Saturday, May 12, 2012

White trash and the monstrous other

It's fashionable to say that fat and fat people constitute the last socially-acceptable category of open derision and discrimination. And it's not that I disagree with the spirit of the statement - certainly, overweight and obese people are mocked and discriminated against, both in media and interpersonally, with a sometimes almost sadistic enthusiasm. It's the "last" part that I disagree with.

Because it's still equally kosher to hate on people who would be considered, for lack of a more precise descriptor, trash. I know, "precise" sounds weird to say, doesn't it? Especially because "trash" sounds unnecessarily pejorative. I use "precise" because the trash label isn't strictly a class thing, as it might first seem - not all poor people are considered trash; not all people who are called trash are necessarily poor. It's also a cultural- and/or social-capital thing. (Calling someone "new money" is, after all, a bit like saying they're trash with cash.) And, I'd add, a race thing - because trash is so overdetermined, implicates so many different levels, to call someone trash is to put them on a level so far below the racial norm that they're basically occupying another category altogether.

But why am I saying this? Mostly, I'm saying it in response to the trailer for Chernobyl Diaries, the supernatural/radioactive-monster horror movie that's being released later this month.

Glad to see that the Scary Kid trope is still alive, too!

Now, I fully admit that I could be reading this particular film wrong. It might not be about evil mutated Ukrainian Euro-trash that not-so-subtly equates the class and culture of poor Eastern Europeans with being a homicidal monster (and I use "monster" both literally and figuratively). It might not be like The Crazies. Or The Hills Have Eyes. Or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And let's not even talk about the kinds of characters who pop up as sociopathic serial killers on Criminal Minds or the X-Files. (I don't know Jason or Freddy all that well, but I suspect that they'd fit the thesis, too.)

Creepy dude in the shadows! Watch out, attractive American cultural tourist!

So, my point, simply, is that this is flying under the radar, and has been for a long time. Maybe only Nazis are used more often when the plot calls for an insanely evil white person. (Maybe.)

But prove me wrong, Chernobyl Diaries. Prove me wrong.

No comments: