Richard Metzger interviews Julien Nitzberg about his documentary film, "The Wild Whites of West Virginia"

Julien Nitzberg, director of the documentary film, The Wild Whites of West Virginia, is the guest on the third episode of our friend Richard Metzger's terrific interview show, Dangerous Minds.

Shot over the course of eighteen months, the film follows the often comical, sometimes tragic antics of the hell-raising hillbilly White family of Boone County, WV. Surely the state's most notorious clan since the days of the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Whites engage in a mind-blowing array of anti-social and criminal activities with barely concealed glee. Produced by "Jackass" maestros Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine through their Dickhouse production company and MTV Films, "The Wild Whites of West Virginia" takes no prisoners and it doesn't tell you what to think about the Whites.  Local law enforcement hate them, but for the most part--barring a several day armed seige one younger White puts them through--but tend to want to stay out of their insane shenanigans. When one of the Whites gives birth and then snorts up ground painkillers in her hospital room while her infant sleeps nearby, the camera was there, okay? It's intimate! Unlike anything you are likely to see unless you live in Boone County, WV. An incredible documentary. Highly recommended.
Julien Nitzberg discusses "The Wild Whites of West Virginia"


  1. May I suggest taking a look at:

    May I also suggest that this family may just be a tad more media savvy than some may give them credit for?

    You might want to have a look at some of the documentaries on Hazil Adkins as well. Some of the folks in “Dancing Outlaw” also show up in a couple of those documentaries.

    Wilder than a Giraffe P***y? Yes. Entirely stupid. Nope.

  2. Totally agreed with #1. Jesco was even a guest star on Roseanne back in the day. They’re nuts, colorful, insane, and amazing to watch. Sincere too. However, I don’t think they’re as dumb as most people would believe…

  3. I haven’t even finished the trailer yet, but if there is a better quote than “I just went on a rampage, pretty much.” I’ll eat my hat.

  4. I am so infuriated after watching this, I honestly don’t even know where to begin…. First, let me say that I am from the Appalachian Mountains (Eastern Kentucky) and are very familiar with the Jesco films that Julien has produced. Like many folks during my college years, I once thought that they were “cool” and something to laugh about. Since I have left the mountains and moved to “the big city,” I am the one who is laughed at on a daily basis. I would like to say that I am nothing like Jesco’s family – I am not on welfare, I don’t own a guy, I don’t do drugs… but, I am a hillbilly, from the mountains, and although I am not poor, I would say 98% of my extended family is on welfare. And of course the thing I can never hide, my accent. I speak hillbilly fluently. I can’t hide it and honestly I don’t want to. Getting to my point – Julien, you ARE propagating the stereotype!! Yes, you may be portraying the White family “honestly” but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still propagating the hillbilly stereotype. I find your obsession with “renegade hillbilly culture” about as screwed up as the White family. Perhaps if I was a hipster out of touch with the real Appalachia as you are, I would think their messed up, depressing situation was “cool” too. Despite all my education and hard work I will never be able to overcome the inequalities that thrive on such stereotypes – well not as long as I talk hillbilly.

  5. Jessie,

    While I understand your point, it may help to remember that none of this is about being right or wrong. It’s about exploiting a stereotype for profit. It’s taboo to portray minorities as sideshow freaks, so they try to find “safe” people to mock. In this instance, it’s white trash.

    It doesn’t even matter if the White family is really like that or not. The money is good, so they’re willing to put on their equivalent of a minstrel show to entertain people who are likely just as goofy, but who live far enough away to not know any differently about Appalachia.

  6. “inbred mountain folk who are inherently criminal”

    yes, the rich tend to prefer property with a view.

  7. Tell me what the difference is between the current fascination with Appalachia and white representations of African Americans in the ugly, not-so-distant past? Image-makers come in from the outside and present West Virginians either as brave victims of exploitation (look at all the mountain-top removal sob stories) or freakish aliens acting out for the entertainment of the more enlightened. What makes me even sicker is that hillbillies embrace these stereotypes and run with them. I’ve lived in West Virginia for twenty years and the first hint of a discussion or demonstration of Appalachian culture, which I now believe is a destructive oxymoron designed to keep a whole region childishly dependent on those who would exploit them economically or save them from themselves, makes me nauseous.

  8. I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t comment, but I am also dismayed by the wider culture’s reliance on West Virginia as a rich vein of transgressive, mentally deficient, and culturally backward people who can be mined for laffs and profits and thrown aside in the search for the next human train wreck to gawk at.

    We West Virginians are used to extraction industries like coal and lumber raping the land and leaving it – and the people who live on it – for dead.

