Everything I Know About Kentucky I Learned From Watching ‘Justified’

Thursday, March 8 by
It's really more of an educational geography program than it is "entertainment." 

The easiest way to say it is this: Backcountry America is extremely hot right now. Winter’s Bone created “buzz” for the Ozarks two years ago, but FX’s good guys/bad guys saga Justified put Appalachia over the edge. Just like in 1999, when America was obsessed with Ricky Martin, George Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and, to a lesser extent, George Lopez, people can’t get enough of wood-burning stoves, zero-income households, and squirrel stew.

This is, of course, a gross oversimplization. The works I cite above have done very well at shedding light on areas and cultures that have been written off by most every outsider, both in the media and in day-to-day life. However, with a program as engaging as Justified, we’re treated to a look at an insular culture that doesn’t come across as cartoonish in the fashion that Bon Temps, the Louisiana setting of True Blood, does.

So, as a fan of Justified, but someone woefully ignorant of what exactly Kentucky culture entails, I have to say I’ve been privy to an education in what exactly goes on there.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

No One Will Ever Judge You For Drinking, Regardless Of The Circumstances

Driving to pick up your kids? That’s cool. U.S. Marshal going to transport a dangerous interstate rapist? Perfect. Here’s some coffee with “a kick.”

In the world of Justified, everyone is always drinking bourbon, and there’s never a bad time to ask for it. I’m a BIG fan of bourbon (read: alcoholic), so this is terrific news to me. It seems that every home and office is so stocked with booze, that the notion of “going out drinking” seems pretty foreign in the town of Harlan. It would be like going to a designated place to breath or poop. It’s such a familiar activity that making an event out of it seems silly. Sure, there are bars, but it’s become my understanding that the bars are pretty much just where criminals go to meet each other while, yes, drinking bourbon.

This doesn’t just apply to lower classes or the seedy underbelly. The bourgeoisie and upper crust take just the same approach as well. As does law enforcement. Marshals Raylan, Art, and Tim all seem to fabricate excuses to drink. When Raylan turns over his weapon to boss Art as evidence in a shootout, Tim Gutterson steps into the room to add, “Relinquishing a firearm can be a very emotional moment, and there always must be another deputy in attendance. Add in some premium alcohol, what could possibly go wrong?”

With that, they raise their glasses to the successful relinquishment of a weapon. And that seems to be how Kentucky operates in regards to the omnipresence of alcohol.

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