MovieChat Forums > Winter's Bone (2010) Discussion > Is life in the Ozarks really that bleak?

Is life in the Ozarks really that bleak?


Snorting meth, cooking squirrel? Every house has 4 dead cars and piles of trash. Every neighbour squinting at you and ready to shoot and bury you.
Seems like they piled on all the old tropes, banjos & bluegrass.

So is life in the Ozarks really that bad? Surely this has got to be a caricature?

Having said that, I really liked this movie. After all the negative comments, I thought it would be dull bad, but it's not. Its got plot, character, suspense and Jennifer Lawrence.

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Yes, it's that bad. Just like in New York City, everyone is in the mafia, everyone in California is a famous actor, everyone in the South West are cowboys, everyone from Mars comes to attack. You can't even go to Georgia anymore without getting attacked by zombies, every sense that Walking Dead show came on.

That was the sarcastic answer, the real answer is no. Fictional movies and or books often create extreme examples to create an interesting narrative. I am certain that the Ozarks have all of these things, but I dare say that they are not the

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No, I go down to the ozarks a lot, and it's pretty nice for the most part.

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In the late Seventies, I got hold of a book that had been on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost a year. It had only recently arrived in England and I quickly grabbed it up. The book was entitled 'Blue Highways.' And I was mesmerised!

Written by William Least Heat Moon, the book chronicles a period in his life when he, as a local school English teacher, caught his wife in the midst of an affair. The event was the catalyst that set Moon on a monumental journey of 13,000 miles across america. The fact Moon refused to travel on any freeways or interstate, rather choosing to use the old roads, denoted on petrol station maps in 'Blue,' hence the title 'Blue Highways.'

Moon's journey was a cathartic, self-affirming, journey of self-discovery that allowed him to first escape the rage of his wife's infidelity, and it provided Moon with the healing act of logging a diary of his journeys, and the people he met.

I allude to this book, particularly, because through Moon's journey, he provided a glimpse of the backwater roads of america, and the often extremely fragile, and sometimes quirky lives of those who etch out their own survival.

The book became my own catalyst for adventure; I too decided to take such a journey. I flew to Florida and bought an old Volkswagon Bus (during the days they cost practically nothing). The bus, (I nicknamed 'Pickles'), had previously belonged to the Vlasic Pickle Company, and was a colour mix of urine green and yellow. An almost appalling combination of colours. I had no knowledge of Vlasic's previous marketing efforts and found myself surprised often, hearing people call out 'Sweet Pickles' when I'd stop at a restaurant or petrol station.

I wanted to learn about america; not the part every Brit sees, such as the Disney sites, and Vegas, etc. I wanted to visit those back roads and meet with people. Each visit allowed me to write small stories about my encounters and forward them back to a newspaper in the UK for publishing. That paid my way on my fifteen week journey.

To say it was an eye opener would be an understatement. The scenes depicted in this film of the Ozarks, from what I experienced are accurate. In fact, I can say with utter truthfulness, that virtually every single state in america that I visited had its own corner (or corners) of degradation, abject poverty, and essentially lost souls.

The degree of poverty increased exponentially the deeper into the southern parts of the states I visited. But it was clear to see that northern states were either sitting on the edge of the parapet, or were already rapidly hurdling downwards in that irreversible trajectory.

In areas where racism was still most prevalent, the poverty increased exponentially. But I must also say, in those areas, it was where I was often most graciously received.

I also found that in what I had always seen advertised internationally as the 'Crème de la crème' of america, it was there that I saw the greatest disparity.
Places such as Orlando, Las vegas, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Dallas, most certainly had magnificent, almost fairytale images. But once you leave the central area you would find the greatest degree of suffering. This is not unlike the slums of Manila, Johannesburg, São Paulo, and Mumbai, where the vestiges of luxury are lived out among the human detritus of society.

Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas come first to mind. Alabama, Florida, and the Carolinas not too far behind; those are the Southern areas which remain indelibly etched in my soul for their degree of poverty and suffering.

But I found the same, in fact, in some instances far worse, signs of deprivation and suffering, when I entered parts of New Mexico, Texas, Michigan, and California. It remains with me that the most minimal areas of suffering I saw were in Montana, Oregon, and Washington. However, it did exist to some extent.

I knew there were problems in the Native American reservations, where the US corralled the natives into their own open prison of sorts. And I did get to see some of this. But unfortunately, I was never able to emerge myself deeply enough to get a cohesive view. ... other than a wonderful experience I had visiting a local police station responsible for the Cherokee Indian community in the North Carolina mountains.

Even that many years ago, the problem with drugs, including Methamphetamine, had already raised its ugly head. At the time, Cocaine and marijuana seemed to be the prevailing issue I could see by reading the arrest book at the local constabulary. But indeed, it was a grim foretelling of what was to come.

I'm sad to say, what was so perfectly portrayed in this film was no caricaturisation, but indeed the real thing. You can set aside the background music of Duelling Banjos, and replace it with an elegiac dirge of tragedy and despair.

I'm not sure whether the façade we're shown abroad about the wonderful life in the Land of the 'free,' and the 'Chicken in Every Pot, for its citizens is actually an honest portrayal of reality any longer. (if ever). And from what the news media portrays about america's Congress and Senate, and Presidency, the possibility for any positive paradigm change is not soon forthcoming.

Perhaps we need more films such as these, rather than fantasy films of killing and immortality to create a reality check.

It's hard to say.

Fr B+

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That is a really beautiful answer VV! I totally enjoyed reading your story. Very illustrative and a welcome change from some of the dreck that pops up on here and elsewhere online. Thanks for sharing :)




"The psychologists call him a psychopath. They don't know what else to call him."

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Thank you for your kind words Dialling!

I consider myself blessed in that I've had both the joys, as well as the sorrows, of visiting all the corners of our planet.

Wherever any of us may call home, I suspect we adapt our minds to consider acceptable and less onerous the negative things outside our own doors. Who has the right to suggest that someone who lives in the slums of Mumbai that will not consider themselves fortunate when they see the struggled and sorrows of others in a different culture.

It all boils down to how we see it, how they see it, and the way it really is.

May all your journeys be ones of discovery!

Fr B+

BigWorldSmallBoat.Blogspot.com
DogDogma.Blogspot.com
PNLExploitedChildren.Blogspot.com
PNLMoldovaPrisons.Blogspot.com
Anglicans.Blogspot.com
ProjectNewLife.org

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Yes- very worthy reading. I usually don't like to read too much of a reply, but I'm glad I did. Extremely insightful and trustworthy description in my opinion. Thank you for taking the time.

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villagevicarage-1, thank you so much for your post. What a journey you embarked upon, all the more so since you are English and must have approached it from an even more interesting perspective. Is there any way to read your articles/journals of this experience?

I just caught Winter's Bone on TV tonight, my second viewing. I thought it was very good the first time, especially the casting (John Hawkes!), but the second time it just took complete hold of me for some reason, and I cried quietly more or less non-stop from the beginning (with one exclamation of "oh, f___ing hell" during The Scene -- even though I knew what was coming).

I can't shake the film off my shoulders just yet. I came here to imdb to read more about it, and I'm so glad I did, because I found your post. Hopefully I'll have the privilege of hearing more about your work.


_____________

I don't come from hell. I came from the forest.

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Good Day 'Midnight.'
Thank you for your kind comments. I paused before answering this because I sat with a bit of sadness. For quite a few years I had saved my articles on a site run by AOL. Back then I never imagined that AOL would dump the hosting of those small sites...but then I never imagined that AOL would become part of the Warners Group either. Nevertheless, after a great deal of effort they remained online for several years. Now, they're relegated to the dust critters in my attic. The same happened when Yahoo featured their 'Yahoo Groups' products. (I may have forgotten the exact names of these products, but remember how actively I posted to them and the amazing responses I received from so many kind people!).
Today, as my hair greys, I've had to rely upon the activity of 'blogs' offered through Google. However, the content will probably not be of interest to you as it's reflective of my work in Eastern Europe with victims of child-trafficking, and a couple of blogs on matters relating to death and dying, as well as the private 'rantings' of a priest. Nevertheless, I humbly offer several of the many sites below. May all your journeys be ones of discovery!
Fr Bill+

www.BigWorldSmallBoat.Blogspot.com
www.Anglicans.Blogspot.com
www.DogDogma.Blogspot.com
www.PNLBudesti.Blogspot.com
www.PNLMoldovaPrisons.Blogspot.com
www.PNLExploitedChildren.Blogspot.com
www.ProjectNewLife.org

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[deleted]

Good evening Frecks and Specs!

Thank you for your kind words. I must confess I had to go back to see what I had written....Red-faced as ever, I note a couple of grammatical errors, which sadly, I can no longer correct.

To this day I remain fascinated by the disparity in perceptions that many of the lovely americans I meet have about their own country. I'm at a loss as to what the root cause of this may be. Is it the education system, the media, or perhaps much worse; an advancing virus of complacency, which comes from what some might call an abandonment of social responsibility.

By no means is any country either immune or a nirvana. We face our own challenges as complacency seeps in. Yet, we're grateful that many of the challenges america faces today, we experienced decades or centuries ago.

I truly hope and pray that an effective change will soon come about and there becomes an earnest determination to return to the solid foundations upon which america was founded: "We The People."

Thank you again!
in Peace

Fr Bill+
www.projectnewlife.org
www.dogdogma.blogspot.com
www.pnlbudesti.blogspot.com
www.pnlexploitedchildren.blogspot.com
www.bigworldsmallboat.blogspot.com
www.pnlmoldovaprisons.blogspot.com
www.anglicans.blogspot.com

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[deleted]

Makes sense! I work in Eastern Europe, but rely upon support from groups in the Nordic/Scandinavian countries. One of my key staff is the editor of one of Sweden's largest newspapers and he's shared the same thing. Having lived in Western Canada for a period, your observations are correct. It's a similar situation in Australia, but, sadly, not throughout the Pacific Rim. Again, it's a pervasive perception imposed by a cadre of nations.

