Modern day experience with white trash stereotypes is, as with most modern cultural phenomenon, disseminated through movies and television. The images society has created fall into two conflicting categories. Most often the working class white is a whisky-drinking, abusive, violently racist, uneducated, macho, close-minded, dirty, fat, insensitive, monster-truck show watching, hunter who is better laughed at than associated with. Yet at rare instances, one encounters the poor white as honest, hard-working, honorable, simple, loyal, God-fearing and patriotic. And here exists the dichotomy of white trash versus good country folk.

American society has used the working class white to alternately allay they fear of faltering morality or to bolster their confidence in the correctness of the modern lifestyle. Examples of this tendency occur in the typecasting of working class whites in television series as well as film. Stemming from the disillusionment of Vietnam, Watergate and other corruptions of the time, we can trace a movement of "good country folk" in the television shows of the seventies. Programs like "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Waltons" provided a simple, honest way of life that appealed to viewers as an escape from the cynicism and the loss of moral absolutes that was becoming prevalent in society. Once again, America turned to the South as the appropriate setting for such nostalgia.

At around the same time, we also have popular Southern sitcoms like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Beverly Hillbillies", playing on the more typical stereotype of uneducated, criminal (Duke brothers constant battles with the corrupt Boss Hogg) characters with sub-standard eating habits and speech patterns. We also find sexy yet innocent women protected by their families with Daisy and Ellie May. "The Beverly Hillbillies" proves that even when poor whites stumble upon money, they retain their low class ways, and are useful only for the purposes of humor. "The Dukes of Hazzard" gives a solid continuation of redneck stereotypes, tempered with the idea that the Dukes are "never meanin' no harm" as the theme song implies.

The use of violence in film and writing is often a hallmark of social passion. During the 1930's there was a movement to expose the brutality of the lives of working class whites. Yet often the attempts to give aid were actually forms of condescension and control. That is commonly the effect of the literature and case studies of the time. John Ford's film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath is the strongest example of dignified poor white media portrayal. Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell, echoing the themes of Southern agrarianism, are rural saints attacked by the forces of modern, capitalistic society.

In recent years, the popularity of poor white imagery has come in two forms. One is the simple, idiotic portrayal in the humorous sketches of Jeff Foxworthy (a middle to upper class actor -- not a redneck) and the brass unorthodoxy of Roseanne, or the dark and perverse killer in movies like Deliverance or Sling Blade. Though the complex and human character in Sling Blade is much easier to accept than the sodomizing mountain man in "Deliverance", both characters portray a warped sense of morality that is equated to their Southern, poor white upbringing. The father of the killer in "Sling Blade" is shown surrounded by religious iconography and he and his wife blatantly use religion to justify their horrific treatment of the child and the murder of an unwanted baby that is born to them. The depth of ignorance necessary to explain the character's behavior is only fitting in the environment of the poor white. Filled with domestic violence and dark secrets, the Southern small town setting ensures that such events would not take place in any other context.

Deliverance may be the most well know and damaging film centered around poor whites, in this case "hillbillies". Deliverance embodies all the fear of urban modern America concerning what is most primitive and dangerous in the character of man. The conflict is between modern mainstream capitalist America and the lurking potential of evil in mankind...an evil which has been left behind to remain only in those mountaineers most remote and ignorant of civilization. In the film, urban macho man takes on the raw brutality of nature and its inhabitants with no respect and pays the price. The punishment is one of male on male rape by the embodiment of poor white trash, confirming mainstream America's fear of the poverty stricken savage.

The view from inside the working class is much more complex. The working class white is operating off his own cultural, family and individual biases; yet coupled with these are the pervasive, historically assumed ideas that violence, racism and fundamentalism are somehow inherent in his class. Even if one becomes aware of the layers of identification applied to oneself, and most people do not, a battle against your own heritage is difficult at best, and usually impossible. The class to which we are born, in which our family circulates and our formative years are spent, is the guiding principle with which we view other groups and their cultural beliefs within our life experience.

Films that show poor whites as violent people who attack wealthy citified whites allow the rich to justify their treatment of "white trash" by portraying the poor whites as racist, criminal and uneducated. This allows other typically marginalized groups to join upper class whites against the "white trash". This justifies upper class stereotyping of poor whites and serves to aid in relieving upper class white guilt over treatment of "others" in the past.

The hatred and condescension of the poor seems to be the last available method of prejudice in our society. Just as Americans have made an effort to educate, understand and alter the treatment of marginalized groups and alternate cultures within our society, we have held on to poor whites as a group to demean. Making assumptions about groups of any sort on societal and biased definitions is flawed in any situation. As with other groups, there must be an effort taken to use an open mind and individual code to ascribe merit to those in our world.