A Winter’s Bone to Pick
One thing that instantly stood out about Winter’s Bone was the preconceived notion that every Ozarks town is the same: backwoods. When Missouri comes up in the news or in conversation, many people jump to the same conclusion that the people of Missouri are just that as well: backwoods. While the Missouri Ozarks will always be home, it is one perception I would like to break. Agreeably, there are still backwoods towns in Missouri, but by and large all of the Ozarks is not like this. There are many perceptions in this movie that the producers got wrong. On the other hand, there are some perceptions they got right.
Ree Dolly portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence is a teenager who takes on many of the responsibilities for her family when her father goes missing during his latest meth venture. If one has lived in Missouri, particularly the Southwest region, for very long, you discover the penchant for meth-making. Missouri has become known as the meth capital of the nation due in part to the overabundance of methamphetamines. Winter’s Bone does convey the drug culture that runs rampant through the Ozarks: the continual cycle of drug production, getting caught, going to jail, getting out, and starting all over again.
While Ree walks all over the countryside searching for her father, some details stand out. Forsyth in Taney County was where this was filmed and doubles as the setting for the film. Yes, this area is extremely mountainous and densely populated by forest, the absence of fast food restaurants and Walmart is somewhat alarming. Even when living in a rural area in Missouri, one can usually find one or both venues within a ten-minute drive. Hunting is a popular pastime for Ozarks’ residents, and a good majority still stock their freezers with meat for the winter, but who doesn’t love a good old McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries on occasion? Winter’s Bone gives the idea that unless one hunts for their food, they will starve to death. That has not been a way of life in the Ozarks for several decades.
Although certain regions in the Ozarks can come across as über religious, the town in Winter’s Bone tends to be a little on the extreme side, such as the continual presence of Gospel/Bluegrass music, adding to the backwoods perception. Where is the mention of sport’s teams (Cardinals, Chiefs, etc.) or Bass Pro? Anyone who has resided in this area knows that despite the love of firearms and Jesus, Sports is greatly celebrated in the Ozarks.
Friends and neighbors take care of each other in Winter’s Bone, which is something that is a common practice in the Ozarks. Ree’s neighbor brings by a food box filled with deer meat, potatoes, and other staples that could be used to make a hearty meal. This is a common courtesy that Ozarkians will do when they see a neighbor going through a difficult time.
Car graveyards is something that one will find anywhere throughout the Ozarks. On one of Ree’s outings to find her father, she walks through a field/yard of a guy who knows him, and it is filled with abandoned pickup trucks, cars, and a few school buses. Certainly not a crucial detail, but one that decidedly pegged the lives of many Ozarkians. In another scene, there are piles of old tires accumulating in a yard, which is another common sight in the Ozarks. Not so much hoarding, but certainly an accumulation of junk is a something that can be seen driving down any Ozarks rural road.
The language and phrases used in Winter’s Bone is surprisingly spot on for Ozarks vernacular. My family is not backwoods by any means, but they are definitely country to the core, and that shines through in their language. As an English major, and an avid reader and writer, I have spent years attempting to neutralize my accent so as not to sound like I am from a specific region. However, when spending any length of time in my family’s company, I easily drop back into the country twang and phrases. Language is a powerful aspect of one’s life.
Emotions run high in the Ozarks. Ree’s love and devotion for her family is evident in how she protects them and takes on the role of head-of-the-household when her father is gone. However, anger and retribution are also common emotions in the lives of Ozarkians. Ree gets in a bind when she goes against the advice of her neighbors while searching for her father, or for someone who might know where he has gone. The neighbors jump her and beat her bloody as they prove their point, teaching her a lesson, basically forcing her to pay for the sins of her father. Once again, it is proven that blood is thicker than water when her uncle comes to her rescue, despite his own misgivings with her interference. Life in the Ozarks can be a double-edged sword. Family and neighbors will bend over backward for you, but if you cross them, or if they think you have, they will turn on you in an instant.
Winter’s Bone conveys some aspects of the author’s life, but the events that take place in the film should not be perceived as a common occurrence in every life of an Ozarkian. There is no denying that the film merely highlights a dark facet that can be found in many places throughout the Ozarks, despite the lack or accuracy of certain details. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who calls themselves an Ozarkian, but also to anyone interested in one aspect of Ozarks culture.
Sources: Granik, Debra, Director. Winter’s Bone. Performance by Jennifer Lawrence, Lionsgate, 2010.