King of the Hill is loaded with all kinds of satirical southern wisdom that was both of and way ahead of its time. In many ways this wonderful show was the anti Simpsons. Hank was a good hard working father, passionate about his job and a pillar of his community. He did all the same basic things Homer did but with none of the cynicism or modern isolation. He drank in the street with his friends not in a dingy bar. He loved sports but also understood them and cherished their rich history. He was sensitive to the needs of others but also unashamedly uncomfortable with contemporary social norms. He went to his Methodist church because it was the right thing to do not because his wife drug him there.
Hank was the emotional bedrock of his family, whereas Marge was clearly the Simpsons’ firm foundation. Peggy Hill, Hank’s wife, was the intemperate one who constantly got herself into misadventures. That in itself is deeply subversive when every sitcom father is mister idiot.
King of the Hill was probably sold, and often seen by liberals, as a parody of the South. And sometimes it did this. Nothing wrong with that. Every society is silly and the South is one place that can handle the criticism. But there’s Cletus the slack jawed yokel from the Simpsons and then there’s Boomhauer’s incomprehensible muttering. One is clearly done out of elitist spite the other from humorous affection.
Mike Judge, the main mind behind the Hills, is apparently a bit anti political. Whether he realizes this or not being anti political makes you lean towards the American Conservative tradition of liberty, organicism, and permanent things. Progressivism is entirely about the politicization of every single thing. And because Judge leans against politics in his media making he winds up telling stories that are almost anti woke.
Spin the choice, episode 4 of Season 5 is one of the best examples. It deals with thanksgiving, a holiday that we are continually told is a micro aggression against Indians (anyone born here is a Native American, whereas Indian refers specifically to the surviving remnants of our indigenous people). In reality the Pilgrim fetishishism of this Lincoln the Tyrant established holiday is a macro aggression against the South. But in any case Bobby Hill, Hank’s chubby slightly effeminate son, goes full woke on thanksgiving in this episode. He decides that the holiday is racist and tells everyone that true “Native Americans” were Cannibals! In his twisted SJW rage somehow he has come to believe that Cannibalism is preferable to racism.
Hank finally settles the question by affirming that what was done to the Indians was indeed evil. And if Hank can admit that can’t Bobby also admit that cannibalism is evil too? This settles the question. And it’s a similar conversation the South has to keep having with the North, NeoConservatives, and Progressives of all stripes.
Yes slavery was evil. Yes Jim Crow was evil. But let us keep in mind that slavery was a national sin. And let us also keep in mind that Jim Crow was Northern before it was Southern. Segregation was a progressive solution before it was a Conservative institution. But having admitted and contextualized these sins can’t the anti-Southerners admit that Lincoln’s War was evil? Can’t you admit to your own atrocities? Can’t you admit that secession is a humane democratic solution to stupid polarization and federal tyranny?
Hank’s humble response of admitting American genocidal guilt while pointing out that cannibalism is also evil is Southern qua Southern. Let he who hath no sin throw the first stone is an excellent remedy to end all wars. No one is without sin in the culture/political wars, which is what makes them so stupid and pointless. We’d all be better off thinking and acting locally.
Hank’s wisdom doesn’t stop there. One of my personal favorite episodes is Reborn to be wild (S8:E2). Bobby gets into a Pomo Christian Rock scene.
Hank confronts one of the hipster pastors who is skateboarding and hilarity ensues:
“Dude, you don’t have to act or dress a certain way for God. You can hang with him any way, anywhere. Don’t you think Jesus is right here in this half-pipe?”
Hank’s response is priceless. “I’m sure he’s a lot of places he doesn’t want to be.”
Another perfect m laconic moment from this episode has Hank confronting the Christian rockers with a now infamous meme: “you’re not making Christianity any better you’re just making rock and roll worse!” Keep in mind that Rock n Roll was invented by Southerners, Hank is protective of Jesus and his favorite form of music.
But the most beautiful moment in this episode is the ending. Bobby grudgingly acquiesces to leaving the tattooed long haired pastors behind but swears that he’ll do whatever he wants when he’s 18. Hank takes a box of junk off the garage shelf full of lots of things Bobby has outgrown over the years. There’s a “bean bag buddy” that Bobby now thinks is lame but used to collect. A tamagotchi, those weird little electronic pet games that were a huge deal in the 90s. A picture of Bobby dressed up as a Ninja Turtle. The point is obvious. Growing up means outgrowing things.
Hank sums up his concern for Bobby’s soul:
“I know you think that stuff you’re doing now is cool but in a few years you’re gonna think it’s lame. And I don’t want the uh, Lord, to uh end up in this box.”
Hanks not a killjoy. He’s not being mean and puritanical. It’s not that Christian rock is immoral it’s that it’s unwise. Attaching something as important as Jesus to something trendy is very dangerous. This is Southern through and through. Real life is based on real things. The home, the family, hard work, music, and food. These traditions have existed and developed unintentionally in the South for centuries. By attaching ourselves to fads we set ourselves up for failure.
The late Sir Roger Scruton was the ultimate Conservative philosopher. He could’ve been called the philosopher of oikos, the Greek word for home. He constantly deconstructed oikophobia, which is basically just another word for metropolitan Davos Men. The modern obsession with individuals who are able to live the life of Julia via state sponsored everything is the ultimate miserable fad. It’s not very old and it’s beginning to fall apart. The South predates 1776 and it will survive the eventual dismantling of the US federal government. It isn’t a skin color. Its pre political. It’s a people and a place. It’s a home to those that will let themselves become attached to it.
This is what King of the Hill was really about. Hank was a Texan first and an American second. He probably wouldn’t have put it that way but it’s there, all through the show. For Hank being Texan wasn’t about politics. He named his Georgia bloodhound Lady Bird in honor of LBJ’s wife. LBJ is one of the arch progressive Democrats but Hank was just proud that he was a Texan. Hank shows just as much Patriotism over the Texas Revolution as he does the 4th of July.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Individuals aren’t supposed to be characterized by their inner self, that ineffable quality invented almost wholesale by Rousseau. We are most happy when our inner selves reflect the community around us. When our external world and inner world live in peace. That’s the real wisdom of the Hills, being at home with home. Allowing ourselves to be characterized by things we didn’t choose and have control over. Allowing ourselves to be characterized by providence and duty rather than individualism and consent.