J.D. Vance‘s controversial memoir Hillbilly Elegy is getting a Netflix adaptation, with Ron Howard directing. Imagine Entertainment started the process in 2017, getting Oscar nominee Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water) to pen the script. The New Republic called the book “a kind of Rosetta Stone for blue America to interpret that most mysterious of species: the economically precarious white voter,” tying it to the media’s obsession with Trump supporters. Former Congressional candidate Betsy Rader wrote a piece for the Washington Post called “I was born in poverty in Appalachia. ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ doesn’t speak for me.”
However, the book is a bestseller and popular in vast swaths of the country, though its message sets Appalachia up as a mysterious “other” within the United States. Historian Elizabeth Catte wrote a rebuttal to that book with her own, titled What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, telling NPR:
The piece that’s often left out is what it feels like to be on the other end of those stories. And Appalachia has a long history of absorbing people in my book I call strangers with cameras, people who come to the region maybe not to see just poverty but a particular kind of poverty that they need and want to find […] that created an overabundance of images that really left an enduring impression on the national imagination of what people think of when they think of Appalachia. They think of shacks. They think of people barefoot, dirty, you know, covered in coal dust. And that’s left a big impression that we’re still dealing with. […] We need to kind of diversify the narrative of the region and acknowledge that it can’t be contained in a single election or a single person’s life.
The irony, as well, of the profit off of the book and now the movie rights vs the economic struggle of that region makes one think about how much that money could actually help the communities off of which they are profiting …
Nevertheless, things are moving forward with the production, and according to Deadline, it will start shooting later this year, though a cast has not be settled on.