Johnny Cummings is destroying America
August 16, 2013 5:58 AM   Subscribe

In which Stephen Colbert exposes how Johnny Cummings is destroying the moral fabric of small-town America.
posted by saladin (46 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I never see another witty, location-specific "content not available in your location" notification again it will be too soon.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:03 AM on August 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


I love that the cop is his best friend.
posted by Area Man at 6:10 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


That guy with the stained T-shirt explaining how he just doesn't understand why God would make people gay and than hate them for it... that's America right now. There's no better example of how people -- ordinary people who genuinely want to be good and decent human beings -- are grappling with what their churches have been telling them for their whole lives vs. the reality of human sexuality.
posted by Etrigan at 6:10 AM on August 16, 2013 [51 favorites]


Is Colbert crying at the end?

I mean, we were. But I can't decide whether he's pretending to be sad (because gay agenda won) or is actually sad (because this story is awesome.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:15 AM on August 16, 2013


Here is a link to the story on Youtube. Will that work in the UK?
posted by Area Man at 6:19 AM on August 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't decide whether he's pretending to be sad (because gay agenda won) or is actually sad (because this story is awesome.)

Stephen Colbert (the actor) would have seen the story beforehand, so I have to imagine that it's "Stephen Colbert" (the character) crying, for just that reason (with a little bit of genuine emotion leaking through, because he's not a machine).
posted by Etrigan at 6:19 AM on August 16, 2013


Oh my god, the police officer. Tears of equal parts laughter and joy.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:30 AM on August 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


I see great potential for the next John Sayles movie here. Chris Cooper could play Cummings.
posted by k8lin at 6:42 AM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


zombieflanders: "Oh my god, the police officer. Tears of equal parts laughter and joy."

Yeah, he looks exactly like all the shaved-head firemen and construction workers I hear at the shop, bitching about fags and niggers...except he's not.

This is awesome.
posted by notsnot at 6:43 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Awesome story!! intelligent and funny and not preachy .... a very rare mix to achieve.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 6:45 AM on August 16, 2013


Man, all good with gayness and they smoke like crazy at town council meetings? We can all learn from these people.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:45 AM on August 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Thanks Area Man, that one worked.

I LOVE this! Everyone in it and everything about it is amazing. Even the names! Mayor Cummings and Pastor Hurt - joy.

Living outside the US it's easy to buy into the stereotype of small town America. It's nice to be proved wrong.
posted by billiebee at 7:01 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was such a nice story that I can almost overlook the fact that Colbert mispronounces Appalachia.

Almost
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:06 AM on August 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's often easy to forget that, beneath all the bullshit and posturing, "fair is fair" is actually a bedrock American ideal.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:08 AM on August 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I saw this last night and loved it. Making a post this morning was first thing on my list and here it is!
I love how it satirized stereotypes to break stereotypes.

It looks like this was filmed back in March. After the town passed it they got lots of press inquiries including some about reality tv shows. (figures)

Cummings had this to say.

" Despite his skepticism over reality TV, Cummings said he welcomed the crew from “The Colbert Report” to Vicco earlier this week. The visit by the news satire program was first reported by The Hazard Herald on Tuesday.

Cummings is a fan of the host, Stephen Colbert, and he said the Vicco segment would lampoon some of the media reports about the tiny town’s gay-rights measure.

“That’s the most fun I’ve had in the last six weeks,” he said
. "

He received a human rights award in June.
posted by Jalliah at 7:17 AM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thank you, Area Man, you are a brick.

If you ever visit England, the cucumber sandwiches are on me.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 7:24 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know and love working-class, white, small-town, Christian, gun-loving, self-identified "redneck" and "hillbilly" Americans like this who are similarly decent, tolerant, charitable, and attempt to live by the example of the object of their faith. More than a few. Across the country.

One so rarely sees them represented in all their ordinary human decency and without the reduction of the signs of their labor and subsistence and cultural identity to mere "lifestyle" choices or expressions of taste rather than values.

This clip could be the start of a whole genre, like "It Gets Better." Call it "Decent Americans Are Everywhere." Make it viral.

Half the problem is that half the people hold such damning stereotypes of the other half of the people (doesn't matter which half, it cuts either way) that they don't believe hearts can change or situations can be complicated and histories can be reinterpreted. And wouldn't you know it the national media just do seem so very invested in maintaining that narrative. That's what made this clip so bracing. When was the last time you saw anything like this? Neither reality TV nor any news program, nor any major national popular film or tv production that I am aware of, nor even any liberal documentarian (Alexandra Pelosi, I am looking at you) has made this kind of effort

Bravo Stephen Colbert.
posted by spitbull at 7:35 AM on August 16, 2013 [46 favorites]


There's no better example of how people -- ordinary people who genuinely want to be good and decent human beings -- are grappling with what their churches have been telling them for their whole lives vs. the reality of human sexuality.