Thank you again for your kind comments.

Fr B+
http://anglicans.blogspot.co.uk/2005/12/suffer-children.html
http://anglicans.blogspot.co.uk/2006/03/face-of-child.html
http://anglicans.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/power-of-words.html
http://bigworldsmallboat.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/exercise-your-freedom.html
http://bigworldsmallboat.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/rule-of-etiquette-for-visitors.html

www.projectnewlife.org
www.dogdogma.blogspot.com
www.pnlbudesti.blogspot.com
www.pnlexploitedchildren.blogspot.com
www.bigworldsmallboat.blogspot.com
www.pnlmoldovaprisons.blogspot.com
www.anglicans.blogspot.com

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[deleted]

As someone who grew up in the mountains of E Tennessee, liberal America has a hatred for poor southern Americans. So easily villified and ingnored. Americas first slaves were the indentured servants, Irish and Scottish. And this underclass is alive and well. Easily blamed for black slavery. Yet few know that only the top 2 percent of southern whites held black slaves. Poor whites had to basically sell themselves via share cropping or scratch out a living in a coal mine, as my people did. Yet, we are the vilified and hated. White trash that is so easily discounted. Will the truth ever be told about the South? I doubt it, to refute today's telling of history only brings accusations af racism, and worse..

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In the late Seventies, I got hold of a book that had been on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost a year. It had only recently arrived in England and I quickly grabbed it up. The book was entitled 'Blue Highways.' And I was mesmerised!

[...]

Perhaps we need more films such as these, rather than fantasy films of killing and immortality to create a reality check.

It's hard to say.

Fr B+



WOW  GREAT POST

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Before you wax too lyrical about poverty in America, keep in mind that the poorest Americans usually have a roof over their head, cars, TVs, cable, cell phones and air conditioning. Most of them do anyway. Are there homeless? Sure, but they are mostly the mentally ill or alcohol and drug addicted.

I've spent plenty of time in rural communities in different parts of the US. There are certainly plenty of social ills to be found among the rural poor, but no worse than among the urban poor.

I hate to say this, but there is a slight tinge of racism here. Rural poverty really surprises and shocks some people, I suspect because the rural poor are mostly white. Urban poor are usually minorities. I think most people don't find that as shocking because they expect it. To see poor white kids have to hunt and eat squirrels to stay fed is just so much harder to stomach than black kids dependent on food stamps and Head Start.

I'm sure plenty of you are appalled at what you just read, but look at the film itself. The only characters in the movie that can be said to be living in actual poverty and squalor are Ree Dolly and her family and that's because the mother is an invalid, the father is absent and the household has to be managed by a 17-year old. For all that, the family has a warm home, hot meals and they own a chunk of acreage. So, again, contrast the poorest of Americans with lower (or middle) classes of any third world country. It's no contest.

"You didn't come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya?"

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There are bad places everywhere. No the majority of the Ozarks is not like this at all.

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Beautiful country, but...

poor only begins to describe some of the stuff i used to see driving through the backroads to visit great-grandma and extended family as a kid traveling down to parts of the deep South.

that said, of course most things are drummed up a bit for Hollywood

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My home is in the Ozarks and I love those mountains. I've never seen meth nor have I never knowingly met anyone who makes or sells it. Lots of banjo music to be found around Mountain View, especially during the bluegrass festival in April. There's no more white trash to be found in the Ozarks than you would find in any other region of the country. I've seen urban areas and they are far worse. Nothing wrong with fried squirrel although I prefer rabbit. Never tried possum or coon. The amount of meat on a squirrel is kind of meager and tough.

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Paraphrasing Chris Rock, you get outside of the major urban/suburban centers and it's a lot of small towns full of poor people in rural, isolated communities. I've done a lot of rural riding on motorcycle and you'd be surprised at how a lot of people live.

I'm from South Carolina and a lot of people live like this. Note, the families are on a different level of poverty (an absentee father and invalid mother), but this isn't a caricature.

You get off the highways and travel the backroads and you see a lot of homesteads just like this. I've traveled through the Ozarks and Southern Missouri and it looks a lot like this. There are other motorcyclists who say they'd paranoid about breaking down in these parts as well.

Amy: I swear to God...I swear to God! That is NOT how you treat your human!

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There's a great documentary about poverty in the south called Children of the Mountains.You can find it on YouTube. Its extremely eye opening.

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Portraying "the flyover states" as wretched backwoods holes full of depraved incestuous meth addicts with shotguns is something Liberal film makers and authors like to do to reinforce stereotypes they have of Conservatives. Movies like this are the Democrat's versions of Nazi movies like Jud Süß (1940).

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