Why it Matters When Hollywood Misses the Mark: Cassie Chambers Armstrong Considers the Exploitative Narrative of Hillbilly Elegy

Cassie Chambers Armstrong (’16), author, Member-elect of the Louisville City Council and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville School of Law, contributed to The Atlantic discussing how the film Hillbilly Elegy’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps narrative frames poverty as a moral failing of individuals (as opposed to systems) and doesn’t depict the creativity, ingenuity and generosity of people who support one another when those systems fail (“Hillbilly Elegy Doesn’t Reflect the Appalachia I Know,” Nov. 29). “Most of all, remember that portrayals like Hillbilly Elegy have real consequences for people like my Aunt Ruth. She may not watch the movie, but she will still feel its effects—the judgment of her and her neighbors, the sense that Appalachia is not worth saving, the desire to let outsiders help Appalachia instead of giving these communities the resources they need to help themselves. The way we portray struggling communities—and the people who inhabit them—matters. Seek out the wealth of writers and artists who recognize the value in small mountain towns like Owsley County and those portrayed in Hillbilly Elegy. Take the time to see the good, hardworking, intelligent people who are striving to make their communities better. And maybe join my Aunt Ruth and don’t bother to watch this movie.”