overt in the recent spate of white-trashrnfilms (trailer parks). Examples run arnshort gamut from Kalifornia to True Romance,rnpartly including Gun Crazy,rnShort Cuts, Flesh and Bone, A PerfectrnWorld, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Benefitrnof a Doubt, Love and a .45, amongrnothers. If one newspaper headline neverrnseen is “Tornado Skips Trailer Park,” arnVariety headline not seen is “HollywoodrnSkips Trailer Park.”rnObviously, poor-white movies are notrnnew; two examples (1957 and 1975)rnwere named White Trash straight out.rnNor is the South new as movie setting;rnthe Video Retriever lists over 150 examples,rnmost in either the Baby Doll traditionrnof snagtoothed Neanderthals or thernGone With the Wind tradition of decayingrnmagnolias. And not all white-trashrnmovies are set in trailer parks; and sometimesrncharacters in trailers retain somernhuman dignity, as in The Client, whosernmain characters are represented as havingrnto live in a trailer because they can’trnafford the house they wish for.rnThe difference with more recent usesrnof some of these old film formulas is inrnthe new virulence of the representations.rnVintage “Southern gothic” had its formulaicrnaspects of dysfunction. But thernrecent movies get into terrain so graphicallyrnviolent, it’s as though somebody reallyrnmeans this stuff, or at least means forrnit to get into the national psyche. Therernis a linkup of formula characters withrngraphic carnage that is dangerously suggestivern—although at times humorous, inrnits composite of trailer parks as basicallyrnbreeding grounds for serial killers, liablernat any given moment to swarm loose likernmosquitoes for their next crime spree towardrnthe Southwest.rnBut the sometimes humorous parochialismrndoes not conceal its underlyingrnphobias; trailer-park movies play to twornmain insecurities, economic and sexual.rnThe first is obvious. In a worsening laborrnmarket and general “fear of falling,” withrnjobs threatened and professional statusrntenuous—especially in white-collar jobsrnless essential than either brain surgery onrnone hand or garbage collecting on thernother—where the marks of status andrneven of merit are often intangible, somerntarget audience evidently responds likernPavlov’s dogs to the mere image of trailerrnparks, a sign of what threatens themrnmost: the possibility of winding up inrnone. Ridiculing trailer parks distancesrnthe fear.rnThe second insecurity gets even morernlurid. While I do not want to hurt anyone’srnfeelings, this obsessive fantasizingrnabout life inside trailers does not speakrnwell for the opinion-making sector. (Sexrninstead of working! Without consequences!rnA special gene that wards offrnSTD’s? Or do they care?—Lord knowsrnthey don’t mind pregnancy.) Thernmovies speak xenophobically of thingsrnslipping, of borders falling, in a gluttedrnthirtysomething and fortysomething jobrnmarket teeming like Claes Oldenburg’srncigarette butts with advertising sales representatives,rnprogrammers, marketingrnanalysts, assignment editors, productionrnassistants, and the rest, all writhing in arncollective promotional mantra, CONDOMSrnSI, TRAILER PARKS NO! Thisrnxenophobia is then often attributed tornSoutherners.rnTwo obvious examples were True Romancernand Kalifornia. Take “Alabama,”rnin True Romance: blooming like a flowerrnamong black drug dealers and Sicilianrncrimemasters, she’s the Southern whitetrashrnlove interest: from Tallahassee, andrna short-term prostitute, since you ask,rnbut with a heart of gold—”100 percentrnmonogamous.” The hero’s father isrnkilled (by Sicilians) in a trailer; thernyoung-outcast lovers go on the lam; thernrather appealing Patricia Arquette characterrnis brutally beaten in a motel room.rnKalifornia also breaks loose from arntrailer park, where the male lead (BradrnPitt) murders the landlord and the pairrn(Pitt with Juliette Lewis) set out forrnCalifornia. Interestingly, they ride withrnanother young couple, from Soho, on arnsociological pilgrimage through serialkillerrnsites in Tennessee, Arkansasrn(“wherever the hell Arkansas is,” says therncollege-educated youth), and Texas.rn”Earlie” has a Confederate flag on his visor,rna plastic Jesus on the dashboard, andrna passive girlfriend who—like Alabamarn—takes a beating well.rnThe trip threatens to downgrade thernupscalers (“A week ago you never wouldrnhave picked up that gun”), partly becausernthe rednecks get to define masculinity,rnwhile the Northerners do mostlyrnhaireutting and photography. But thernpecking order of upper-class boy, upperclassrngirl, lower-class boy, and lower-classrngirl ordains that the lower-class girl willrnbe killed first. And next? Will the trailer-rnpark bogeyman be exorcised? Willrnthere be a gory shootout won by Soho, inrnthe final class-edged grudge match? Isrnthe Pope Polish?rnNot only main characters carry thernburden of stereotype, however. Incidentalsrncan be telling, too—especially withrnregard to those Southern women. Onerntantalizing cameo is the li’l trollop characterrnand friend-of-murder-victim who,rnwith syrupy accent and provocative gestures,rnteases Wesley Snipes in RisingrnSun. In Crichton’s novel, the perversern”gasper”/murder-victinn-who-asks-for-itrnis herself a Texas beauty: “Cheryl LynnrnAustin; born Midland, Texas; graduate ofrnTexas State.” (Texas State?) The moviernwisely changes the obligatory Southernslutrncharacter from central to incidental,rnone who provides needed exposition andrnalso that warded-off threat of miscegenationrnso beloved of cheesy filmmakers.rnTraditional Southern characters tendrnto be either brutal or snaky; lurking dangerrnseems to add to the women’s appealrnespecially. Take No Mercy (1986; KimrnBasinger and Richard Gere), set inrnLouisiana swamps. The heroine herernwas a white-crackerA)lond-Cajun(?) lovernslave, sold by her parents in her childhood,rnto a ponytailed Creole gangster.rnSure: just what parents in modest circumstances,rnin places like Louisiana, arerndoing every day. Somewhere, some filmconceptrnperson dreams of poling hisrnpirogue down those steam-eh, steam-ehrnbayous teeming with malleable women,rntrawling for Basinger. Ms. Basinger herselfrnhas been more generous toward herrnnative terrain.rnAn effective parody-South movie, followingrnWest Virginian Daniel Boyd’srnStrangest Dreams of 1990, could bernwritten today, with women namedrn”Comf’table” and “‘Vailable.” This isrnwhat characterizes Southern women inrnmovies—a sexual relationship withoutrncomplexity or consequences (throw ’emrna good sweet potato every once in a whilernand they’re happy), their bodies handedrnover at scant inconvenience to them orrnanyone else. Their fecklessness aboutrnbeatings is a case in point; they must notrnfeel pain the way we do.rnScreen representation of the sexualityrnof Southern women parallels screenrnrepresentation of the martiality ofrnSouthern men: good ol’ boys are likewisernavailable—eager to go fight bush wars,rntheir bodies also handed over at scant inconveniencernto themselves or anyonernelse (Molly Ivins has noted the stockrncharacter of the Southern slopeheadedrnridgerunner-recruit in war movies). Unfortunately,rnwriting physical and moralrncourage into such an alien character canrnmake courage itself seem alien; stamina.rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn