Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Southern charm

watching: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
feeling: Revelling in Southerness

I'm a ninth-generation Kentuckian, which, contrary to some opinions, is part of the South and not the Midwest, but although I lived here on and off over the years, I wasn't really raised here. Still, even though I was an Air Force brat who lived in various spots, with the exception of about five years--I lived two years in Kansas (definitely Midwest), and about three in California--I've spent my entire life in the South, including South Carolina and Louisiana, leaving just long enough to lose the accent. So, watching The Gift and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, both filmed around Savannah, Georgia, made me feel quite at home. I could almost smell pine and bayou and sea air, or hear the sound of Spanish Moss. The characters of both are over the top, but the thing is, they exist here in the South. When we do eccentric, we do it over the top--whether it be drag queens that do lady better than ladies or squirrelly gas station attendants.

I suppose that the vibrancy of those characters is in danger of being lost just like the historical houses. Maybe some of that is good--Southern sense of chivalry and decency is great on one side of the coin, but it tends to sometimes become a patina that, if scraped too hard, reveals ugly truth underneath. Maybe everywhere's like that, I don't know. But every story here seems to have twists and turns. I don't know anyone raised in the South who doesn't have some family secret bubbling underneath. In today's more open society, some of those secrets have bubbled up, releasing some of the pressure. But some stay hidden, rotting things from deep inside. One thing I have learnt, though, is that the truth, although sometimes difficult, are never as painful as keeping the secrets. Or sometimes it's just a relief to blow the lid off of hypocrisies. But I still mourn the loss of some of the gentility, of a rural world where families would be homeless in the city but there's always families or neighbours to take them in the country, where people still wave to one another when they pass on the road, and I hope it doesn't just become a relic of things past. The Old South could be bigoted, racist, narrow-minded, and by some accounts down right irrational, but I believe that can change without erasing all its character.

No comments: