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"...women get this movie much quicker than men."
July 9, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Four Men. Forty Years. An interview with Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox about Deliverance, on the film's 40th anniversary. Additional interviews: Collider. THR
posted by zarq (47 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Youtube link goes to the entire movie. If you're unfamiliar with the film, it's NSFW and contains a rape scene.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on July 9, 2012


Great movie. Even better original book.
posted by Flood at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow... speaking of films that belong on top five lists...

I had no idea that that was Ned Beatty's first feature film!
posted by mondo dentro at 11:59 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great movie. Even better original book.

Absolutely right on both counts. Nice interview.
posted by OmieWise at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boorman was a fantastic Director, also on the must watch list is Emerald Forest.
posted by HuronBob at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]




Whenever I'm eating corn at some gathering of acquaintances, I always declare, "This corn is special. Isn't it?" No one has caught on yet.
posted by digsrus at 12:04 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Re: book vs movie, in this case I think it's more nuanced, they are both good because they play to the strengths of the media. This is my review of the book a few years ago:
..for everyone who has seen the movie fewer probably know about or have much interest in the original novel by James Dickey published in 1970. The old saying about the book being better than movie is not the case here, not because the movie is better - the movie in fact is such a faithful adaptation of the book most of the dialog remains intact and no major scenes are cut - rather the movie plays to its strengths of excellent actors and cinematography, while the book plays its strengths as literature with depth of meaning. Both the movie and book are excellent and for anyone who has seen the movie reading the book will add new nuances, themes and insights that take it beyond just a good thriller and into the realm of classic literature.
posted by stbalbach at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Youtube link goes to the entire movie. If you're unfamiliar with the film, it's NSFW and contains a rape scene.

I imagine an entire movie would be pretty NSFW just on its own for a lot of us.

Thanks for the link. It reminds me a bit of Rod Steiger's commentary track on the DVD for In the Heat of the Night. Hopefully it's as informative and entertaining. Looking forward to reading it later.
posted by ODiV at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2012


Boorman was a fantastic Director, also on the must watch list is Emerald Forest.

Then again the next movie he made after Deliverance was Zardoz.
posted by localroger at 12:11 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mountain Man: What do you want to do now?

Toothless Man: [grinning] He got a real pretty FPP ain't he?

Mountain Man: That's the truth

Toothless Man: You gonna do some postin' for me, boy. And you better post good.
posted by Renoroc at 12:28 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For whatever reason, my movie tastes have always been drastically different than most of the women I've dated over the years, resulting in the inevitable "Let's each pick one and we'll watch both" approach to compromising on movie rentals rather than trying to agree on just one.

This is how my ex-girlfriend and I ended up having a Miami Rhapsody/Deliverance double feature (in that order) several years ago. Don't believe I got any that night.
posted by The Gooch at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


After seeing Ned Beatty in The Descendants a few months ago, I realized that I would love to see him as the primary antagonist in a Tarantino film. This interview strengthened that desire.

Deliverance remains a movie I have to emotionally prepare myself to watch, and even then I sometimes can't make it all the way through. That's power. Thanks for the post!
posted by lord_wolf at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2012


"Deliverance (1972)—“Drew”
Ronny Cox: That was my entrée into the film industry. They came to New York looking for good unknown actors, and God knows, I was unknown. [Laughs.] It was not only my first film, but my first time in front of a camera. It was Ned Beatty’s first film, too. Eventually, they tested me and however many other guys. I’d never made more than $6,000 a year in my life going into that film, so it changed my life dramatically. "


So, in 1972 I was seven years old and my (young) parents and I would go to the drive-in every weekend. I watched a bunch of movies inappropriate for my age, and Deliverance was among them.

But I particularly remember it, and not just the dueling banjos or "squeal like a pig" scenes (both of which made a solid impression on my seven-year-old mind). No, I mostly remember the movie because, as we were driving to the theater, my parents told me that "one of the actors in it is the son of a couple we know". That was Ronnie Cox, who is from, and whose family lived, in my small town (Portales, New Mexico; about 12K people).

I was disappointed when I realized that he died early on in the film and it wasn't a big role — but, as discussed in these links, it was his first movie part. And he was pretty good.

