When I first heard this film spoken of on BBC's World Service I was tense. Sentences
something like, "Well they're obviously not All wife beating, banjo strumming yokels,
but . . ." Really made me More tense.
But I got to watch the movie on DVD last night with a friend and actually thought
it was aVery Good movie.
What I think was Missed by those who spoke about it on World Service was Poverty,
Demand and Supply. I mentally compared what happened in Winter's Bone to what happens
in inner city drug dealing. Do you think the male dealers or "cookers" don't beat
their wives in the cities? A close friend of mine from an inner city in Indiana
was married to a man who became re-addicted to drugs and so dealt in them after they
were married. He tried to Sell her sexual services to a friend. He also beat,
choked, and pulled a gun on her. Is this any Worse than what you saw in Winter's
I heard a young man from an inner city background asked on Television why he kept
Kicking an opponent who was already lying down in the street. The young man's
reply, "Because he was there to kick." Why don't you call young people like him
and their relatives "yokels?"
I think it is because a different stereotype reigns in the cities. This man, though
he might have family involved in the illegal drugs trade probably has a brown skin,
you think. He probably listens to rap or hip-hop, Not Banjos.
But in Both cases you miss the point! Neither the inner city youth, Nor the people
in Winter's Bone had legitimate ways of earning money. There weren't nearly enough
Jobs, especially Jobs on which one could Support one's self and others, to go around.
In Both cases, a quality education was lacking. Ree, the heroine of Winter's Bone
didn't have time to study. She cared for her mentally ill mother and two smaller
children. If there was to be meat on the table, she had to teach the young ones
how to hunt deer and how to clean squirrel.
In Kansas City, Mo. a significant number of schools are being closed because of a
budget shortfall. The kids are just being doubled up in their classrooms. And a
large number of teachers, statewide, who have taught long enough to earn a pension
are retiring while there is Still a Pension to be Had.
In the country Ree's family had no shower. In some apartment buildings in the poor
parts of Kansas City, the landlord controls the heat for the whole building and the
tenants walk around in blankets. Maybe this is against the law, maybe not, but it
So the yokels and the ghetto kids have these Important things in common: 1. Poverty
and 2. a knowledge that most of the country doesn't Care what happens to them. 3.
It is quite likely that they will Each receive a less than adequate education.
What happens when you have a poor, relatively uneducated group of citizens and a
demand for illegal drugs? Just as all of us have seen in Mexico, when there is a
demand there will be a supply. And the innocent people of Ciudad
Juarez and the inner cities, Indian Reservations, and Ozarks will pay the cost for
meeting that demand.
I think what shocked people about Winter's Bone were the cultural differences, (by
now Everyone who watches TV Thinks they know the inner city life) And the assumptions.
Ree was willing to sell her body and life to the Army to save what was left of her
family and their land, but she Didn't sell herself in the pool hall. Yet so many
people who watched this movie have talked to me about how "inbred" the population
is. Does it happen, of course. Is it universal, certainly Not. In any isolated
region on Earth intermarriage occurs. How did hemophilia get so widespread among
European royalty? They married for strength in alliances and generally did Not marry
what you still call Commoners.
Bottom line, where there is poverty and ignorance plus a demand for illegal drugs
there will be great suffering among the poor and ignorant population surrounded by
drug growers and sellers, whether they are personally involved or not. Please do
Not confuse Ignorant with Stupid or mentally disabled. Ree was Not stupid, neither
was the inner city husband of my friend. They both grew up in extremely Hard circumstances
without enough education to get out or combat them. Precious in the book "Push"
was very bright and made the very Best of her opportunities to learn. The same is
true of Sherman Alexi, who wrote, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."
Playing a banjo doesn't make one a "yokel." It probably indicates a rural origin