From head to toe I'm rather drab except my patent shoes
—Primus, "My Name Is Mud"
The rural southern U.S., and indeed, the rural north of England, are apparently full of small towns run by evil hicks of some sort. His control over the town may be political, economic, religious, or purely criminal, but in most cases it gradually expands to "all of the above".
One of the most obvious hallmarks of a town run by a Corrupt Hick is the apparent lack of a judicial system. It seems the Corrupt Hick can just go around arresting whoever he wants for no reason without them ever getting a trial. If there's a courthouse in town, it's certainly not being used (On the rare occasion there is a trial, it will have a Hanging Judge who will be on the payroll). In all these respects, the Corrupt Hick is effectively a modern-day version of the Feudal Overlord of yore. Though the fact that he was probably elected due to his popularity will usually be ignored.
He will almost certainly wear a hat, probably carry a gun, will probably chew tobacco, is almost always white, and is virtually Always Male. Good odds of being a Fat Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit.
The underlings of a Corrupt Hick will be either corrupt themselves or clueless. Areas that tolerate corrupt hicks generally don't get reformed from inside. If it's a horror story, he may be keeping a Madwoman in the Attic.
Walking the Earth shows, particularly those set in the modern day, run into a lot of these. And virtually every adventure series or cop show made in the 1970s -- whether it be Cannon, The Six Million Dollar Man or Wonder Woman -- had at least one episode featuring the corrupt hick scenario (so much so in fact that it's fair to refer to this not only as a trope, but a full-out cliche).
Here is the Wikipedia page for hillbilly. Please see the following Wikipedia pages of Appalachia, The Ozarks, and Southern United States. These are three areas where hillbillies are often located.
Anime and Manga
- Parodied in Galaxy Angel, where Forte meets a Corrupt Hick owning a hospital full of completely incompetent staff and blaming his bad patient turnout on the existence of a kindly town doctor across the street.
- Preacher (Comic Book) : Odin Quincannon, the Meat King, is corrupt hick who operates an inhumane meat plant, orders the death of a local sheriff, is a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, tries to blow up a nearby village with napalm, employs a Hitler fetishist as his PA and repeatedly has sex with a giant female figure made out of sides of ham. Seriously. He was so corrupt his fellow Klansmen started wondering if he was taking the whole racism thing a bit too far.
- Actually, as far as being a KKK member goes, he probably just goes over the top to show how "Real" he is as he needs the Mooks of the KKK to deal with the Preacher. It was cheaper than hiring professional hitmen. Should not have bothered. The Preacher kicked the KKK out without breaking a sweat and the KKK took their frustrations out on Odin Quincannon by beating the meat King.
- The L'Angelles are as nasty as they come.
- One of The Authority's worst foes was a Corrupt Hick given 2012 different superpowers and set on them by the G7 leaders. When he's finally defeated, they punish him by turning him into seven chickens and then bringing him home to his seven brothers.
- The Hulk Gang from Old Man Logan counts as this very much, even though they are located in California. The Hulk himself is the corrupt hick leading them and in charge of a territory called Hulkland. They are violent and quite murderous, considering how they murdered Logan's family and left the bodies unburied while he was busy trying to pay off a debt he owed them. Why? Because they got bored. They are a family of cannibals. Oh, and they are also inbred, because Hulk raped his own cousin Jennifer more than once to form the Hulk Gang!
- One Daredevil issue had him Walking the Earth into a small town in New Jersey that was like this. The cover picture showed the sheriff, with Daredevil reflected in his mirrored lenses, saying something along the lines of "This here's a mean, corrupt little town -- and we aim to keep it that way!" (Daredevil was in civvies throughout the story, and the sheriff was nowhere near that open about his evil, of course.) The Backstory had similarities to High Plains Drifter, including the murder of an honest cop.
- Appears in Troll 2, with the added kicker that the evil townsfolk are also goblins in disguise.
- Road House, staring Patrick Swayze, features a no-gooder trying to take over the bar and businesses in a little backwater town with his hired redneck muscle.
- Footloose: Nicely subverted with the preacher. He finally figures out how to let go when his flock starts burning books.
- Nothing but Trouble: Judge Alvin Valkenheiser—and how!.
