South Never Plays Itself
Since Birth of a Nation became the first Hollywood blockbuster in 1915, movies have struggled to reckon with the American South-as both a place and an idea, a reality and a romance, a lived experience and a bitter legacy. Nearly every major American filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter has worked on a film about the South, from Gone with the Wind to 12 Years a Slave, from Deliverance to Forrest Gump. In The South Never Plays Itself, author and film critic Ben Beard explores the history of the Deep South on screen, beginning with silent cinema and ending in the streaming era, from President Wilson to President Trump, from musical to comedy to horror to crime to melodrama. Beard’s idiosyncratic narrative-part cultural history, part film criticism, part memoir-journeys through genres and eras, issues and regions, smash blockbusters and microbudget indies, to explore America’s past and troubled present, seen through Hollywood’s distorting lens. Opinionated, obsessive, sweeping, often combative, sometimes funny-a wild narrative tumble into culture both high and low-Beard attempts to answer a haunting question: what do movies know about the South that we don’t?