The Top 10 White Trash Heroes of Cinema

September 14, 2009

Redneck and "white trash" culture tends to get a bad rap by the snootier elements of our culture. Maybe you think that hicks and hillbillies don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’, but you couldn't be further from the truth. Sometimes we need to look to the trailer parks for succor, refuge, and justice.

Source: Twentieth Century Fox

10. Aileen Wuornos from Monster

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Source: Columbia TriStar

Charlize Theron was one of the first of the bombshell actresses to get on the white trash bandwagon. Never one to make a misstep when it comes to her career, she took a role requiring her to gain weight, nastify her hair, wear hideous clothes, and generally make herself ugly so that she was a repulsive sight to behold.

And it worked. Theron won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2004 and gained lots of street cred as an actress. Some people might point out that Aileen Wuornos, the real person Theron’s character was based on, wasn’t exactly a hero. In fact, she was a prostitute and a serial killer. However, she was also a one-woman feminist movement, dispatching violent, misogynistic truckers left and right for women everywhere. Theron made beautiful actresses everywhere realize that to win awards, sometimes you gotta get your hands (and hair and face) a little dirty. And she made truck drivers think twice before giving their prostitutes cheap tips.

9. Karl from Sling Blade

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Source: Miramax Films

This movie is white trash to its core. I mean, the man who wrote, directed, and starred in it is named Billy Bob. When was the last time you met a Billy Bob who didn’t count jerky as one of the major food groups? The beauty of this pick is that we have a hick playing a hick – Billy Bob played Karl, the mentally unbalanced, convicted murderer-turned-child advocate. Sure, by the end of the movie he murders again, but he does it in the name of love and affection for Frank (Lucas Black), the boy he’s befriended.

So who's the bigger redneck? The redneck or the redneck who plays him? This is a question only Angelina Jolie can answer.

8. B-Rabbit from 8 Mile

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Source: Universal Pictures

The beauty of Eminem’s character in 8 Mile, B-Rabbit, is that he’s a self-confessed member of the white trash club. He wears it as a badge of pride. Being white and living in a trailer park is what sets him apart from the competition, and he even uses it to his enemy’s disadvantage at the end of the movie. Whether you’re a fan of Eminem’s music or not you’re definitely rooting for B-Rabbit by the end of 8-Mile, and wishing you too had the street cred (and freestyle skills) that come from being poor and underprivileged.

7. Russell Casse from Independence Day

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Source: Twentieth Century Fox

Independence Day gives us one of the great world-saving white trash heroes of all time: Russell Casse, played by Randy Quaid. Of course, Randy Quaid pretty much plays a bumpkin hick in just about every movie he appears in, but the stakes are so much higher in this one: aliens are hovering over every major city on earth, systematically exterminating humanity like a cockroach infestation, and no one’s been able to break through their defenses. Leave it to a broken-down wino with a crop duster and a plus-size RV to be the last hope of mankind.

The fact of the matter is that since the time of Christ, it’s always been the downtrodden, penniless bastards who sacrifice themselves to get humanity out of sticky situations. Casse is no exception. After years of suffering anal probes and the indignities of being on the margins of society, he gives it back in spades and drops those elitist aliens like the intergalactic city slickers they are.

6. The Ram from The Wrestler

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It’s somehow fitting that Mickey Rourke is at the height of his comeback after playing a beloved symbol of white trashiness, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. He’s a professional wrestler, lives in a trailer park, works in a deli, and spends his free time hitting on strippers.

And yet there’s so much more to the man. He sacrifices his own health – nay, his own life – for the entertainment of the people. He knows that he’s a beacon of hope to the kids who show up to his matches and as such gives all of himself every time he’s on the mat. All the pain, injuries, steroids, and humiliations he endures are for the only people who believe in him: his fans.

When The Ram body slams someone, he body slams them in the name of peace and goodwill. And when he gets punctured by staple guns, he gets punctured in the name of awesomeness.

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5. Valentine and Earl from Tremors

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Source: Universal Pictures

If and when your small desert town is ever ambushed by subterranean, man-eating monsters, you’re going to hope you have a handful of heavily-armed hicks nearby with their NRA membership dues paid. Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), along with their clan of gun-toting brethren, are exactly what the doctor ordered. They’re handy with a shovel and they know how to outsmart sandworms. This is trailer trash you want on your side.