    The movie is probably funny, and I’m sure I’ll see it, but the people behind it are cultural clear-cutters, strip-miners and ambulance chasers.

    But we’re used to that, and we’re partly to blame. As Lysdexia wisely observes, we just dance and laugh and wave and smile and snort and shoot – and wait fer the next city folks to drive up the holler and write us a check.

  9. @8 Since when are “conservatives” pro-eugenics?

    Eugenics was the progressive cause celeb, until Hitler made it look bad.

  10. Y’all should check out Jim Goad’s book, The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks and White Trash Became America’s Scapegoats. It’s a great and hilarious book that defends those people. Let me ask you, did you just flinch when you read the words, “those people?” If you didn’t, maybe you ought to read that book. It’s super cheap on amazon!

  11. I too am from the Appalachian mountains and have a hillbilly heritage. We get the ‘Coal Valley News’, which just yesterday had a story about Jescos sister getting arrested. That is one wild family. For some reason I don’t get all up in arms about the whole making fun of mountain people thing…I liked the Beverly Hillbilles (and I do have an Aunt Pearl!) and I liked Snuffy Smith and thought it was funny. I enjoy watching the Youtube video of ‘Hillbilly Jack’ that BB linked to recently…I know people like these rough cut ‘hillbilles’ and yet somehow even though I too am from the mountains and can speak ‘hillbilly’ I don’t take it personally. I know that I am not like that. I guess that is enough for me. I can laugh at the funny side of being a mountain person. One thing that I do know that ain’t funny is the whole meth thing…it has really ruined some people I know. People who I never thought would mess with such stuff.

    I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago on Sundance about some mountain family in West Va. or Kentucky or somewhere, and it really made an impression on me. They were not all wild like the Whites, although some were, but it was riveting. Made by some college girls or something. I often think about them and wonder how they are…wierd…

  12. Them thar be good folks ya’ll.
    Good fer nuthin.
    I believe they might be mah neighbors t’other side of tha mounting.
    People like this is why we can’t have nice things.
    They are also why we gits to carry guns openly.
    Some people apply for a concealed carry permit, but open carry is legal here if you are carrying long guns or pistols if you are traveling, or under threat, or ya just want to carry a gun or two.
    Redneck Rule #4
    They can have my gun when I’m out of lead and powder.

  13. I grew up in the area of WV where the Whites live. Are they living stereotypes? Yup. But they are who they are and are proud of it. They aren’t stupid. Ignorant about a lot of things? Sure. Do they realize they’re being made fun of? Somewhat. But they don’t care. They’re dirt poor and can use all of the money they can get. There was even a benefit concert called Jescofest a few years back to raise money for food and firewood so that Jesco could make it though the winter.

    People need to stop acting self-righteous and offended and realize that the Whites are very proud and unbothered by the attention. They may not be role models, but they are unique and interesting. To say that a film like this shouldn’t be made is to say that people like the White family don’t exist. Fictional stereotypes are harmful. Living ones are endlessly-fascinating.

  14. Jessco White is actually a fifth cousin of mine. Of course this just proves the total victory of the culture of spectacle.

    Still it is cool that I am about six people away from actually knowing Brad Metzger.

    …Or Kevin Bacon.

    Not so cool: the slow death tick of the state of West Virginia.

  15. I saw the documentary this weekend at Fantasia in Montreal. It’s nothing to write home about. While the White family is interesting, and so is their lifestyle, the film doesn’t delve into the characters as much as one would like. It’s a bit all over the place.

    The trailer is enough to give you a good idea of what goes on in the movie. It’s typical MTV fare: the preview promises something absolutely decadent and over the top, but the package as a whole is only slightly informative and entertaining.

  16. That was fun. The video reminded me of the Seeker brothers back in the sixties.
    A cop who didn’t know me (rare) pondered my I.D. “Seeker… are you the one who blew up a car and a dentist’s office?”
    “That was my older brother, Thrill.”
    “Are you the one that was burglarizing garages?”
    “That was my younger brother, Funn.”
    “Well which one are you?” he asked.
    “I’m the good one!” I replied.
    We both had a good laugh. He frisked me, and we both went our way.

  17. The thing I find most interesting about this is the way some artists beat one drum for their entire career — and even that one tinny drumbeat of theirs is derivative. The director was apparently involved in some of the previous productions as an associate or assistant (?). What is he saying here that’s new? When I first saw the trailer and interview here I was captivated. But after reading the wikipedia entry (thank you, Lysdexia)and seeing how much coverage the White’s have had, how well-known they are, I felt I was being bamboozled by a hipster. Unless this doc is particularly stylized, fresh and compelling (which based on comments of people who have seen it, it is not) then I’m going to be happy to save my $10.

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