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MANNING & ASSOCIATES FINANCIAL SERVICES A homegrown Texas firm, Manning & Associates is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm that specializes in socially responsible investments Our advice is tailored to meet your needs and your values. What we do: Wealth Management Asset Allocation Gifting Strategies Estate Planning Miscellaneous Issues 1200 Smith Street, Suite 1600 Houston, Texas 77002 tel. 713.621.6646 I toll free 877.309.8248 [email protected] represent his lifestyle as close to that of the noble savage, are, at best, unreal and naive,” he wrote, going on to analyze the redneck as a hapless creature worthy only of pity and avoidance. A decade and a half later, the unsavory image held, as songwriter Randy Newman sold a bunch of copies of an album titled “Good Old Boys.” It included the song “Rednecks,” which had memorable verses, including: “We talk real funny down here. / We drink too much and we laugh too loud. / We’re too dumb to make it in no Northern town. / Keepin’ the niggers down.” For many Northerners and liberals, at least, that pretty much captured it. But time works cultural miracles. Somehow, menacing Bull Connor of Birmingham has become lovable Larry the Cable Guy. As one certified redneckologist explained it, the term that was once a crushing insult is now worn by many as a badge of cultural pride. “It used to be America’s most respectable ethnic slur. You could say anything about Southern whites, and it was resented only by Southern whites;’ said James Cobb, author, college professor, and self-pronounced redneck. “It’s gone through this metamorphosis to where it’s become more acceptable for Southern whites to call themselves rednecks. It’s an aspect of the growing assimilation of the South into the rest of the country and the greater confidence of the Southern white male;’ said Cobb, who teaches history at the University of Georgia and writes books about Southern culture. Nowadays, he said, redneck also implies certain attractive countercultural qualities, including self-reliance and a willingness to buck mainstream convention. “In a way, the rednecks are the hippies of the 1990s and early 21st century, sort of the dropouts from conventional society without a lot of the ideological trappings;’ he said. “A redneck does his own thing, regardless of what any bluenose, middle-class person thinks about it, living in his mobile home, with cars that don’t run anymore up on blocks.” Pretenders are quick to latch onto a lifestyle once it becomes faddish, Cobb agreed. Some of today’s rednecks, with their cubicle jobs and would never have rated the slur decades ago. “Of course most people are playing games. It’s a fairly convenient and cheap additional identity you can take on, and Jeff Foxworthy has made millions doing it;’ he said. It was a bit over a decade ago that the original Redneck Games appeared as a spoof in Georgia during the same year the Olympics came to Atlanta. The Texas games started in 2003. Now even Canada has its own, somewhat misplaced version. All three summer events poke harmless fun at the stereotype of the lower-class, rural, white male who muddles through modern life, making do as best he can. Being a redneck has become so popular there is even a Redneck World Magazine, published in Jacksonville, Florida, and claiming to sell about 220,000 issues a quarter. A recent edition featured the usual lame jokes about drunk rednecks, an article by Earl Pitts titled “White Trash and Rednecks Ain’t the Same,” and a lengthy rant against illegal immigrants. Another Southern academic, Lana Wachniak, an associate dean at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said the growing popularity of the games illustrates how the once-negative redneck stereotype has lifted. “These games are more a caricature of the Southern Buffoon, if you will. They are analogous to St. Patrick’s Day festivities, when we all become Irish. We can all reinvent ourselves. If you want to become Bubba, its OK,” she said. “By donning this redneck hat, you can get out there and talk to people, have a good time, and feel you are connecting.” s a promoter, Oscar Still knows that redneck sells. With such crowd-pleasing gross-outs as the competitive Spam and jalapeno eating contest and the redneck fear factor, in which contestants dip for animal parts in a trough of red soup, the Texas games were geared toward R-rated entertainment. “The wet T-shirt contest is probably the biggest redneck game of all,” said Still, 54, of Kilgore, and the man responsible 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 7, 2007