Beth Jacks column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Snippets by Beth Boswell Jacks
MTV seeks ‘southern belles’ to test stereotypes

Yo’ debutante just knows what you need,

But I know what you want

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— Bob Dylan, Memphis Blues Again

MTV Wants YOU!

Yes. For real. MTV wants you. Well, they may not want everybody. They don’t want me, for example, because I’m not young and dewy. I’ll also leave my house without make-up and jewelry (at least for a morning walk), and my wedding china and crystal are packed in the attic.

But I’m a good contact for the MTV folks ‘cause I’ll pass on their information on the chance that there are those reading this who’d like to be featured on MTV’s True Life documentary series.

The e-mail message came from Ana Cordova for Left/Right Inc. in New York. She wrote:

“My name is Ana Cordova and I am the casting director for Left/Right Inc. We are casting for MTV’s True Life documentary real life series. Our next episode is called, ‘I’m a Southern Belle’.

 “We are looking for young ladies ages 16 – 28 who consider themselves to be true southern belles. We are very interested in girls who are preparing for a cotillion [debut] soon.

“We are also interested in any southern belles who no longer live in the South but still hold on to their southern roots and values . . .”

So there you go. If you fit the criteria you can be featured on MTV. Hopefully, some bright young women can put to rest the stereotypical southern belle image that folks from other areas of the country and world have about us Dixie females. That would be an invaluable service to Sisters of the South.

About 15 years ago, a writer named Maryln Schwartz published an amusing little book called “A Southern Belle Primer — Or why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma.” On the pages of the primer were the usual “Southern Etiquette Rules” — admonishments, for example, like (1) Never drink straight from a can, (2) Never wear velvet after February, (3) Always send thank you notes promptly, (4) Save the diamonds for after dark, and, of course, (5) Never wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day.

Schwartz’s book opened a floodgate, and we’ve been inundated with similar books. Two that come to mind are Loraine Despres’s “Southern Belle Handbook” and my personal favorite (the title, anyway), Celia Riverbark’s “We’re Just Like You — Only Prettier.”

Do these books promote a stereotype or are Southern women truly fond of viewing ourselves as more striking and clever? Do we enjoy projecting this image? Are we actually different, or is the Old South Belle gone forever in our modern day? Have we abandoned the proprieties and protocols of our mothers and grandmothers, or do we hang on to those rules that are so much a part of our upbringing? Is Southern charm superficial, or is it just that – charming and real? Is all of this why the idea of the Southern Belle seems to hold such mystique for foreigners and also for Americans in other parts of the country?

And is this why MTV wants to do a documentary on such a strange creature?

Ana Cordova explains further: “Our documentary series picks topics that we feel young adults are interested in or have never heard of in order to spread awareness and open their minds. Southern Belles are not always represented fairly in the media.”

True. Remember several weeks ago when Miss South Carolina was ridiculed on television and the Internet because of her stumbling answer to a question during the hullabaloo of a pageant? She became the butt of numerous jokes, but to her credit she appeared on one of the morning TV shows and redeemed herself with an intelligent answer to the question. Not only that, she laughed heartily at the commotion she’d caused, showing radiance and good humor, wiping away all the bad publicity.

Steel Magnolias. Lovely, smart women of all races. We’ve got ‘em.

So I say go for it, girls, if you’re interested in a unique experience. Contact Ms.Cordova at for more information. Be sure to include your name, location, phone number and a photo, if possible.

I’ve done my research. They’re legit. And we’ll be watching.