- Smokey and the Bandit: Sheriff Buford T. Justice is treated as one of these, even though the titular Bandit is breaking the law left and right.
- Averted in My Cousin Vinny. While the plot involves a pair of young New Yorkers being falsely arrested and tried for murder in a small Southern town, the false arrest is due to circumstantial evidence rather than a trumped-up charge, and it's clear the judge and lawmen are trying to do their jobs honestly.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The insanely corrupt Big Dan Teague. Who is channeling the cyclops Polyphemus.
- In Pumpkinhead 2, Mayor Bubba wants to keep the deadly monster alive so its existence could attract tourists. The sheriff doesn't react well.
- National Lampoon's Vacation features a scene where Chevy Chase is taken advantage of by a couple of hicks at a gas station, who barely fix his car, then take all of his money. Chevy asks them what their local sheriff thinks of their shady "business" dealings, leading the men to laugh, and one of them to pull out and display a sheriff's badge.
- Deliverance. The film takes place somewhere in Georgia. The four "city boys" are unable to form much a connection with the locals. The locals fit the stereotypical hillbilly image of being crude, rude, and inbred for some of them. There is also one point when the four "city boys" encounter two hillbillies on their trip down the river. They assume that the two guys are operating a moonshine still and offer to buy some. The two hillbillies, in response, has one of them strip himself naked, chased him, and sodomized him, apparently For the Evulz. It should also be pointed out that the four "city boys" were rather condescending toward the locals and the one who got sodomized openly mocked the locals out loud for seeming to display genetic defects.
- The film would seem to be both played straight and subverted. On the one hand, the rapists themselves play this deadly straight. On the other, we never see the rapists again and while the rest of the hillbilly town is set up to be creepy and/or evil, they never really do anything, good or bad. Especially subverted in the case of the mentally challenged banjo player (probably the most famous character in the film), whose banjo playing provides a creepy soundtrack but who is otherwise benevolent.
- For particularly creepy hillbillies, expect to hear "Dueling Banjos". (This is a conflation of the two things people generally know about the film- that song and rapist hillbillies. In the actual film, they had nothing to do with one another.)
- Tank: Major Zak Carey (played by James Garner) gets on the bad side of one of these, who ends up framing his son for drug possession and cheating him out of his retirement money. Garner's character, however, is a Sergeant Major in the Army—literally almost a Retired Badass- - and owns a fully restored, fully armed WWII Sherman tank. Hilarity Ensues.
- Reno Smith from Bad Day at Black Rock.
- Herod of The Quick and the Dead. Also an example of Asskicking Equals Authority, since Herod is nigh unbeatable in a straight up fight and is only blindsided and killed by someone who he thought was already dead.
- Foxy Brown has two grime-covered drug dealers who operate a front operation out on a farm.
- There's a racist sheriff in at least two James Bond movies.
- Leatherface and his family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. They are a Big Screwed-Up Family who are inbred, murdering, cannibals. At least one source implies that other people in the community know about the family's business, and will cover for them if an outsider tries to turn to them for help. Even though Texas is outside of Appalachia and the Ozarks, the community is supposed to be made up of hillbillies.
- Although it's probably less a matter of the locals wanting to cover up the depredations of the Hewitts because "they're one of us" or anything like that, and more a matter of grim survival. The locals turn a blind eye to the Hewitts slaughtering travelers and outsiders who won't be missed, and in return, they don't need to worry about their own loved ones (or themselves) being hacked up, brained, chainsawed or ground into chili.
- Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald's family from Million Dollar Baby. They care little about Maggie's well-being, and will cheerfully cross the Moral Event Horizon just to get her money. Maggie herself is a Defector From Decadence.
- In Pete's Dragon, the Gogan family.
- The Cajun hunters in the 1981 film Southern Comfort.
- The film The Muppet Movie averts this. Kermit the Frog hails from southeastern U.S., more specifically from a swamp with alligators in it. He does play a banjo. However, he proves to be the Straight Man and the leader of the entire gang.
- Played straight with Tex Richman from The Muppets 2011, however.
- Chuck Norris battles one of these in Breaker! Breaker!