It should be noted that the entire town in Tremors is handy with a firearm, and Burt and Heather Gummer (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire) even throw down with elephant guns when push comes to shove. In the end, though, it’s Valentine and Earl’s wits that save the day, because a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots only get you so far.  

As Valentine says, “Nobody handles garbage better than we do.”

4. Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich

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Source: Universal Pictures

Once again we have a woman – Julia Roberts, arguably the most famous female star in Hollywood – who usually coasts off her beauty mixing it up by playing a redneck. And, once again, she wins an Oscar for Best Actress in the process. It’s clearly a good career move to trash it up if you’re a starlet.

Erin Brockovich is arguably the best work Roberts ever did, and she did so by shaming polluting corporations and representing the poor and exploited. She would have done well to take heed from this change in her career and abandon the romantic comedies. Alas, Brockovich is one of the few male-friendly films Roberts has made this decade. Someone should give her another script that takes place in a trailer park – she’ll have her second Oscar in no time.

3. Lawrence from Office Space

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Source: Twentieth Century Fox

Office Space, writer/director Mike Judge’s magnum opus, has one of the most unsung hicks in all of cinema: Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), the redneck neighbor. The great thing about Lawrence is that he represents the platonic ideal of a hick. He is to white trash what Lao Tzu was to philosophy. He has mastered the Zen outlook and, as such, has much more wisdom and clarity than anyone else in the movie.

Sometimes we need a guy with a no-nonsense view of the world, who spends his afternoons welding rebar and drinking Beast out of the can. Lawrence is this guy. And it turns out his way of life is the solution to Peter Gibbons’ (Ron Livingston) problems.

In a way, the moral of Office Space is "get off your uppity high horse and get your hands dirty." Drink a beer, maybe grow a mullet, and relax: life is too short not to be white trash.

2. H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona

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Source: Twentieth Century Fox

He might not have won an Oscar for his portrayal of H.I. McDunnough, but Nicolas Cage’s performance in Raising Arizona is – bar none – his finest to this day. Now, this is obviously just one opinion, but it’s also the correct opinion, and I challenge anyone who disagrees to kindly revisit the film. It’s one of the best the Coen brothers have made (The Big Lebowski obviously has it beat – though some might say the comparison is apples and oranges) and it still holds up to this day.

So what is it we love most about H.I.? He's not an intelligent man, and he seems to make the wrong choice every chance he gets. For starters, he’s a frequent flier at the local jail. Secondly, he and his wife – Ed (Holly Hunter) – steal a baby. They incur the wrath of a mean, ugly, motorcycle-bound bounty hunter. Even if he manages to take him down, this is a guy who clearly did not major in common sense.

But it’s not his intellect we love him for. Rather, we love H.I. because even if his brain isn’t large, his heart is in the right place. When he’s not stealing infants or evading the law, he’s an honest man. He’s loving and loyal, not to mention having one helluva mustache. What more can we ask from a man?

1. Luke Skywalker from Star Wars

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Source: Twentieth Century Fox

    That’s right. Luke Skywalker. Before the sci-fi haters come out of the woodwork to crucify me, take a deep breath and listen to my reasoning. Here are some of the things we know about Luke:

    • He lives on a patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere
    • He has lots of beat-up vehicles in his front yard
    • He’s a greasemonkey
    • He likes to make out with his sister
    • He lives with his aunt and uncle ‘cause his dad killed his mom

    Luke Skywalker is the classic definition of white trash. And, by definition, he is the prototypical redneck. Keep in mind he lived in a galaxy far, far away eons before we earthlings even climbed out of our evolutionary puddle.

    If anything we should love Luke more, not less. He’s the classic example of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Luke is the poster child for Republicanism – and, at the same time, embodies liberal ideals. He could give Obama a real run for his money and kick McCain’s ass at the same time – with no hands, to boot.

    In the end, Luke is proof that it’s not the vehicle you drive or the parents you have, but what’s inside that makes a true hero. Although it doesn’t hurt if you have a lightsaber and a robotic hand.

     

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