I could take this time to review Wednesday night’s (Sept. 24) season three premiere of ABC’s “Nashville,” but instead I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with something I saw during the episode.
Something that I’m sure at least a few other Southerners watching the episode took offense to, as well.
As a fan of “Nashville” since the show debuted in the fall of 2012 I know that the show can at times be a little too soapy and at other times there are things that irritate me because I don’t find them to be believable – like the fact that an artist like Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten), a character that’s pretty true to real country music, wouldn’t play a song with a couple of bro-country hacks like real-world act Florida Georgia Line at the end of the premiere. An artist like Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere, being chosen to play Patsy Cline in a film rubbed me the wrong way too, but hell there are rumors that Taylor Swift will be portraying Joni Mitchell in a future movie so it may not be too unbelievable.
I’m used to taking these slight issues every now and then from “Nashville” and forgiving the show because, after all, it’s just a fictional television series.
But, during the season premiere episode Wednesday night when Scarlett (Clare Bowen) was returning home to Mississippi with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) after an embarrassing breakdown went viral last season and they had some car trouble and needed help from a small town gas station mechanic the writer’s of the series (specifically Dee Johnson who wrote this episode) went from realistic, past corny and all the way to downright stereotypically offensive by naming the gas station attendant Cletus and making him out to be your total bucktoothed, “banjo boy from ‘Deliverance’” looking country bumpkin.
It seems like such a small moment that most wouldn’t pay too much attention to, but it sure stuck out like a sore thumb to me, and judging by a simple search of ‘Cletus’ on Twitter, did the same to others:
“Cletus? Stereotype much? #Nashville” – @RichardsLJ
“Just one complaint: Cletus. For real? We’re here to help ;)” – @CountryOutfittr
@Nashville_ABC Cletus and Jeb the parolee. I was wondering when you’d start throwing stereotypes. I guess tonight’s the answer- @AndyHobdy1 (Yes, the show also included a drunken redneck parolee named Jeb who tried to kill Avery for touching his “woman.”)
And my personal favorite …
“…A ginger bucktoothed yokel LITERALLY NAMED CLETUS. NASHVILLE. GO HOME, YOU’RE DRUNK.” – @Schwindter
Again, I realize “Nashville” is a fictional television series that at times gets slightly too soapy or even corny, but this was just downright offensive to Southerners, which I’m sure makes up a decent portion of the show’s audience.
Southerners have to put up with a lot of negative stereotypes that make ‘us’ all look bad, whether we are anything like these ‘Cletuses’ or not. Those of ‘us’ who are nothing like these stereotypes get tired of seeing them because people who aren’t in the know actually do view ‘us’ in these ways. There are a lot of kinds of people in the South – some are like ‘Cletus the gas station attendant’ from “Nashville,” but many more of ‘us’ are just normal people who don’t deserve to be portrayed in such a manner. After all, you wouldn’t see someone from the North, East or West portrayed in such a negative light.
Dee Johnson and the rest of the “Nashville” writing staff and crew should be above this, especially when attempting to make a realistic show about Southerners living in the South.