- To Kill a Mockingbird: Bob Ewell has this trope down to a science, what with accusing Tom Robinson of rape, probably responsible for the rape and abuse of his daughter, attempting to kill Scout and Jem and being an all-around not-nice person. This is nicely averted by the town sheriff Heck Tate, however, who is quite a kind man. It should be noted that Bob Ewell and his brood were considered the lowest of the low, the townsfolk only took his word instead of Tom Robinson's because Bob is white.
- Geryon from Percy Jackson and The Olympians qualifies. He makes omlettes out of the eggs of endangered species, slaughters the sacred cattle of the sun, sells to the titan army, and tries to sell Nico to Luke.
- William Faulkner's Snopes trilogy (and many works set in Yonknawhatever County ) has these in abundance. Flem Snopes steals from everyone, gets his own relatives arrested (intentionally), and also basically controls the entire county - everyone owes him money.
- In Fried Green Tomatoes, the judge accepts evidence he knows is complete hooey to be admitted into trial. The "evidence" exonorates a woman and a black man accused killing a white man. The judge has a special hatred for said white man, which is why he throws the murder charge out and rules the white man's disappearance as "death by misadventure".
- Several characters in the book Divine Evil by Nora Roberts. A sculptor named Clare Kimball goes back to her small hometown in Maryland, because she is suffering from depression and nightmares that stem from there and she hopes to deal with them. It turns out that there is a coven/cult of Satanists in the town. The members of this coven/cult include Clare's father (who left out of guilt and the other members murdered him to ensure his silence), her love interest's Cameron Rafferty's hated stepfather (who ended up murdered), and Ernie (who is a teenaged city boy who the Satanists recruited and they attempted to corrupt him).
- Most of the characters identified as hillbillies avert this in Nerd In Shining Armor by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Three characters that can be called hillbillies are Genevive Terrence, Annabelle, and Lincoln (well, Lincoln apparently doesn't count, because he wasn't born or raised as one). They hail from a small community in Tennessee. Annabelle and Lincoln are apparently psychic. Genevive as a kid had sex with a boy named Clyde Loudermilk back in Tennessee. Why? Because he promised to take her out to a movie in exchange for sex. Too bad she found out after losing her virginity that he didn't even have enough money to go to the movies. Ouch.
- There is this one book whose title I forget. The plotline involves two female cousins and two men who have to go into a town that has a load of these people. They get on the bad side of a Corrupt Hick, who gets murdered later on. They also have to contend with a lawyer who breaks laws and would happily give them a Fate Worse Than Death given the chance. The number of people in the town who avert this trope can be counted on the fingers of one hand. On a interesting side note, one of the men was born in this town, and the other man, a rich and powerful CEO, grew up in a hillbilly town, and he does not remember it fondly.
- The locals in The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft. They live in the ruined town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. They are very secretive, do not like outsiders, walk awkwardly, and look like a human combined with a fish or a frog.
- The trope is also used in the H.P. Lovecraft story Beyond The Wall Of Sleep.
- More generally, not just hillbillies in the strictest sense of the term but "southern rural". The novels Gods Little Acre and Tobacco Road established this trope by the early 1930s.
- This trope is averted in Some Girls Do by Leanne Banks. Katie/Priscilla hails from a small town in Texas, and the town is given no name and is reported to have been blown off the map by a tornado. People assumed that she would end up as this trope, because she was the daughter of a woman who Really Gets Around. She did manage to form her own life and tried to distance herself from her roots. She also has conversations with her mother, who died years ago. Her employer Ivan wants to see his daughter Wilhemina married and states early on that he can't have a redneck for a son-in-law. This leads to problems when Wilhemina forms a relationship and gets pregnant with Douglas, a hog farmer in Texas and Ivan finds out. Douglas averts this trope, but it took Ivan some time before he could accept Douglas as a son-in-law. Even though Texas is not really part of Appalachia or The Ozarks, some of the characters are clearly categorized as hillbillies.
- A Russian version is shown in Valentin Pikul's novel Wealth. The corrupt frontier hicks from Kamchatka trade furs illegally, sell vodka to aborigines and try to boot the idealistic new governor. On the other hand, the local lawman, a Cossack sergeant, is decent and becomes the governor's right hand.
- Mayor Jim Bob Buchanon of the Maggody mysteries is a low-grade version, as he's a piggish petty tyrant of sorts, at least to the meager extent possible in a skint-broke town with less than 800 people. He falls short where genuine evil is concerned, due to incompetence and a tendency to fall prey when real villains Kick the Son of a Bitch.
