it. Fry it up while you’re at it, and you’ve got yourself some tasty vittles. Fried steak and gravy with a side of eggs, sunny-side up, and a cornbread muffin? That’s a real man’s breakfast. Even the gross foods sound bad ass: Mustard greens. Black-eyed peas. Grits. The names alone imply that eating them makes you tougher than John Wayne’s balls.

Yeah, a lot of them die from heart disease before they’re fifty, but at least they got to pack away some good shit.

M. Asher Cantrell is a novelist, playwright, and freelance writer. You can find more of his work at Cracked and Film School Rejects.