Who Takes the Fall: Pogues or Kooks?

Since its release in 2020, Outer Banks has been a favorite among teengers and adults nationwide. The show is set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where impoverished John B leads a group of lower-class teenagers, or “Pogues” as they call themselves, on a treasure hunt to find $400 million worth of gold. The plot thickens when Ward Cameron, a stereotypical rich “Kook” living in the Outer Banks, races the kids to find the gold first. Due to its high number of viewers, it’s important that the messages sent in Outer Banks are constructive and have a positive influence. However, in reality, not all the messages in Outer Banks are; Outer Banks is not a valuable piece of media as it enforces the norm of those in the upper class being able to get away with more than those in the lower class.

This gap between socioeconomic groups and the amount they’re each believed is most predominant in an episode of Outer Banks called “The Bell Tower”. In this episode, the stakes are high when Ward’s son, Rafe, shoots and kills a police officer who had been trying to arrest Ward. John B witnesses the incident but is not directly involved. However, in order to avoid getting in trouble, Ward tells the cops that John B was the one who killed the police officer. John B, unaware that Ward lied and that there is now a $25,000 reward for finding him, goes to the police himself and tells them the truth of what happened. The police automatically side with Ward. None of the police consider for even a second that John B might be the one telling the truth. In describing the differences in credibility given to each socioeconomic class, I believe JJ, one of John B’s lower-class friends, summarizes it best: “Who are the cops going to believe, Ward Cameron or us? So the accuser is a bigshot developer, kind of lord of the island, got-the-governor-on-speed-dial kind of person, and the accused is John B, who is pretty much a homeless 16 year old boy at the moment.” This divide in how much each socioeconomic group takes the fall is unfair as oftentimes those in power come out on top.

The message of the upper class being able to get away with more than the lower class is not confined to that one episode. It also appears earlier in the show in episodes titled “The Forbidden Zone” and “Spy Games”. In these episodes, Pope is running grocery errands for his dad. Rafe and Topper, two Kooks, try to steal a beer from Pope as he walks by them. When Pope refuses to let them have one, they beat him with a golf club and then take the beers. In revenge, JJ convinces Pope to sink Topper’s expensive speedboat. The police are then sent later in the episode to arrest Pope “for felony destruction of property”. While, of course, it was wrong for Pope to sink the boat, it is unfair that Pope, being in the lower-class, was punished while Topper and Rafe, each in the upper class, had no repercussions for their wrongdoings. This incident is yet another example of Outer Banks enforcing the norm that the upper class is able to get away with more than the lower class.

Scenes like the two described above add to the fact that Outer Banks, while an entertaining show that keeps you on your toes, does not send valuable messages to its viewers. As a result of the show emphasizing that the upper class is able to get away with more and is therefore more trustworthy than its poorer counterparts, low-income viewers are taught that being truthful will not make a difference for them in the eyes of the world. They walk away feeling that even if they’re in the right, they might still be viewed as the ‘bad guy’, which could lead them to deciding there is no point in trying to do the right thing. Instead, we want cultural transmissions to occur in which viewers are taught to continue to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity instead of staying silent for fear that they will not be heard or believed.



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