Live Action TV
- NCIS: A sheriff's deputy is a Corrupt Hick. He has such an intense fear/hatred of Arabs that he plants evidence of bomb making in the garage of a young Arab man who has recently moved in justifying it as a 'pre-emptive strike'.
- TV shows composed of traveling 'Heros For Hire', such as The A-Team, Knight Rider, or MacGyver, often ran across such corrupt hicks. Including a shortlived 80s show called The Master starring Lee Van Cleef about an American ninja and his student. Four of the episodes were turned into:
- The Master Ninja movies. Two of which were shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Airwolf features one in "Sweet Britches". Using prisoners as fodder for hunters, he insults Caitlin, a female Texas Highway Patrol cop at this point in time (who wants a prisoner he's in fact killed), by calling her a "meter maid" and "sweet britches". Then he essentially encourages a group of men to gang-rape her, although where they got in that is not discussed, as a certain Black Helicopter arrives.
- American Gothic's premise was based on a Corrupt Hick Sheriff running a town with enough subtle supernatural menace to lead most viewers to wonder if he's actually Satan.
- In one episode of The Andy Griffith Show, a reporter thinks that Andy is one of these. Andy is talking about fishing, and she thinks that he's talking about lynching a black person.
- In Back to the 50s, S Club 7 encounters one of these in Fifties California.
- BJ And The Bear: Sheriff Lobo who later reformed and got his own series.
- The Boston Legal episode "Happy Trails". There is a trial, but that's to be expected considering the main characters are lawyers. And it was just a big excuse for Alan to make an Author Filibuster.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Nathan Fillion's "Caleb", an evil southern preacher aligned with the First Evil—from the seventh season.
- CSI had Grissom drive out to a podunk Nevadan town and deal with one of these. Actually subverted; the sheriff's merely hiding a Big Secret, and one that bucks his stereotype to boot.
- The Dukes of Hazzard had a double set of classic Corrupt Hicks, with Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
- Possibly played with in 3rd Rock from the Sun, in which Officer Don is repeatedly shown to be a corrupt small-town cop, but is still portrayed sympathetically (because he's also a spineless idiot).
- The X Files: Many Monster of the Week episodes are set in the aforementioned insular places, handicapped by superstition, small gene pools or Green Rocks.
- The League of Gentlemen: Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, an implicitly incestuous couple of serial killers who ran the Local Shop.
- Leverage: Played with a bit more subtlety than usual (still not much) in "The Bank Shot Job".
- Justified: Pretty much everyone who crosses Raylan Givens most notably those named Crowder or Bennet.
- Superintendent Fuller from Wild Boys is a cross between this and a Knight Templar.
- The citizens of the village in Once Upon a Time In Saengchori.
- In Once Upon a Time, Storybrooke, Maine is controlled by two: Regina Mills, its Ultimate Authority Mayor, and Mr. Gold, who owns the town (literally).
- It's not accurate to refer to either of these character as "hicks", however, as they do not fit the part of the trope that requires the character be uneducated or a bumpkins; both Regina and Gold are depicted as extremely intelligent, cultured characters (although Gold's original Rumpelstiltskin personality is depicted as a "country hick" to a degree in the recent origin episode).
- Governor Orval Faubus: 36th Governor of Arkansas. He attempted to block out the Little Rock 9 from going to school, and turned the Civil Rights movement into an 'encroachment upon the Southern way of Life.' He started up the civil war rhetoric that the South has a specific way of life that was not to be tampered with. Safe to say, we're still dealing with this rhetoric today.
- Ironically enough, Faubus in his early career was endorsed by the NAACP, and it's suspected that he only did what he did to distract the voters from his heretofore lackadaisical leadership.
- Debatably, Joe Arpaio.
- The Mexican version of this trope is the "Northern Guy" (or Norteño in Spanish) since it shares more of less the same characteristics of the American one.
- Not that the Mexican South (Especially in the Mexican states of Michoacan and Guerrero) are too different from the North, but the Northern states have some features more prevalent from the rest of the country: Extreme weather (a almost scorching Summer along with a very cold Winter in those states), a very deep Eagleland Osmosis, especially in the cities near the U.S. border, endemic corruption and a very extreme Values Dissonance with the rest of the country.