He'd visit town frequently, seeing family, but I don't recall ever really seeing him around. His brother, though, was familiar all over town and everybody knew him. My parents apparently knew his parents, but I never met them.

It seems like at some point I saw him in the local state university's production of The Apartment, although perhaps I'm imagining that.

A few years later Cox got the lead in his own TV series, Apple's Way, which unfortunately only got two seasons. I think that was his one-and-only starring television role. (Edit: Wrong! He starred in Spencer, which only lasted one season.)

But, otherwise, he worked a lot. And he still does. From his bigger roles in Total Recall and RoboCop to many, many notable smaller television roles — the unfortunately named Captain Jellico in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Gideon on St. Elsewhere, Chief Kendrick on the notorious and short-lived Cop Rock, Senator Robert Kinsey on Stargate: SG-1, Director Alex Pierce on The Agency — he's one of those actors that just shows up on your television (mostly) and movie screen (sometimes) over and over and over without ever being a star, but being a competent and respected professional actor.

A lot of his work is of a sameness, but sometimes he gets roles that work well for him and he really shines. For example, he showed up on my TV in an episode of last season's Dexter, in a very unflattering role as an over-the-hill, bitter serial killer — Cox is now 74 years old and he had a scene where he answers the door and then wanders around his apartment dressed in nothing but saggy briefs, which I thought was pretty fearless of him as an actor. That character was memorably detestable, not just because he's a serial character, and was more vivid and entertaining in my opinion than the whole of Edward James Olmos's portrayal of the season's villain.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the creepiest movies I have ever seen.
posted by freakazoid at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2012


Just in case there are some folks here who don't already read Pajiba:

http://www.pajiba.com/seriously_random_lists/mindhole-blowers-20-facts-about-deliverance-thatll-make-youwell-you-know.php

posted by old_growler at 1:29 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think I've ever seen that movie poster tagline before: "This is the weekend they didn't play golf".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That movie was so great and so unsettling.

I'm the youngest in a family of fast, obsessive readers, and my parents never took a book out of our hands -- we read books we were too old for, too young for, anything we could get our hands on, but I still remember there was one book my older brother suggested I was too young for, once, when I was perhaps 10 or 12. Deliverance.
posted by Occula at 1:40 PM on July 9, 2012


Whenever I start creating a list of movies which savage the South/Appalachia, this makes the top 5. As a tense, uncomfortable movie, it's fine, but I can't stand it's depiction of the stereotypical hillbilly/redneck/Southerner. It's as offensive as the acts the characters perform on the screen.
posted by Atreides at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2012


Deliverance-era Burt is my favorite. The sideburns... The wetsuit...
posted by elsietheeel at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2012


That final scene, where the sheriff talks to Jon Voigt in the car, is one of the scariest movie scenes I have ever seen. It's all about the build-up. Great movie!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2012


@Atreides. As for the acts those characters perform, in the director's mind they weren't even real men. From the page I linked to: The director’s intention about the mountain men is “…that they were malevolent spirits of nature; nature has its revenge on these men who resented the people of Atlanta who were killing the river.” Maybe seeing it that way might lessen it for you?
posted by old_growler at 2:19 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then again the next movie he made after Deliverance was Zardoz.

*pokes head around corner*

Hey, did someone call me?
posted by zardoz at 2:46 PM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


As for the acts those characters perform, in the director's mind they weren't even real men. From the page I linked to: The director’s intention about the mountain men is “…that they were malevolent spirits of nature; nature has its revenge on these men who resented the people of Atlanta who were killing the river.” Maybe seeing it that way might lessen it for you?

I can respect the decision to create manifestations of the river's anger/wrath, but I can't say it decreases the offense taken. No movie should be released with a disclaimer that reads, "Attention: The stereotype of the in-bred violent hillbilly/redneck/Southerner is only an artistic representation of the wrath of the river," but likewise, I can only wonder at what percentage of movie goers who can figure that out. The movie was made in a period where the South and/or Appalachia was rather maligned in Hollywood (or so it seems to me), even if understandably provoked by the televised atmosphere of hate generated by the conflict of the Civil Rights movement or even lingering stereotypes of mountain people. None the less, I view it, same as I do Easy Rider, purposeful and demeaning representations of a people and region.
posted by Atreides at 2:49 PM on July 9, 2012


The director’s intention about the mountain men is “…that they were malevolent spirits of nature; nature has its revenge on these men who resented the people of Atlanta who were killing the river.”