Here on Metafilter we do a lot of snarking, and generally when posts are made they focus on the bad things that happen, and the people who cause them, for whatever reason, be they misguided or malicious. It is nice to know that, ultimately, there are good people in the world, and in fact there are more than you think, and most of them, if you can just get them over the hump of othering, will behave with kindness and decency. The othering hump (THE WUGGLY UMP) is, to be honest, a difficult mountain to climb for many people. But we should help them, with scaling equipment and cheerful encouragement, unless they prove themselves grossly, willfully ignorant.
posted by JHarris at 7:44 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we just give Colbert a medal.

I grew up in a small town and knew a lot of people who'd fit the redneck backasswards stereotype, but just as many who didn't. I think it also gets better with each new wave. A number of the grandparents in our town were probably still horrified that the town was integrated. Their children cared less and we cared even less and now it's moved onto orientation.

Who knows.. maybe in about 10 generations we'll get to that blissfully imagined land of acceptance.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:08 AM on August 16, 2013


Should a mod provide the working link in the post for those who would get the "cannot show content in your area"?
posted by jadepearl at 8:14 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should a mod provide the working link in the post for those who would get the "cannot show content in your area"?

That would be spiffy - I think it is a comparable situation to the mobile-only link recently.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:16 AM on August 16, 2013


Benny Andajetz: "It's often easy to forget that, beneath all the bullshit and posturing, "fair is fair" is actually a bedrock American ideal."

Unless you have skin that isn't a shade of ghost-white.
posted by symbioid at 8:19 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how long Colbert (the character) will hold out before claiming he's always been in favor of equal rights and has nothing against homosexuals: "I'm completely gender-blind. I don't see sex. People tell me I'm male, and I take their word for it. Otherwise, I wouldn't know anything about it."
posted by straight at 8:28 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wish they could have done without the whole, "Gee, why were you in a gay bar?" [nudge, nudge] joke. That seems actively hostile to the sort of cultural change this story is celebrating. "We're gonna keep pestering you about whether you're secretly gay or not, and it's shameful if you are!"
posted by straight at 8:32 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I kept laughing so hard at this, in between smiling as I saw how the story was developing, and then I completely lost it at the part about him also being the town hairdresser.
posted by sabira at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2013


I particularly like the juxtaposition of anti-gay stereotypes and ignorant-hillbilly stereotypes. A little skewering for all of us.
posted by Nelson at 9:13 AM on August 16, 2013


That was such a nice story that I can almost overlook the fact that Colbert mispronounces Appalachia.

Ditto.

Dang that was just great.

Not only not a "look at the ignorant hillbillies" story, but just the opposite...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2013


To be fair, it is shameful to be gay and to also campaign against gay rights.
posted by 256 at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Living outside the US it's easy to buy into the stereotype of small town America.

Aw, hell, you don't have to live outside the US to buy into stereotypes of small town America.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me that small towns -- really small ones, like this one -- make it harder to demonize gays as "other" because everyone already knows everyone else. It's long been true that actually knowing and being friends with a gay person, or a black person, or a transgender person, or whatever, is the surest way to destroy casual bigotry.

Put another way, it's pretty easy to convince people who don't know any gays that gay rights (e.g.) is a bad idea, that it's scary and will destroy your way of life, etc. Different is scary.

It gets a lot harder if you actually know a gay person, or a gay couple, and then start to see the issue through how it affects your friends or neighbors. People are generally decent when things get specific and personal and penetrate their own private lives.
posted by uberchet at 9:25 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It occurs to me that small towns -- really small ones, like this one -- make it harder to demonize gays as "other" because everyone already knows everyone else. It's long been true that actually knowing and being friends with a gay person, or a black person, or a transgender person, or whatever, is the surest way to destroy casual bigotry.

This was not actually my experience growing up in a tiny Appalachian town in the early nineties.

Perhaps things have changed somewhat. I wouldn't know, since I avoid going home on account of the crippling panic attacks even the idea of visiting engenders.

I only say this to point out that there is a reason people flee like hell from small towns, and one genuinely touching story doesn't change that reality.
posted by winna at 9:57 AM on August 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


To be fair, it is shameful to be gay and to also campaign against gay rights.

But I strongly disagree that it is any less shameful to be straight and campaign against gay rights. Which makes the innuendo irrelevant at best.
posted by straight at 10:06 AM on August 16, 2013


"They're wrong about me being gay, so they're probably wrong about this equal rights crap."

"See how they bully people as soon as they get the upper hand?"

"This equal rights thing means I have to come out of the closet whether I want to or not? Can't let that happen."

The moral high ground. You were standing on it so firmly...
posted by straight at 10:13 AM on August 16, 2013


I like the imagery of the flag bearer for the old ideal being kept alive by an oxygen tank.
posted by dogwalker at 10:26 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


More context, summed up on HuffPo:
[In January, 2013], the Fairness Coalition joined Vicco, Ky. -- home to some 334 residents in total -- as they passed the commonwealth’s first LGBT fair treatment ordinance in a decade, reports Lex 18. Vicco is now being touted by a number of media outlets as the smallest town in America to adopt an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law prevents discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based upon a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The Advocate reports that Mayor Johnny Cummings supported the fair shake along with three out of the four members of the Appalachian’s commission.

