…to the book. (I myself reviewed it favorably in The New York Times Book Review in October of 2016.) As the emergence of Trumpism forced elites to try to understand Donald Trump’s appeal among poor and working class whites, Vance came to occupy an ambassador-like role, appearing on CNN and elsewhere to explain the poverty cycle in rural America. He even flirted with entering Republican politics (reportedly, Mitch McConnell tried to talk him int…
Read: "Vance was 'one of them' that we in the urban media bubble could connect with because he so very badly wanted to be accepted in our worlds. He told us exactly what we wanted to hear: that white rural poverty and its ravages are, at bottom, a moral failing. Our rural ambassador never said so in as many words. Instead, his tale of overcoming obstacles arced nicely with our own narrative assumptions about work and success: about our embrace of capitalist values and norms."
Thanks for the post, Meghan. With few other views from the actual conditions on the ground in Rural American Cultures, I understand completely why you might review Vance's work (as did others) as accurate and insightful (but not without flaws, of course, as you noted).
Tossing Hillbilly Elegy aside as an "eh" movie that's only supposed to entertain for a couple of hours, though, is startlingly shortsighted. Most non-rural Americans know zilch about the actuality of Rural American Cultures (60 million ppl at last count on 97% of the U.S. land mass) because media elites cancelled all rural television programming in the early 70s.
Without a variety of accurate representations, rural Americans didn't--and still don't--exist in urban media bubbles, except in political narratives. By extension, they also don't exist in the minds or hearts of urban Americans except as adversaries.
Another shoddy representation of rural Americans driven by profit is EXACTLY the connection to the 45th y'all are looking for. Vance's pro-capitalist narrative, its uncritical embrace by urban media elites, and now its cultural exploitation for a quick profit are all practices that demonstrate what happens when accuracy and cultural knowledge are traded for money and status.
That trade--amplified by your post--is the sine qua non of support for what the 45th is currently attempting to do. Cavalier media elites are not helping.