Hmmmm. . . that somehow makes the stereotyped characters even worse, doesn't it?

I mean, just imagine if the story was set in 1982 Detroit, and the director conjured up some stereotypical malevolent urban spirits.
posted by General Tonic at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The movie was made in a period where the South and/or Appalachia was rather maligned in Hollywood

... And was adapted very faithfully from a novel written by a Georgian who spent most of his life in the South.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:41 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gah, forgot that Dickey wrote the adaptation himself.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:42 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a tense, uncomfortable movie, it's fine, but I can't stand it's depiction of the stereotypical hillbilly/redneck/Southerner.

Don't worry, for every movie like this, there's at least two which portray hilbillies/rednecks/Southerners as an inherently noble people whose simple lives and earthy folk wisdom prove that they've got life, love, and liberty all figured out -- you know, as opposed to those bitchy, self-obsessed cityfolks with their hifalutin' preoccupations and pretensions.

I lived among dangerous, crazy, tragic, backwoods people (fortunately most of them were not quite THIS dangerous or crazy) for most of my life. I don't mean to be all "stereotypes exist for a reason!" but when I watch movies like Deliverance it hits a little too close to home. Wherever you can find ignorance, poverty, and lots of weapons all in one place, you can find plenty of stories more or less like this one, and worse.
posted by hermitosis at 4:33 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mean, just imagine if the story was set in 1982 Detroit, and the director conjured up some stereotypical malevolent urban spirits.

Isn't this sort of what Jacob's Ladder is, albeit set in New York? And fairly tastefully and effectively executed, in my opinion.
posted by hermitosis at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2012


> The director’s intention about the mountain men is “…that they were malevolent spirits
> of nature; nature has its revenge on these men who resented the people of Atlanta who
> were killing the river.”

Speaking as a violent redneck defective and lifelong resident of NE Georgia who has spent a cumulative total of many months in all the Deliverance wild locations over the course of several decades: first off I don't believe this for an instant, it's just Boorman's argument-stopper. Those are violent redneck defectives or I've never seen one.

But even if it should unaccountably happen to be true I would find the notion that the vengeful spirits of the Chattooga River and Tallulah Gorge would manifest as that kind of Snopes Trilogy poor relation character a lot more off-putting than anything Boorman or Dickey might say or imply about Homo sap, indigenous flavor. I would be hoping for something more along the lines of the Angel with the Flaming Sword.

PS as for who's killing the river, it very likely is Atlanta people who have wallpapered the mountainsides with condos, but as for the Chattooga itself (a National Wild and Scenic River with class IV+ whitewater) it's kayakers from all over the world who turn it into a kayak parking lot in season.
posted by jfuller at 4:59 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now that was a hell of an interview. I wish she had more time. Like all day. I wish I had all day to hang out and shoot the shit with those four.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:21 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great interview, great film. Related: Walter Hill's unsung 1981 masterpiece, Southern Comfort.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:58 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Myself and most of my kin are either Hillbillies or descendents of and we all know stories about wild ones. People who are at the end of their family line, had never been to school, had never socialized enough or been employed enough to marry and thus stay up in the mountains until their end time. Pretty much sums up the idea of the end of an era.

A generation ago, right about when this movie was made, there was still a bit of this going on. It is gone today though, just as is the mumbly-jowely, not-exactly English language once spoken up there is now gone. By up there I mean TN, KY, VA Appalachia. Way up in the hollows.

So however it was represented, I wouldn't take it as an offensive stereotype anymore than I would about stereotypes of moonshiners, coalminers or preachers. None of which can truly represent The South. It's just a fact, and old and apocryphal one, but at one time, a fact of life. (One that may have never existed in Georgia, but happens to support this writer's story line.)
posted by snsranch at 6:19 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Holy cow, Anigbrowl, I was thinking about Southern Comfort as I was reading this thread, being from south Louisiana and all.
posted by wintermind at 6:47 PM on July 9, 2012


Upthread, people have mentioned both White Lightening and Southern Comfort, so I'll throw "A Small Town in Texas" out there too.
posted by 445supermag at 7:16 PM on July 9, 2012


'where the sheriff talks to Jon Voigt'

The sheriff is played by Dickey.
posted by judson at 6:53 AM on July 10, 2012


yes, i know, it's in the interview! ;)

that was a good story about Boorman's "trick" - I figure directors do that with cameo stars all the time

posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 AM on July 10, 2012


I met James Dickey. James Dickey was a scary dude with a powerful thirst.