Vicco became the fourth city in Kentucky to pass the equality bearing law. In 1999, Lexington and Louisville both approved such laws, followed by Covington in 2003, LGBTQ Nation reported.
See also: Wikipedia - LGBT rights in Kentucky
posted by filthy light thief at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2013


>This was not actually my experience growing up in a tiny Appalachian town in the early nineties.

Well, it depends on there being at least one out and openly gay person who is also accepted in the community. In the absence thereof...

I'm mostly just noting that:

a) knowing someone in $group, and having them be part of some cohort you value, makes it much harder to be bigoted about $group.

b) in the right case, a very small town could make this more likely.

I don't mean to say that small towns are generally welcoming of gays, obviously.
posted by uberchet at 12:36 PM on August 16, 2013


But I strongly disagree that it is any less shameful to be straight and campaign against gay rights.

Look, sure, everyone should be campaigning for every human right all the time - but standing with your brothers or sisters when the specific rights of your community are at stake is the bottom line.
posted by mdn at 12:50 PM on August 16, 2013


winna: "This was not actually my experience growing up in a tiny Appalachian town in the early nineties. "

Yes, at least in some of the places I've been, the prevailing opinion is more that there are certain gay people who are deemed nonthreatening and are therefore OK (like certain black people or jews or other minority), but all them city gays need to sit down and shut up. The cognitive dissonance involved is mind-boggling, but it happens. I'm glad to see that not be the case in Vicco. It warms my heart and makes me think that maybe things are changing.
posted by wierdo at 1:08 PM on August 16, 2013


Well, it depends on there being at least one out and openly gay person who is also accepted in the community.

All our out and openly gay people were pariahs who were continuously harassed physically and verbally. I'm sure it was just a shortfall of charisma and dynamism.
posted by winna at 2:27 PM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


So my grandparents are all near 90 (I still have three of the four; ages 91, 90 and 88). My grandma from one side and grandpa from the other side grew up in the same neighborhood, a rough part of town at the time that's now gentrified.
At family gatherings, they discuss the old neighborhood. Five times out of ten, they mention such and such bar, which was next to the lesbian bar.

I've asked them about it - yeah, now the area is gentrified with a lot of urban gays. How did you know such and such bar is a lesbian bar, since neither of them has been down there in two decades? They explained, not the place that's a lesbian bar *now*. There were gay and/or lesbian bars *then*. In the twenties. Everyone knew it, and lived and let live. Blew my mind.
posted by notsnot at 4:52 PM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I loved this segment, even though I thought it played up the small-town stereotype a bit too hard, maybe. But there is hope, and I do think it's important to publicize the beginnings of acceptance in communities we think of as traditionally hostile. (White, small-town America is hardly the only one). On a similar note, I found it really fascinating that an episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo"--an extremely problematic show in a number of other aspects--had these self-proclaimed proud "rednecks" seemingly quite accepting of and affectionate toward the gay uncle. I think he even went for pedicures with them? More on the uncle here.
posted by TwoStride at 5:56 PM on August 16, 2013


What is this, Big Eden? Astounding. You can clearly see the corruption that takes place when folks' voices and feelings are no longer kept in their place by the superior notions of their superiors.

This is carrying 'Do unto others...' way too far. Playgrounds? Quality drinking-water? Clever, clever ploys. Some day 'back to basics' will fix all that chicanery, and superior values -and the Fear of God- will rule once more.
posted by Twang at 9:32 PM on August 16, 2013


This reminds me of a wayyy better version of that stupid viral video that will never cease making the FB rounds where hidden camera jackasses try to slander Texas by putting setting up in a restaurant where a table full of actors playing a family where both of the parents were the same gender and the server (also an actor) played the bigot. The patrons were about ready to string up the waitress for being so bigoted against gay people, so hooray for them; but the producers of that mess can eat shit for trying to be LOL SOUTHERNERS and they deserved every bit of having their premise completely blow up in their face. (Full disclosure, 5th generation Texan here). This had so much more class to it. Thank you for that, Stephen.
posted by NoRelation at 3:27 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was such a nice story that I can almost overlook the fact that Colbert mispronounces Appalachia.

In a similar, brilliant “those who would destroy our way of life” story set on our island in Maine earlier this year, the only thing he did wrong was mispronounce the name of the village of Somesville.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2013


Oddly, I think I'd be more willing to go on the Colbert Report than any other "reality" TV show. At least the Colbert team seem to make sure the interviewees are in on the joke.

Hey, Colbert team. Story idea: militant pedestrians and bicyclists screaming abuse at motorists. Sorry, I don't mean "abuse", I mean "the Vehicle Code numbers of the sections the motorists just violated". Damn entitled pedestrians & bicyclists…
posted by Lexica at 8:19 PM on August 17, 2013


Am I the only one who was appalled by the audience laughter? Most of the laughter came at points where I really didn't see anything funny and it seemed like the audience was laughing at someone's accent or mannerism and that really bugged me. That said, of course it's awesome that this town passed a Fairness law and I'm glad that Colbert is giving them this kind of exposure, especially if it helps other jurisdictions more easily do the same.
posted by gubenuj at 12:24 AM on August 18, 2013


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