The Washington Post celebrated the first gay bar in populous Fairfax County with a splashy front-page article headlined "Rainbow flag aloft, nightclub is Fairfax County's first gay bar." Next to the headline was a color picture of the drag queen "La Countess Farrington." Reporter J. Freedom du Lac may want to celebrate, but it's a poor choice of metaphors to compare the hot homosexual night spots to the crucifixion of Jesus. The inept religious metaphor came in comparing Virginia to DC:
Historically, of course, the center of gay nightlife in the region has been the District, where bars such as Apex, Town and Ziegfeld's are like stations of the social cross.
In these hard times, Americans are trying hard to relax and take refuge in entertainment. But The Washington Post is insisting that country music fans are not really sympathetic figures. They are prone to self-congratulation and "closing ranks" behind the thought that they live in the "real America."
The Post music critic going by the name Josh Freedom du Lac – that just can’t be his name – doesn’t really seem to like patriotic music, despite the patriotic byline. He worries that songs like Jason Aldean’s "Hicktown" or the Zac Brown Band’s "Chicken Fried" do something wrong: They are "narrowcasting to a specific community: the core country audience, whose roots aren't exactly in America's urban centers."
The latest nuisance is J. Freedom du Lac's analysis of why country music radio is so chock full of songs about small town America. To you and me, the answer might be obvious, but du Lac set out to paint the trend as "divisive" and reactionary. In this excerpt, du Lac sets out to discredit the professional opinion of a D.C.-area country music station programmer:
Says Meg Stevens, the WMZQ program director: "It's a global theme: Wherever you're from, that's your place. You see what's happening with the economy and what's going on in the world, and people are getting in closer to their roots and their community, whether you're from rural Virginia or downtown D.C."
But the Atkins song and others of its ilk -- from Jason Aldean's "Hicktown" and Miranda Lambert's "Famous in a Small Town" to Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried" and Josh Turner's "Way Down South" -- are narrowcasting to a specific community: the core country audience, whose roots aren't exactly in America's urban centers.
The symbolism and prideful sentiments of the songs are intended to create a sense of belonging among people with similar backgrounds and lifestyles, or at least people who romanticize life in the rural South. (It's not a place; it's a state of mind.) To some listeners, though, it might sound as if the artists are closing ranks.