In reading such interviews with Dolly, it becomes apparent how masterful she is at owning a conversation. In addition, it becomes clear that many of her one-liners are well honed and oft-repeated to emphasize a specific narrative couched not in self-pity but in humor. “We didn’t have any electricity except for the lightning bugs. If fireflies were out, we’d catch them in a mason jar and put them in our bedroom!” Parton once kidded on the Nate Berkus Show. “We did have running water . . . we would run and get it. [laughs] Most people have four rooms and a bath; we had one room and a path. We had the little outdoor shack out back. It was a good life, and I loved growing up in the mountains. We were really just people, and God and family meant everything to us.”5
Dolly Parton is tremendously savvy and successful.
A line Parton is fond of using, particularly when she’s on stage, references her eleven siblings: “My parents weren’t Catholic, they were just horny hillbillies!” In this line, Parton claims a hillbilly persona—including pop culture’s notion that hillbillies are supposed to be horny—while complicating another hillbilly trope: that of the buffoon. Even someone with a cursory understanding of Parton’s career knows that she is tremendously savvy and successful. She’s brilliant. So, Parton—nobody’s dumb hillbilly—takes on the stereotype while also subverting it. She beats everyone to the punch.6