Tasked with shepherding him from a college reading to a reception at a faculty home, my livery duties ended when he informed me he'd be getting a ride from his new, young wife. They arrived at the event two hours late, with Dickey heavily drunk and in no mood to make light chat about the recently-released film. After cuffing a few English majors in a playful yet ominous manner, he chose the most expensive unopened bottle of liquor on the kitchen counter and left the party. No-one dared go after him.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The novel really is good. Very good. If you like the film, you really should read it. The long scene where Ed (the novel's barrator) scales the cliff is just haunting.
posted by thelonius at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Atreides wrote: "... I can't stand it's depiction of the stereotypical hillbilly/redneck/Southerner. It's as offensive as the acts the characters perform on the screen."

This comment stuck with me, because I'm a Damned Yankee. I was gonna let it slide until I read this article about revisionist history in Wilmington North Carolina, and the words started to flow, and ... well... I'm not sure there's a coherent essay here but I'm going to try anyway.

At the end of high school in 1986, I moved from upscale Fairfield County, Connecticut, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Actually, I moved at the middle of my senior year semester, spent two weeks in school in Hixson, told my parents "this isn't going to work" and lived with a friend's family to finish out high school. Then I went South, and really fell in love with the area.

I was a Yankee, still am, though I can put on enough of a southeastern Tennessee drawl to pass (and may still be able to distinguish someone from Soddy Daisy from someone from Dunlap, and sure as hell can tell you that "Southern drawl" is a gross generalization that doesn't nearly capture the nuance and shades of language that happens just over the counties of that area, let alone over the various states south of the Mason-Dixon), and a damned Yankee 'cause I went down there and stayed.

Among other adventures, I became a whitewater guide on the Ocoee, and ended up paddling little creeks all over eastern Tennessee, western North Caroline, northern Alabama and Georgia and, yes, ran the Chattooga, in a kayak. I think there were two of us who weren't stoned out of our minds, I was kinda square in those days.

So I've seen the movie (although I was drunk and it was on the small screen and I was probably more interested in my fellow guides), and I've read the book.

Anyway, 9 years later, circumstances pulled me out to California, I went back to being a Yankee.

I have some great friends from that area that I fly back to see, friends who count in the immortal Lewis Grizzard's words as "$3000 in Boise" friends1. I now go visit Yosemite for a weekend and I still pine for the cliffs of Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain, or sitting on the top of Edwards Point on Signal Mountain looking out over the Tennessee Gorge. Last year I went back to run the Ocoee and I knew which rocks had moved in the various floods since. Anyway, I give this background so that you know that when I say "I love that area of the south", we're talking "tears welling up as I type this" levels of love. And I'm not moving back.

The thing I didn't realize until I moved away was how much self-loathing I'd internalized. How restricted and repressed that culture is. How poor white people can say "some black folks ain't niggers" with a straight face, how it's accepted that you'd tell a person with dark skin who didn't know that he ought not let the sun set on hisself in Sequatchie County, and how as a long-haired river guide in a VW van you'd probably be wise to follow that man out of the holler yourself.

And then you contrast that with the knowledge of history to know that it was the poor folk in those back hollers who were the friends of the Union. They got nothing out of the Confederacy or the slaves, but when the war between the states was... uh... "lost" is a little too strong a word, and the money poured in from the North in reconstruction, they got screwed. Hard. And if they developed a southern culture that hated the North maybe you couldn't blame them, and if that culture meant a bit of Stockholm Syndrome in adopting some of the prejudices of the people who were in power before the war and who got their position of power cemented by Reconstruction, well, that's kinda understandable too.

