|Alden Ehrenreich and |
Alice Englert in
"Beautiful Creatures," which opens Friday, has the usual depictions of life in a small South Carolina town: the banning of "To Kill a Mockingbird" from the high school library, the idea that anyone who wants to go to an out-of-state college is a bit of a freak, bible-thumping by a woman who accuses someone of being a "liberal Satanist." (I guess there are no conservative Satanists.)
But the final thing that set my teeth on edge was hearing a Southern boy ask a Southern girl -- with nobody else around -- "Are y'all gonna go?" (Or something to that effect.) Now, "y'all" has a place in speech: It denotes second person plural, and I use it myself. But nobody uses it one-on-one, and directors based in New York and Los Angeles haven't bothered to learn that.
Directors wouldn't film in Paris and set the Eiffel Tower on the wrong bank of the Seine. They wouldn't shoot in London and give all the characters Irish accents. But the American South? Who can be bothered to figure out how we really speak and behave? A continuity person would straighten this out in a moment, but nobody in Hollywood cares.
I know the stereotype of the dumb Southerner still gets laughs in other parts of the country, though I last found it hilarious when I watched "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." at the age of 10. It's not on a par with the crueler stereotypes -- the cheap Jew, the shiftless African-American, the drunken Irishman -- but it makes my teeth grate nonetheless, because it's a constant indicator that the rest of the country needs some region on which to look down.
Filmmakers can still use "Southern" as a synonym for "backward" without bothering folks in America's cultural centers, so I know this won't change soon. I just wanted to share an observation with y'all.