When the temperature reaches triple digits, I often have to remind myself of reasons I still live in the South after all these years. Actually, the list is pretty long when I start thinking about it. But usually — as is true of most of my “reasons why” lists — a big factor is the women.
A southern woman is of a special breed, a combination of genuine hospitality and charm that makes her irresistible, especially if she happens to have an accent that draws out even the tiniest word to multiple syllables.
On TV, one of my favorite southerners is Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, who’s about to say goodbye in the last six episodes of The Closer, starting Monday.
The Huffington Post took Brenda’s departure as a reason to celebrate some of TV’s Sassiest Southern Belles. We can’t resist joining in.
Here are a few of HuffPo’s picks:
Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood
The residents of Bon Temps, Louisiana, are so southern that if you pronounce “Sookie” like it’s spelled, they wouldn’t know who you’re talking about. One of my favorite things about Sookie’s upbringing is that when her parents found out she could read minds and doctors couldn’t treat it, they just decided to ignore it and attribute their daughter’s ability to having very good observational skills. That is so southern.
Dr. Charlotte King, Private Practice
Charlotte is the kind of straight talking woman that will look you right in the eye, tell you what’s what, and be gone before you know what hit you. Alabama born and bred, Charlotte calls her father “Big Daddy” and got her stubbornness and strong work ethic from him. In Charlotte, we get to see one of the prime contradictions of a southern woman: She is unflinching in her opinions but has a heart as big as the whole South.
Blanche Devereaux, The Golden Girls
Blanche is from Atlanta, Georgia, brought up in a stately family mansion where she was the apple of her own Big Daddy’s eye and married her high school sweetheart. Now that she’s a widow, Blanche seems to be sowing the wild oats she kept in reserve during decades of fidelity to hubby George. My mother would’ve called her a rounder. But as Blanche herself said, “There is a fine line between having a good time and being a wanton slut. I know. My toe has been on that line.”
Suzanne Sugarbaker, Designing Women
Suzanne, another Atlanta girl, is a former beauty queen who still has her crown from Miss Georgia World within easy reach. But I think all of the women of Sugarbaker Designs deserve a place among the sassiest — and classiest — southerners on television.
Suzanne’s ex-husband, Dash, said it best in a letter he wrote after a visit.
“Yesterday, in my mind’s eye, I saw four women standing on a veranda in white, gauzy dresses and straw-colored hats. They were having a conversation. And it was hot. Their hankies tucked in cleavages where eternal trickles of perspiration run from the female breastbone to exotic vacation spots that southern men often dream about. They were sweet-smelling, coy, cunning, voluptuous, voracious, delicious, pernicious, vexing and sexing… these earth sister/rebel mothers… these arousers and carousers. And I was filled with a longing to join them. But like a whim of Scarlett’s, they turned suddenly and went inside, shutting me out with a bolt of a latch. And I was left only to pick up an abandoned handkerchief and savor the perfumed shadows of these women… these southern women. This Suzanne. This Julia. This Mary Jo and Charlene. Thanks for the comfort, Dash Goff… the writer”
HuffPo rounds out its list with Miley Stewart from Hannah Montana, Calleigh Duquesne from CSI: Miami, Reba Nell Hart from Reba, Elena Gilbert from The Vampire Diaries, Lemon Breeland from Hart of Dixie, Carlene Cockburn from GCB, Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing, Savannah Monroe from Hellcats, Luanne Platter from King of the Hill, Phaedra Parks from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Paula Deen from Paula’s Home Cooking, Elly May Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies, Sue Ellen Ewing from Dallas, and Mary Ann Summers from Gilligan’s Island.
A few notable southern women seem to be missing.
Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights
FNL is full of smart and strong Texas women, but Tami certainly deserves mention. Being the coach’s wife in a football town is no picnic, and if you’re trying to have your own identity apart from that, you have to be quite a woman. Which, of course, Tami is. I defy you not to have a crush on her after you watch this fan video.
Rene Jackson, Any Day Now
Rene represents a southern woman who deliberately left the South, found success, and returned to her roots. Rene was raised in Birmingham in the Sixties, which certainly provided motivation both to leave and to become a civil rights attorney. When she came home and started a practice, she had an elegant intelligence that many southern African American women raised in that decade possess.
Who would you add to this list? Who’s your favorite southern woman on TV?