Allow me to introduce…the Turtleman

January 26, 2010

Posted by: Chad M. Gesser

Twitter: @profgesser

Email: chad.gesser@kctcs.edu

A subculture is a group that exhibits some cultural characteristic that distinguishes them from the mainstream society.  Most patterns of the group, and the behaviors of the individual members are consistent with the socially acceptable behaviors.  Countercultures vary in that their cultural patterns go against the mainstream norms.  Often times countercultures engage in behaviors that are consider illegal.

Subcultures and countercultures vary over time.  The benchmark of gauging a group as a subculture or counterculture are the norms of the society.  At one point in history, a group that is now considered mainstream (for example, Christians) were seen as a counterculture.  As values, beliefs and attitudes of individuals in a society change, so do norms.  Thus as the rules, guidelines, and expectations for behavior in society change, so then does our definition as to whether a group is considered a subculture or a counterculture.  Certainly in the 21st century United States, Christianity plays an important role in the culture.

A couple of years back I heard the story of the Turtleman in central Kentucky.  The Turtleman engages in very odd behavior by current social standards.  Given that he is somewhat an isolated case, his behavior is unique in and of itself, but not considered a subculture.  There are not large numbers of people that engage in turtle hunting as the Turtleman.

Compared to U.S. averages and norms, Kentucky ranks well below the standards for income, education, and other standard measures of achievement in society.  While the Turtleman may be a novelty, how do images and behavior like his serve to validate stereotypes and cultural perceptions of “hillbillies from Kentucky”?  If Kentucky ranks on average well below the United States average on many socioeconomic indicators, then on some level our stereotypes can be validated.

Do habits, hobbies, and behavior vary according to social class?  What elements of high culture tell us something about particular subcultures of our mainstream society?  What elements of popular culture give us a better understanding of the general patterns of behavior of individuals?  How does understanding what groups of people do for fun and entertainment provide insight into their values, attitudes, and beliefs?


  1. 12:30 til 1:45 Joyce Clark
    I think that it pertains to Social class because it is this mans way of living. It is what he does for a living. That people will do anything to make a living. Well I do think that this man does it for fun and maybe it is apart from his cullture, and it values the people who enjoys the delicacy of eating turtles. To me it has an attidute that doesn’t pertain to me. But who is to say that it doesn’t belong to him.

  2. Habits, hobbies, and behaviors vary quite a bit based on social class. Most of these differences exist because of the time and money you must invest in certain habits, hobbies, and behaviors, and because of the difference in values of different social classes.
    Every element of pop culture can give you an understanding of general patterns of individual behaviors. From hobbies to music to trends, they can all tell you about the patterns of people.
    What people do for fun and entertainment will not conflict with their values, attitudes, and beliefs, or else they would not be doing it. For example, someone who is selfish and self absorbed would not donate their money to charitable organizations or give their time doing community service (of their own free will).

  3. I just wanted to clarify something (in plain English, because a lot of what is written here is written in a very scholastic, pompous sort of style). Ernie doesn’t kill his turtles (or any of the animals he catches) to supply any food to anyone. He believes in releasing them in their own habitat, which tells me even if he does fit some dated stereotype of Appalachia (I am from tough Appalachian stock myself) he is a noble man just for how he handles these animals. Bravo, Ernie Brown!

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