What is the Norm?
What do we really know about our neighbors?
That’s the question Dale and I asked when watched the movie “Winter’s Bone” a few weeks ago. I normally choose movies that look interesting to me rather than going for the Oscar picks, but this one received a lot of press here as it is about and was filmed here in the Ozarks.
I’m also a fan of John Hawkes who was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of a meth addict in the movie. (Hawkes also played Bugsy in “The Perfect Storm” and Sol Star in the HBO series, “Deadwood.”)
I knew the movie was dark, given the sad subject of meth production and use in these rural mountains. I also heard that it did not portray our region in a very positive light.
Both were true of the movie and when we were finished watching it, we had to ask how we could miss this subculture.
We know, of course, of the meth labs and trade here from the news of lab busts and arrests that go on mostly in the remote, rural areas of the counties that make up the Ozark Mountains. We can also see evidence of it in some of the people we encounter in town, sunken dark rimmed eyes, bodies too thin for their frames and the absence of teeth.
But it was really hard for us to imagine the the subculture that was portrayed in the movie exists so close to home. Could these people be some of our neighbors?
In the city, I think there is an illusion of a “normal suburban family.” Maybe the illusion is easier to create because everything seems so similar – the cookie cutter homes, the SUVs in the driveways and the homeowners associations that make sure everyone stays similar. Yet, even in the city, if we look hard beyond those cookie cutter homes, the standard of the “normal” family becomes blurred.
Here, we’ve noticed, there really isn’t any standard to compare to the “norm,” most people live here because they’ve chosen some type of an unconventional lifestyle.
I don’t know if it was the fact we live in a small house that is more environmentally sustainable or maybe it was the movie that prompted a producer from The Nate Burkus Show to ask me if we had running water. We’ve had similar questions and comments before. A former neighbor of ours in the city teases us about outhouses and we’ve been asked if we’re “hillbillies,” or “tree huggers.”
The producers question still took me by surprise although I do know of people here who live totally off the grid. Still, I know more who do not. I don’t think I would call it the “norm” here.
“Yes, and we even have electricity,” was my reply. Given what was portrayed as typical family life in the Ozarks in “Winter’s Bone,” I guess I really can’t blame her for wondering.
Are there stereotypes surrounding your lifestyle, city or region?