The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009)

Don’t go messin’ with these country boys and girls

Hello, my name is Allen, and I have an unhealthy obsession with hillbillies.

Phew, it feels good to finally get that off my chest.

Yes, from The Beverly Hillbillies, to the banjo playing kid from Deliverance, to Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel of The Simpsons, to former President William Jefferson Clinton, I have always been a big fan of country bumpkins. Generally, they are just the good ol’ boys (and girls), never meanin’ no harm.

That, however, cannot be said for the family that is the subject of the film that I’ll be taking a look at this week, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.

So who exactly is the White family? Basically, these are the people that Jeff Foxworthy has made a fortune talking about. Picture the Trailer Park Boys, Cops and Dog, The Bounty Hunter combined into one show. Better yet, imagine that Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan got married and started a family (which may have happened by the time this issue goes to press).

Basically, the Whites are not your grandfather’s hillbillies. They are snorting, cussing, shooting outlaws who ask no quarter, and give none, mainly because drugs, alcohol and firearms cannot generally be purchased for 25 cents.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia spends one year with West Virginia’s most notorious family, and it will have you shaking your head, but too captivated to turn away. It’s like a car wreck at times. Or perhaps a demolition derby.

Jesco White

The most famous member of the family is Jesco White, known as the “Dancing Outlaw” for his unique blend of tap and clog dancing. Jesco gained notoriety after being the subject of a PBS documentary. Subsequently, he appeared on the hit sitcom Roseanne, and has been mentioned in songs by Big and Rich, and Hank Williams III (who appears several times in this documentary).

Jesco has battled depression throughout his life, and this is one of the focal points of the documentary. Like most of the White clan, Jesco uses a combination of liquor and drugs to help deal with these issues.

Several members of the family have been killed, while others have attempted to kill. Robbery and drug smuggling are also a few of their other vices. In one of the more shocking scenes in the film, one of the White women crushes and snorts some pills while still in the hospital shortly after the birth of her baby. But infants aren’t the only ones subjected to this behaviour. Eighty-five year old matriarch Bertie Mae White seems less than proud as her children engage in some drug use – at her birthday party.

Included on the home video release of The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia are some interesting stories from the team behind the film, including producer Johnny Knoxville, who remarks that he was shocked that director Julien Nitzberg did not end up either getting shot or impregnating one of the White women during the process of capturing over 500 hours of footage.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a fascinating documentary. I would go so far as to call it a feel-good film, since after you turn it off, you should feel great that you are not a part of their clan. While I wouldn’t want to live next door to the Whites, they are a lot of fun to watch from afar.

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