MEDIA-MADE DIXIE: The South in the American Imagination by Jack Temple Kirby

MEDIA-MADE DIXIE: The South in the American Imagination

Email this review


Dixie is in fashion. Advertisers exploit its manners, fiction dredges up its past, and a good southern boy inhabits the White House. Jack Kirby traces the history of popular attitudes that has resulted in this wide acceptance. Beginning with D. W. Griffith's film, Birth of a Nation, which reconciled southern and northern whites by disparaging blacks, he touches on the many successful movies, books of fact and fiction, TV series and ads that have reflected and shaped ""images of the South"" in this century. Early fire-breathing segregationism yielded to the milder but still pro-white position represented by the influential historian Claude Bowers, which was then followed in the 1930s by images of the poor and suffering South (in works by Caldwell, Faulkner, Agee, and others) set against the genteel Old South of Margaret Mitchell. The 1940s and '50s saw another South still: that of the decadent, mindless, or neurotic white, portrayed, for example, in W. J. Cash's The Mind of the South, Hank Williams' songs, and Tennessee Williams' plays. Although uncomplimentary, these latter images nonetheless down-played the South's racial tensions; and this ""mellowing of the South"" was not to last, for the civil rights movement and its attendant literature depicted a ""devilish South"" of white racism. Finally, with the winning of civil rights in the South and the growth of racism in the North, the South assumed a benign and at last Reconstructed image. Hence Dixie became fashionable, and Kirby believes it will soon be so completely assimilated as to lose its distinctive character. Kirby tells his story well, if impressionistically and with few intellectual pretensions; he thus successfully illuminates (sans analysis) the interplay of ideas and mass culture in America.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0820323888
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press