And you look at the wheeling and dealing, and the power structure, the rich families running cities, controlling the flow of capital and determining the fate of neighborhoods and holding debutante balls in ways that brought the Gilded Age of the Edwardian era into the 1980s, and it starts to become clear how this story came about.

So you take a white guy from Buckhead who was born to privilege, James Dickey, and you ask him to come up with the scariest-ass thing he can imagine, and what he does is takes the willful ignorance of the moneyed classes, the people who deliberately kicked the shit out of the Northern sympathizing backwoods folk during the years after the war, and transplants that on to the hillbilly culture that hates his good ol' boy network, but also hates the North, and so is hated by the North... well... yeah, you get a tale that resonates.

Because, hell, which of us longhairs driving late at night through the mountains of North Georgia or the Carolinas and stopping for gas and being asked if us girls was old enough to buy beer and thinking "oh god oh god I hope they don't pick me out as a damned Yankee I'm gonna get my ass beat and if I get out of this alive I'm going to make sure I only drive through these areas in daylight ever again", and I heard the racism and ignorance bred of the fact that those Southern moneyed classes decided to screw the people who fought against the war hard, with bad schools and bad public policy and who knows what else, and it freakin' terrified me.

But then I left and realized how corrupt the genteel upper classes were, and I realized that what Dickey was doing was taking all of that self-loathing and putting it on those poor folks that his ancestors had spent a good portion of their Buckhead lives screwing over.

So, yes, painting the Northern fear of the hillbilly redneck on to the Southerner is exactly what Hickey did. And it's exactly what made that tale so bloody terrifying, 'cause country folk alone aren't all that bad, but when you combine it with the vindictive spite and paternalism of the upper class South, Hickey was a genius.

1 friends who, if they called me up and said "I need you to meet me at the Boise airport tomorrow with $3000 in small bills", I'd ask "what time?". Why Boise? I'd imagine a Southerner like Grizzard couldn't imagine any place less foreign.
posted by straw at 5:56 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, yes, painting the Northern fear of the hillbilly redneck on to the Southerner is exactly what Hickey did. And it's exactly what made that tale so bloody terrifying, 'cause country folk alone aren't all that bad, but when you combine it with the vindictive spite and paternalism of the upper class South, Hickey was a genius.

I am long on sleep at the moment, so please take my apologies in advance if my weary mind forgets to inform my fingers to include a word here or there, or even yet, properly structure a sentence that can be identified as a sentence, much less a well reasoned thought.

My ancestors are the Southern mountain people, and granted, one home place, a small farm located down a country road in the mountains called Sugar Hollow has been for a while, if still standing, more a residence to raccoons than family (but one cannot help when the wrong side of the family controls those precious things), but the link to that line and every other branch of my tree is still strong and identifiable. My father's line, which emerged without origin that I can trace, born, if you will, from the mountains that run the Virginia and North Carolina border, fought for the Confederacy and after the war, eventually joined the mountain "rebellion" in Virginia against the Democrats and voted Republican for as long as family memory can recall.

So to a degree, my family meets your description of those hillbillies, who fought the war for the losing side, and then kept on losing even after the hostilities came to a close. And I admit, it was a generalization to proclaim the prejudice presented in Deliverance as a Southern/Appalachian thing, as in reflection, it is more of a Appalachian/hillbilly thing. It's the privilege child of both Northern and Southern prejudice, built for the longest time either on foolish notions of a people frozen in time or as an internal colony of the United States, benefiting all her citizens but the Appalachians as first the timber and now the coal is ripped away to sustain the periphery. It's easy to do these things to a people who are either backward, redneck, or even worse.

I am straying from the point, but Hickey, as just another child of the Southern Upper class chose to appropriate the people that come from poverty and the mountains for his own lashing out against the system of his peers. Had he chosen American Indians to be the vengeful force against everything he detested, opted to have them behave the way they did, do the things they did, we would not be holding him up as some daring writer confronting the political wrongs of a century or more. The fact that he chose to set the stage as he did simply reinforces the fact that he felt entitled to take the people of an entire region and malign them in the eyes of the rest of the country to prove his point, to express his outrage at his own people. I apologize, I have not read the book, but in the movie, the four protagonist are not designed as individuals for whom we cheer every violent and wicked act perpetrated upon; but are presented at worse as victims of attempting to enjoy a beautiful land populated by men less than men.

