10 June 2008

West Virginia and Inbreeding

The recent joking remark told at West Virginia's expense by Vice President Dick Cheney prompted the Charleston Daily Mail to explore the Mountain State's "supposed penchant for inbreeding."

"Despite the ingrained stereotype, the inbreeding rate in West Virginia is no higher than other parts of the country, according to academic researchers and Appalachian culture experts," the article found.

One researcher "traces the stereotype to the 1920s and 1930s, an era of moonshining, vicious struggles over coal industry unionization and large-scale migration from the region," and that "the concept of family kinship appeared more prevalent in rural pockets of the country than in urban areas," the newspaper said.

Another tidbit: "From a legal standpoint, West Virginia actually has strict anti-incest laws. First cousins cannot marry here, yet they can in states such as Vermont, New York and California."

The article further observes that "even though the landmark film 'Deliverance' - which features toothless rapists and a mentally challenged albino banjo player - took place in Georgia, many folks associate it with West Virginia."

A worthy research project would be to figure out when and how this false connection took root in the nation's cultural conscience. After all, both the movie and the novel upon which it is based take place in the Georgia, the latter was written by a Georgian, and the former was filmed in Georgia (and the Carolinas). Nary a West Virginia link in sight.

No comments: