I shoulda known better.
As I write, Code Red Productions, a New York-based company, is looking for "friendly, sociable, gregarious and unreserved guys and gals between the ages of 21 and 30 who would be psyched about spending two months living in an all-expense paid beach house" somewhere along the Florida Panhandle or Alabama Gulf Coast.
"A Jersey Shore spinoff for the South."
Just "for" us. Bless their little Yankee hearts.
Yessir, because Code Red is all worried that "Southerners are 'underrepresented' on reality TV," the company is putting together a reality show "representing the 'unique beach culture' of the Southern United States" and calling it "The Redneck Riviera."
Apparently concerned that folks like me might recall the immortal words of William Price Fox — "No lie, the average Yankee knows about as much about the South as a hog knows about the Lord's plan for salvation" — the New Yorkers went out and hired Birmingham native Jodi Redmond to handle the casting.
I, for one, am not relieved.
First, I was turned off by the tagline, "this ain't no regular shore."
Then I read that Code Red is gonna "show audiences that the Confederates can party with the best of 'em."
"Confederates." Deliver me, Lord.
Then the company announced that it was only hiring Southerners because they were "looking to represent the entire Southeast."
The "entire Southeast?"
When was the last time Ms. Redmond was down on the Riviera?
If she went and asked folks who flock there, she'd know that they come from Alabama, Mississippi, the Florida Panhandle, Georgia west of Interstate 75, LSU and a dribble from Tennessee. People from everywhere else in the "Southeast" go to the Atlantic Coast or the Texas Gulf. If Code Red wants to do it right, those folks should not apply.
And where was Ms. Redmond when the criteria for being true sons and daughters of Dixie were being drawn up?
For example, they ask: "Do you drink sweet sea, talk endlessly about Nascar, sport a rebel flag (on your bikini or jacked-up pickup truck), listen to loud country and/or Southern rock, or enjoying walking around shirtless or in your Daisy Dukes?"
Where do I begin?
Tea drinkers, sweet or otherwise, and NASCAR (all caps, please) fanatics are as rare among the folks Code Red should be seeking as metaphysicians or Muumuus — they drink beer and talk football. As for rebel flags and jacked-up pickups, since applicants have to be 21, that knocks out the flagged and jacked-up high school boys, so you are more likely to see university stickers on SUVs or Jeeps.
Music? I am afraid you will hear as much rap as loud country. As for Southern rock — sadly, most of the folks in the desired demographic are more familiar with Lil' Wayne than the Allman Brothers. Oh, the shame of it.
Shirtless and Daisy Dukes, OK, but by the time they push past 25, most of the guys have the beginnings of a beer gut and the girls have put a little padding into their Daisies. I wonder if folks like that will make the cut?
And Code Red asks, "Do you consider 'liberal' a dirty word?"
Who cares? Of all the things that occupy the minds of the Riviera's rednecks, politics is right down at the bottom of the list with saving beach mice.
And just when I thought it could not get any worse, it did.
"Is your idea of the perfect vacation going to Panama City or Daytona, buying Miller beer by the case, partying and dancing the night away among neon-lighted strips of bars while spending the day on the beach with a cold one in your hand and watching bikini bull-riding contests?"
Well, honey, Daytona's not on the Redneck Riviera (see "Southeast" above), and the favorite beer brand on the beach is whatever is available and cheap. Instead of "strips of bars," the Redneck Riviera has clubs like LaVella on Panama City Beach and The Hangout in Gulf Shores. If you want a little more redneckery, there is the FloraBama on the Alabama-Florida line and Calhoun's Pub and Grub in Destin. As for bull-riding, bikini or otherwise, "Snooki" may have done it on the Jersey Shore, but down on the Riviera, mechanical bulls pretty well went out with the Urban Cowboy fad.
"Spending the day on the beach with a cold one in your hand" is about the only thing that rings true in the whole proposal — maybe Ms. Redmond added it.
Just like Jersey Shore reinforces all the stereotypes of Guido and Guidette, "Redneck Riviera" promises to recycle Bubba and Bubbette for one more round of national ridicule.
I think I'll pass.
Harvey H. ("Hardy") Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star.