- Owen Musser from The Foreigner is all over this. As is David.
- Tom Finley, Sr., better know to one and all as "Boss" Finley, in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird Of Youth. He got himself elected Governor of an unnamed Southern state, sold the offshore oil rights dirt cheap, became a partner in the oil company when he left office, then got the oilman elected as his pet Governor. Now he's running for Governor in his own right again, and not above having his opponents brutalized by thugs.
- The Hicks clan in Jagged Alliance 2 routinely harasses the town of Cambria, will steal any weapon that's not nailed down, and will proposition any female you send to talk to them. To make things worse, the hillbillies all have shotguns and Mini-14s, meaning that early fights with them tend not to end well. (Later on, with body armor, assault rifles, and/or exploitation of Artificial Stupidity involving chokepoints, they become rather easier to take down.) Even if you don't, there's a field of cows that they keep, and conversations with random Hicks involving cow tipping tend to be...revealing.
- Ward, a security guard from The Orion Conspiracy. He is openly racist, sexist, and whatever term you would like to apply. Just about everything that comes out of his mouth is an insult. Practically nobody likes him, and at least one character refers to him as a redneck, and says that he is so dumb that insults will just fly right over his head. Bonus points for the fact that he hates the Irish main character Devlin McCormack, because his first name is Malachi, an Irish first name.
- Redneck Rampage loves to have fun with this trope. The player plays as a hillbilly named Leonard, who has to whack his buddy Bubba in the face with a crowbar from time to time. They fight against aliens, who have made clones of their neighbours. The neighbours consist of a skinny old man and a fat bearded man with a shotgun. There is also the town sheriff, who will not hesitate to shoot you on sight.
- Harvester has Sherriff Dwayne: Big on pie eating, light on crime fighting. Unless it’s the main character Steve that’s breaking the law.
- Stroker and Hoop: Parodied when they investigate a murder in the Deep South. At the very beginning of the investigation, Stroker predicts, "It was either the corrupt mayor, the corrupt sheriff, or some crazy hick." It turned out to be the sheriff. ("So, Stroker was right! You cliché, evil bastard!")
- Seen on Fillmore! when Fillmore visits his former Safety Patrol partner down South.
- One episode of Batman: The Animated Series pitted Bruce Wayne against a gluttonous sadist, who kidnapped the homeless and forced them to work in a dangerous mine.
- The Simpsons: "Even I'm offended by this, and I'm a fat Southern sheriff!"
- The Rich Texan has frequently been shown as a doing anything for money, yet does have a good side (he does love his gay son.)
- On Captain Planet and the Planeteers, this role was filled by Hoggish Greedly (who was also a Corrupt Corporate Executive). Representing overconsumption of resources and greed, he was basically a combination of the "fat southern sheriff" stereotype and Screw the Rules, I Have Money. Ironically he literally was only in it for the money, as opposed to general malice or sadism, and when his environmentalist father faked death to test him, and denied to let him have his will when his time came, Greedly went straight (provided he could still rake in green by going green, of course...).
- Fairly Oddparents: Doug Dimmadome (owner of the Dimmsdale Dimmadome).
- Toy Story 3: Lotso runs Sunnyside with an iron fist.
- Robin Hood: The Sheriff of Nottingham, for some reason has a Southern accent despite the film taking place in England.
- Scooby-Dum from Scooby Doo averts this trope. He is a buck-toothed hillbilly hailing from southern Georgia, and is Scooby Doo's cousin. He is on good terms with his cousin and other people. Unfortunately, as his Meaningful Name suggests, he is also very dumb. He is considered The Scrappy (yes, they had more than just the Trope Namer) and has been given the Brother Chuck treatment, possibly because the stereotype of a hillbilly being dumb (not to mention the stereotype of a hillbilly having buck teeth) is being played through him for comedy.
- Averted in The Rescuers. The film has a location named Devil's Bayou, which could be located in Louisiana or Texas. Either way, it is a swamp with alligators in it. The swamp folks living there seem to have some hillbilly qualities, like Luke who drinks strong liquor that turns out to be gasoline. However, they turn out to be rather friendly, and actually aided in the rescue of Penny from Medusa, Snoops, Brutus and Nero.