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The Top 10 White Trash Heroes of Cinema

by nathanbloch   September 14, 2009 at 10:00AM  |  Views: 4,502
5. Valentine and Earl from Tremors


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


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


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


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


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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