Story at glance

  • Netflix is releasing the film adaptation of the best-selling "Hillbilly Elegy" in November.
  • The response on social media to the trailer was mixed.
  • Critics feel the memoir paints an unflattering picture of Appalachia with too broad a brush.

Not long after Netflix released the trailer for “Hillbilly Elegy,” Amy Adams — who plays the main characters' mother in the film adaptation of the memoir — was trending on Twitter. 

 

Her performance as Bev Vance in the roughly two-minute trailer captivated many fans eagerly anticipating the film's release on Nov. 24. But those familiar with social media know that no matter how quickly compliments come in, criticism can equally flood it out. 


READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA

BOOKS ON RACE AND DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA BECOME BESTSELLERS

MICHELLE OBAMA OPENS UP LIKE NEVER BEFORE IN NEW NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY

WASHINGTON NFL FOOTBALL TEAM TO CHANGE CONTROVERSIAL NAME, LOGO

HOW ONE PHILADELPHIA SPORTS TEAM IS HONORING BLACK LIVES TAKEN BY POLICE


In this case, it wasn’t necessarily Adams or her performance that critics had an issue with, but just the entire premise of the movie itself. 

Published in 2016, “Hillbilly Elegy" rode a wave of interest in rural America after voters stumped the pollsters by electing President Trump. Author J. D. Vance, a venture capitalist, wrote a memoir about his childhood in Middletown, Ohio, that touched on issues of poverty and drug abuse. But natives of the region questioned Vance's self-proclaimed "hillbilly" identity, assumed via his Appalachian grandparents.


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


The book also blames "social rot," or the culture of Appalachia, and a lack of personal responsibility for the region’s conservative politics. Vance has identified as a social conservative and is critical of some of the Republican party’s economic policies, but economics takes second chair to work ethic in his memoir.

 

Critics accuse Vance of looking down on these communities and profiting off of a one-sided portrayal of their lives. To remedy this, several writers published “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’” edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll, in 2019. The anthology includes poems, photographs, memoirs and even comics — some kinder to Vance than others. 

An Ohio Democrat named Betsy Rader wrote, "Vance’s sweeping stereotypes are shark bait for conservative policymakers. They feed into the mythology that the undeserving poor make bad choices and are to blame for their own poverty, so taxpayer money should not be wasted in programs to help lift people out of poverty.”


MORE FROM CHANGING AMERICA

HBO'S 'STOCKTON ON MY MIND' FEATURES A YOUNG MAYOR AT THE HELM OF A STRUGGLING CITY

BILL NYE TAKES ON TIK TOK AND THE SCIENCE OF SKIN COLOR

MORE WOMEN ARE IN MBA PROGRAMS, BUT WORK REMAINS TO BE DONE

YES - BLOWING GLASS IS BEAUTIFUL - BUT HOW CAN IT HELP KIDS STAY IN SCHOOL?

CHEF GOES FROM HAUTE CUISINE TO CREATING AFFORDABLE, NUTRITIOUS SCHOOL LUNCHES


 

Published on Oct 15, 2020