To this day I still cannot quite articulate my love for "King of the Hill". Granted, I didn’t grow up in Texas, but Hank and his companions are not entirely dissimilar from the types of country boys that I went to high-school with, or those that hung around the Food Mart in South Corning. My hometown is a unique mish-mash of curated rural charm and tasteless yuppy archetypes. We had all the pains of the suburbs without the benefits of having a nearby city to escape to. But ain’t that Arlen, too? The city is said to be a composite of Dallas suburbs, but it seems entirely untouched by the influence of any city, real or fictitious.
Hank Hill, the titular monarch of the show’s title, is a simple and honest man. He is proud to work above and beyond the 40 hour work week, he is reserved and modest and takes no delight in the madness that surrounds him. He’s the kind of guy that sees emotion as weakness and ties his dignity so tightly to his antiquated sense of masculinity that it manifests as a road block when it comes to relating to his hilarious son, whom Hank insists “ain’t right”. For as square as Hank is, he always knew how to stand up for his beliefs, even when they ran counter to the status quo. He was an inspiration in a strange way. Ya know, all that whatnot about grit and hard work and that nonsense. I’m not sure the lessons ever took root, but they were at least clear and present.
But Hank rides an ever-melting block of ice across the tepid waters of tomorrow’s world. Even during the late 90s and through the naughts, "King of the Hill" captured a sort of snapshot of a diminishing America. You can see it in the tenuous relationship Hank has with his son, or his waning faith in the President. Frankly, Hank is an artifact of a bygone era that is so easy to vilify. Hank and I couldn’t be any more different from me even if Mike Judge sat down and tried to pen my antithesis. He relishes the simple pleasures of his life and has very little in the way of aspirations. I’m a dreamer and have very little else by my ambition. Yet, even with the colorful and unusual population of Arlen, Hank is without question my favorite character. Even Dale with his lunacy and conspiracies or Bobby with his awkward pre-teen routines can’t match the humor I find in the straight man foil that is Hank Hill. In many ways I’m envious.
Anyone who has seen my yard can attest that I take more pride in the salamanders and spiders that dwell in the damp piles of leaves and tall grass than I do in the landscaping, and working a solid five days a week makes me want to die. I guess ol’ Hank and I were meant to follow different paths in life, but, I tell ya’ what, I’d love to share a beer with this great American -- especially since there have been recent talks of bringing King of the Hill back.