In the comments thread to the Bobby Lounge post, Yankee Sam M. raises a question, or series of questions, that I cannot adequately answer, and I sure have tried:
A few weeks back you had another post about how people cannot really comprehend “southernness” and its seemingly odd embrace of raunch and perversion, juxtaposed against the religiosity of the place.
It’s still an interesting topic for discussion.
Is it the level of raunch and perversion? Is it the medium? Is it the audience?
When to harrumph? When to embrace?
I really don’t know, and there’s no hard and fast rule. Here’s an audio clip from Bobby Lounge’s song “Ten Foot Woman,” his lengthy pining for “a 10-foot woman to keep me satisfied.” The lines in that clip really aren’t raunchy at all, but either you laugh hard at the thought of a woman 10 feet wide, not tall, coming out of the women’s restroom and presenting herself to the searcher, or you don’t. Bobby’s directive not to pity him for wanting to turn the garage into a sauna because “steam and terry cloth bring out the best in people, especially teenagers away from home” (or something close to that) almost made what I was drinking come out of my nose. Others would listen to that and think, “Oh, he’s disgusting.”
When to harrumph? When to embrace? I don’t know. I think “A Confederacy of Dunces” is utter genius, as does my friend Ken, who turned me on to Bobby Lounge last evening. Both of our wives think Ignatius is disgusting — he is — and that there’s nothing funny about him.
I can’t explain any of this. Nor can I explain why where I live is a religiously and politically conservative small Southern town, but folks here love the local drag queen who has her own float in the Christmas parade, and who always wins the “Dude Looks Like a Lady” charity fundraiser contest. It just … is. People down South don’t seem to have the urge to make life conform to theory and logic. It looks like hypocrisy to some people, and maybe it is. But it makes life more interesting, and tolerably human.
Anyway, I would like to hear from folks who can explain this better than I. Why are Southerners, despite the political, religious, and social conservatism of the place, also rather tolerant of various forms of freakery?
One possibility was suggested, kind of, by Flannery O’Connor, who said Southerners are about the only people left in this country who still recognize a freak when they see one. If this is still true, then it could be that people feel it safe to embrace the local freaks, or at least tolerate them, because the freaks are not perceived as being a threat to the moral order. Freaks — and by “freaks,” I mean people who might be thought of as outlandishly nonconforming — are by definition so far outside the mainstream in their behavior that they are not candidates to be “affirmed” in their behavior, and because of that, can be “welcomed” as one of us, despite their eccentricity.
That’s the best I’ve got. What do you say? Let’s work toward a Unified Theory of Southern Freakery.