Monday, September 19, 2005

Grit Your Teeth Reading

Four friends thoughtfully forwarded the article. Its title – Yoga, Ya’ll– had me hitting delete, once twice etcetera (I'm not a yoga fan, and run from indiscriminant use of ya'll). Tonight though, scrolling through the NYT, enjoying insomnia and a fast internet connection but about to run out of news to read, I caught the story again, in the Times’ just launched Funny pages. After all, I like funny. I thought I'd give it a try. I just forgot how local funny can be.

“Yoga, Ya’ll,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, is all about a southern yoga class and its vowel-extending instructor. The writer objects to the instructor’s accent, mocks her use of ya’ll and her yoga abilities. One thousand words later, she winds up her tribute to alienation with an obligatory I’ll-get-used-to-it-somehow ending that leaves you thinking, yeah right.

It’s a story that goes in my bookmarks folder “I don’t hate it, I don't, but everyone else seems to.” And it once again confirms to me how prejudiced New Yorkers can be about the South. I’m not talking cab drivers, fruit stand owners, investment brokers, but editors and writers who talk so reasonably about the eight sides of every issue, but when faced with the states beneath the Mason-Dixon line start to worry about being made to squeal like a pig, imagine violet romances, or mock the stupidity of the locals.

I notice it particularly with the Times. They seem to thrive on writing about the South in this quaint yet scary country within a country sort of way (noticeable throughout its coverage of Katrina). I have to wonder what a certain Alabamian editor did to the staff* during his recent sojourn as executive editor because he certainly didn’t expand their perspectives on the possibilities of how to write about a part of the U.S. I’ve seen referred to in their pages in the last two days as Dixie and the Ya’ll Zone. To me this is the equivalent of newscasters calling the midwest the land of white bread, or California, hippieville. It's just not the right thing to do in a national newspaper and I have to wonder why the South falls outside their editorial realm of respect.

*It’s easy to imagine force feedings of ketchup-based barbeque, the maniacal over use of idioms designed to annoy, straw hats and white shoes, long lectures on legendary football coaches. Reading up on the fellow, I found at least two of these traits well-documented. Any bets on which ones, ya'll (or should I say youse guys)?


Anonymous said...

Nice rant. :-) As an almost-New Yorker who likes to make fun of, well, just about everyone, I'd like to point out that there is a more charitable way of looking at this. The fact that a high-profile rag like the NYT feels comfortable publishing this sort of piece is, to me, a clear sign that this is just playful fun, not an indication of some deep-seated hatred or disdain of southerners. It's just a joke.

Julia said...

You're right, the Times does feel comfortable making a joke out of the South, but I question why this should make me feel any better (or more charitable) towards them when they do not extend the privelage to the rest of the country. Heck, we might as well be France as far as they are concerned! ;-)