I am not to argue that no one or only people of the region can disparage themselves, but I object to anyone who says I cannot detest this treatment. Surely, in the deepest of backwoods or darkest of hollows, there are people whose behavior is abhorrent, who might reflect some level of the pathos represented in the movie, but such people can be found as easily in the depths of our cities. For as grand an attack Hickey has executed to make his point that will be relished and understood by one observer, there will be scores more, Northern and Southern, Yankee, damnyankee, and Rebel, who see nothing but a continual confirmation of stereotype. When people see bumper stickers or t-shirts that say, "Keep paddling, I hear banjo," they do not think of the creaking, ruling apparatus of Southern privilege or the rest of the fruit in the hateful cornucopia. They think hillbillies, mountain people, Appalachia, and "Squeal like a pig, boy!"

I read the Wilmington article, as someone who's married to an author who has published on similar, if less spectacular outrages elsewhere in America, I cannot understand it's application to this discussion unless you think my objection is based on some fevered dream of what history should be and not what it is. I object because it is my right to find offense at these portrayals, which harbor as much truth as the African American men and the Yankee Republicans present in Birth of a Nation. Appalachia and the South have their ugly faces, but this illustration was not done to expose or criticize a segregated lunch counter or the slow boil of veiled and unveiled hatred/distaste that some of the region might have or had at the time for anyone born beyond Dixie or with the wrong color of skin. Every side of beauty can have its matching ugly reflection, but Deliverance was not an attempt to expose this ugliness, nor is my objection based on a perception that a false truth is under attack.

I'm glad that you found good friends in Tennessee and wherever the Southern waters lead you, and hopefully, one day, you can return to rest beneath the shade of a grit tree.
posted by Atreides at 7:51 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear, 'cause I'm not sure that my ramble up above there is clear (in fact, I know it's not), when I call Hickey "genius" I'm admiring his ability to exploit fears and prejudices and to transfer self-loathing to another group. I'm not admiring that he does it. I think, generally, we're in violent agreement. I linked to the Wilmington article because I believe that every Southern town has similar repressions of history, similar inabilities to come to grips with the past, and that the culture of repression encourages transference: "See, Yankees, we're not all bad, we hate them 'Southerners' too".

So I believe we're in violent agreement.
posted by straw at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2012


Atreides, I think your expectations from fiction, and from authors of fiction, are completely unrealistic, and your interpretation of what Dickey was attempting to do in his characterization borders on the fantastical. How his novel was received after the fact maybe shows that he managed to tap into a popular fear of those who are cut off from "civilization" (and I don't think the four protagonists were portrayed uncritically either) but that's much bigger than Appalachia and there's no reason to personalize it any more than absolutely necessary. There are famous portrayals of demented/dangerous country people set in just about every rural area imaginable. Were the people of backwoods Maine "disparaged" by Stephen King's "Misery"?

Only the very dumbest people have formed their opinions of Applachian culture based on tales like "Deliverance." Do you really care what they think? And should an author not write the characters and situations that s/he wants to write, for fear that the very dumbest people will conflate them with reality?
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 AM on July 11, 2012


Sorry, "Misery" took place in backwoods Colorado. But King's portrayals of his home state of Maine have been just as filled with deranged murderers and abusers. Do Mainers feel like they've been disparaged by these portrayals?
posted by hermitosis at 9:14 AM on July 11, 2012


So I believe we're in violent agreement. -Straw

I think so, too. In my hometown of Charlottesville, great was the controversy when someone decided to emphasize the fact that slaves were sold by the city's courthouse; and the fact that urban renewal was used as a tool to wipe out the black commercial district is still pretty glossed over.

Atreides, I think your expectations from fiction, and from authors of fiction, are completely unrealistic, and your interpretation of what Dickey was attempting to do in his characterization borders on the fantastical. How his novel was received after the fact maybe shows that he managed to tap into a popular fear of those who are cut off from "civilization" (and I don't think the four protagonists were portrayed uncritically either) but that's much bigger than Appalachia and there's no reason to personalize it any more than absolutely necessary. There are famous portrayals of demented/dangerous country people set in just about every rural area imaginable. Were the people of backwoods Maine "disparaged" by Stephen King's "Misery"?

