The Beverly Hillbillies is a sitcom set in America that originally broadcast on CBS for nine seasons, between 1962 and 1971. The main characters are Jed Clampett, his mother-in-law Daisy (or Granny), his daughter Elly May Clampett, and his nephew Jethro Bodine. Other characters with significant roles in the sitcom are the Drysdales, their neighbors in Beverly Hills. The series follows the lives and experiences of the Clampetts, a family of hillbillies, whose lives change for the better after they stumble upon a fortune.
They live in abject poverty near a swamp contaminated with oil. When a surveyor for an oil company realizes the size of the oil, his company pays the Clampetts a fortune for drilling rights on the land. Jed then moves his family from the dilapidated house to a mansion in Beverly Hills. Their lifestyle is very different from the people in this neighborhood. The swank, the superficial and self-obsessed way of life in the Beverly Hills community clashes sharply with the Clampetts’ moral, minimalistic, and unsophisticated way of life. Milburn Drysdale, the local banker, tries hard to ensure that they do not leave Beverly Hills to make sure that their money stays in the bank. During their stay in Beverly Hills, they encountered people from all social groups. These included hippies, body builders, greedy bankers, movie stars, professional wrestlers, highbrow classical musicians, among others (Henning, 1966).
One of the main social issues seen in the sitcom is the difference between the rich and the poor. In the series, this difference was the primary source of humor. The Clampetts were accustomed to a simple way of life and, in many ways, appeared uncultured. They were unfamiliar with the many dos and don’ts of people living in high society. Their sudden change from rags to riches had not given them enough time to learn the values and norms of the wealthy. It often made their interactions with other people living in Beverly Hills rather comical. Politically, the 1960s were turbulent times. Political events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War created much tension (Naugle, 2002). Many people turned to escapist television for relief. Sitcoms offered this much-needed relief. The Beverly Hillbillies did not make any political references. It made the sitcom a perfect source of relief for people who did not want to be reminded of the prevailing political conditions.
Cultural displacement, as well as the hegemony of wealth, is clearly illustrated in the Beverly Hillbillies. Under normal circumstances, the Clampetts would not have interacted with the people living in Beverly Hills. The two groups belonged to different social classes and had nothing in common. Their outlook towards life and their mannerisms were very different. However, money quickly changed all these. Although the Clampetts were still uncultured, their sudden change of fortune allowed them to interact with people who were previously above them in the social hierarchy. It was a welcome relief given the manner in which they lived previously.
The series provides a clear depiction of what society was like during the 1960s. The rich and the poor behaved very differently. Even societal expectations from these two groups were different. While society did not expect much from the poor, it expected the rich to act in a particular manner that was deemed acceptable. For instance, young women among the rich were required to know how to cook and conduct themselves in a well-mannered manner. Elly May was a tomboy and a terrible cook while Granny was rude and short tempered. Their behavior made it difficult for them to fit into the Beverly Hills society. However, they keep trying to fit in, and with time, people begin to accept them. Therefore, the movie is a good highlight of the class differences prevalent in the society despite the fact that the country is billed as the land of great opportunities.
Henning, P. (Writer), Ransohoff, M. (Producer), & Simon, A. (Director). (1966). The Beverly Hillbillies [Motion Picture]. CBS Films.
Naugle, D. K. (2002). Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.