The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia – Movie Review
A year in the life of the White family, well known for Jesco White, the star of the “Dancing Outlaw” documentary.
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a documentary that focuses on a family from West Virginia call the Whites. The patriarch of which was actually a dancer who made up his own style of dancing. It looks vaguely like tap dancing and a little bit like Stomp or clogging, and was killed at an early age. The matriarch we meet at the beginning of the movie, although she actually dies by the end of it, and they show the family tree. I don’t know exactly how to feel about this because part of it seems to me like squeamish Northern paternalism. It sort of says “look at those Southern idiots who are all inbred and stupid and have no teeth.” Another part of it makes you actually care about some of the family members. This is a family of incredibly poor people who are not without guile. They are certainly without education and certainly without conscience to a very large extent, the women as much as the men. Most of them have been involved in shootings or murders of some kind. Several of them actually die. One of them loses her child because the child is born so drug addicted that they take the child away. One young man shoots his uncle three times, including twice in the face, somehow doesn’t kill him, is in prison, is awaiting trial, and is expecting that because he and the judge are such good friends, he’ll just be able to go home. Instead, he gets 50 years. The uncle who’s also interviewed says, “well, a part of me feels that when he comes out of prison that I’ll have to kill him, but another part of me loves him.” That’s kind of the whole theme of the whole movie. These are hard drinking, uneducated, poor people, who have, as someone finally points out in the end, really nothing to look forward to. They live in the poorest of the poor in a mining state and have to deal with the idea that the whole earth could fall on them and crush them at any time, or they could drown or be electrocuted. So, not much to look forward to. The only family member that actually gets out, goes to Minneapolis and sort of remains in a rude way kind of poor white trash in Minneapolis. As a Southerner, I don’t know exactly how to feel about this. As a documentary film, it’s kind of like watching bugs under a microscope, but I’m not sure that that’s the tones that human beings should take with one another, so I’ll give it two stars.