Only the very dumbest people have formed their opinions of Applachian culture based on tales like "Deliverance." Do you really care what they think? And should an author not write the characters and situations that s/he wants to write, for fear that the very dumbest people will conflate them with reality?


As I stated, I have not read Dickey's work*, but have merely seen it's cinematic interpretation, of which he was heavily involved. I can't speak to how he told his story in words, and I will happily retract some, if not all, of what I have said if I should read the book and find the movie has simplified and done grave injustice to his fiction.

I do not care what the dumbest people think of Appalachia, but regrettably, you must either paint America with a wide brush of idiocy, or surrender the argument that most people do not take Deliverance to mind when thinking or talking of Appalachia. It is by its success a cultural cornerstone of popular American cinema, easily parodied on the Simpsons, and in other mediums (I believe I mentioned the t-shirts and bumper stickers, for example). I would think my expectations within reason, that if you are going to continue in the tradition of negatively portraying Appalachians, then to please do so with a finesse that informs the viewer that this is not representative of the whole. Off the top of my head, the closest positive portrayal in the film is in the beginning when you have the infamous dueling banjo scene; wherein the foundation is built on a character specifically recruited for an appearance that was speculated or stated on screen to be the product of severe inbreeding.

A movie, which I believe brilliantly does what I ask is O' Brother Where Art Thou, in that it revealed the ugly side of the South with the Klu Klux Klan, ridiculed it, but still managed to present positive, but not fantasized, depictions of other Southerners. Another would be Songcatcher, a movie that in my opinion fairly depicts Appalachians in a variety of forms, be it positive or negative. If one wishes to admire or enjoy Dickey, I am not one to say that person is foolish, but I will not join in on the adulation nor tone down my expectations.



*I'll definitely blame my weariness on referring to Dickey as Hickey in my previous comment. Meh.
posted by Atreides at 10:14 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just don't think it's any writer's responsibility to positively portray any region or culture, especially when only a handful of individuals from that culture are represented in their work. Fiction isn't necessarily about showing both sides, or educating people about other cultures (though fiction often does do this). For many people, it's just about the specific people on the page -- their passions, their fears, their prejudices, their decisions. Obviously the atrocities in that book could have happened anywhere. They'd have been just as believable if the book took place in Nevada, or Louisiana, or South Dakota. I can see how the fact that they've become intertwined with people's perception of Appalachia could be a bit aggravating, but pinning it on Dickey is a waste of time. Again, pin it instead on the people who are too lazy or ignorant to learn or see for themselves what that region is like.

Like I said much earlier, there's no shortage of portrayals of noble, hardworking, intelligent (however undeducated) folks in Appalachia. "Where The Red Fern Grows," for instance. The "Deliverance" jokes proliferate not because anyone believes the stereotype, but because at this point it's a familiar catch-phrase, a signifier of one's awareness of a particular pop cultural moment.
posted by hermitosis at 11:19 AM on July 11, 2012


I just don't think it's any writer's responsibility to positively portray any region or culture, especially when only a handful of individuals from that culture are represented in their work. Fiction isn't necessarily about showing both sides, or educating people about other cultures (though fiction often does do this). For many people, it's just about the specific people on the page -- their passions, their fears, their prejudices, their decisions.

I agree, but likewise, their freedom to write does not mean they are free from criticism for what they create.

I can see how the fact that they've become intertwined with people's perception of Appalachia could be a bit aggravating, but pinning it on Dickey is a waste of time. Again, pin it instead on the people who are too lazy or ignorant to learn or see for themselves what that region is like.

I do appreciate the fact that you are closing in on why it's fuel for passionate rebuttal. I do not see Dickey as the source for all negative stereotypes of Appalachians, he's just one more in a long line, so to speak. However, it is his work that is the subject at the moment, hence the focus on him.

As an aside, Where the Red Fern Grows is actually an Ozark novel, but the Ozarks and Appalachia are about as kindred spirits as you can find in the breadth of our United States. The Ozarks suffer equally in the same manner as Appalachia, be it from the The Beverly Hillbillies to Winter's Bone.
posted by Atreides at 12:35 PM on July 11, 2012


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