No one is without a gun in Harlan, so it should be as no surprise that no one freaks out or gets particularly emotional when they are forced to point a gun or have a gun pointed at them. It’s just sort of like the Kentucky version of the stink eye.
In the interest of fairness, this is a show that deals almost exclusively with criminals and law enforcement, and those on the fringe of those two worlds. So the fact that these people are handy and quick with the steel should be no surprise. But 60 year-old housewives seem to have no qualms pulling a gun on anyone who so much as veils a threat or happens upon their land.
I’d like to say that the characters acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, fall in line, and the weapons are holstered every time. But that’s not the case. These people shoot each other. A lot. Not always, but enough that I would say the brandishing of a weapon is more a practical action than a symbolic gesture. So don’t freak out about it if it happens to you, but be concerned.
In back-country Kentucky, not even the police call the police. These people really like to take the law into their own hands. I can imagine a call to the police in Harlan would go something like this:
Police Switchboard: Hello, Harlan County Sherriff’s Office.
Victim: Hi. I’d like to report a crime. I was just threatened by three armed men who I found out we’re growing marijuana on my land. When I objected and asked them to stop, they pistol-whipped me and blew up my car.
Police Switchboard: What the fuck do you want us to do about THAT?
Nowhere is the word “insular” more appropriate than when describing the citizens of Harlan. They help each other through the hard times and share the spoils of the good times. They also don’t go to outsiders for ANYTHING. I’m beginning to think that Kentuckians have some pretty serious trust issues.
On the program, Ava killed her husband who habitually beat her. She was then threatened with rape and death by no less than three members of the viticm’s family. At no point did it occur to her that the police could help her in this situation.
When 14 year-old weed grower Loretta McCready was teetering on the verge of being molested by a known pedophile, she had no inclination to make her problem anyone else’s. When her father did. He was immediately poisoned to death. These guys like to solve their own problems.