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California Reviews Southern Exposure

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Written by Leilani Doneux

I think it was the sideburns, or maybe an accented, homoerotic Sacha Baron Cohen telling Will Ferrell that he tasted of America. Either way, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the intrusive thought that I have been having since I first stepped foot in a Sheetz. Ricky Bobby is a regional cult-of-personality that is the binding factor for men of a certain humidity. He is omnipresent at every house party, in every NASCAR joke, and I honestly thought the movie was based on a true story for a good two months before I realized that he was simply a deep-fried fever dream, a simulation of regional stereotyping held together by two pieces of Wonder Bread. I would miss entire subconversations with my friends before I saw the movie; this was my olive branch. Twenty minutes into the film and I had to refrain from linguistic slips of the tongue that brought me back to my own roots, namely how a child of California pronounces the word “excellent” ever after their inaugural viewing of “Wayne’s World”. Ricky Bobby is a battle cry, a fist pump, like the Duke brothers, but probably Jewish. I found myself wanting to ‘shake and bake’, or make out to Journey in an Applebee’s, and I didn’t hate it. Talladega Nights is a love story bound by family, alcoholism, and burning rubber, much like the California ethos up until Google started to gentrify the South Bay. If nothing else, who doesn’t hate the French? A quick shot through Google Translate and I realized that “If you’re not first, you’re last” is the cultural equivalent of Dionne Davenport having a panic attack merging onto the 405, or the conceptual “Perfect Wave”, the term coined from the movie The Endless Summer, itself a California totem that just barely makes up for an entire shoreline drowning literally and figuratively in coastal elitism. Dennit Racing, too, is the Alfred Coffee & Tea (of “But first, coffee” fame) of the South, a capitalistic gamut that is too crazy to die. As Dave Barry wrote for the Washington Post in 2004, “Do we truly believe that all red-state residents are ignorant, racist, fascist, knuckle-dragging, NASCAR-obsessed, cousin-marrying, roadkill-eating, tobacco juice-dribbling, gun-fondling, religious-fanatic rednecks; or that all blue-state residents are godless, unpatriotic, pierced-nosed, Volvo-driving, France-loving, left-wing communist, latte-sucking, tofu-chomping, holistic-wacko, neurotic, vegan, weenie perverts?” The answer is ‘yes’, and if you don’t chew Big Red, go f**k yourself.