YouTube video

The DirecTV promotional ad features “crazy hillbillies” who have abducted a well dressed, presumably urban man. How many stereotypes can you spot in its 30-second run?

DirecTV has stopped running a video commercial and apologized (sort of) for the ad, which contains egregious stereotypes of rural people.

“It certainly was not our intent to offend anyone and we apologize if there were customers that did not like the ad or found it offensive,” DirecTV public relations manager Jade-lin Ekstedt  told the Harlan (Kentucky) Daily Enterprise in an email earlier this week.

Well, there’s no if about it, because people most certainly did take offense. One group was the Harlan County, Kentucky, Tourism Commission.

“I couldn’t really believe I was seeing this,” said commission member Roger Fannin during a meeting earlier this week, as reported by the Daily Enterprise. “I thought this country — especially our media — had moved beyond this and was out of the dark ages.”

Apparently not.

The question is how a communications corporation with the business acumen of DirecTV thought this commercial was a good idea in the first place.

The ad features a crazed family of “mountain people” who have set a well-dressed, middle class man in a chair in the center of their cabin. In 30 seconds, viewers are treated to about every mountain stereotype you can name: bad dental care and buck teeth, crazed eyes, a goat in the living room. The sole female actress featured in the ad is, of course, young and pregnant.

If DirecTV’s creative department had subjected any other cultural minority to such treatment, the corporation’s brass would have the sense to pull the plug before the ad aired, instead of after. What is it about rural people, especially white rural people, that makes this sort of treatment acceptable, even for a short run?

The commercial is all the more reprehensible because DirecTV ought to have special awareness of rural markets, since that’s one place where their satellite technology might offer advantages for consumers who can’t get traditional cable.

As always, there’s the question of whether calling attention to the video and reposting it do more to promote DirecTV than to chastise it. But within the pages of the Daily Yonder, there’s no question in my mind that folks who care about issues of diversity and inclusivity need to see this.

Tim Marema is editor of the Daily Yonder.

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