|Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox
Director: John Boorman
Year Of Release: 1972
Plot: Four men decide to leave the city behind and go rafting down a beautiful river before the whole region is flooded by the building of a dam. After setting off down the river, they soon discover the inbred locals are more dangerous than they expected, when two of them attack and rape one of the men. After one of the others urban-dwellers kills the rapist they decide to try and hide the body to keep the incident secret (and also because they dont think theyll get a fair trial), but this is only the start of their problems.
Gay people have one (actually several), and so do most ethnicities, but theres no major group out there campaigning for a better depiction of hillbillies in the media. Actually, I shouldnt use that terms, as hillbilly is now seen as extremely derogatory by many, largely because of how theyre dealt with in films and TV, and the stereotypes that have been compounded by it.
Deliverance is a wonderful movie, but its also the one that always comes up when talk about people who live out in the sticks, so they can laugh at how socially backward, inbred and stupid these people are. And in Deliverance theyre also deranged and dont see anything wrong with a bit of male rape if some city boys come around.
Its certainly not the only film to see backwoods people this way, as similar stereotypes have appeared in everything from I Spit On Your Grave and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Hills Have Eyes and even The X-Files. Even Britain cant escape the pigeonholing, with Sam Peckipahs Straw Dogs seeing an American and his wife moving to rural Cornwall and then facing increasingly violent harassment from the locals.
Just think about it, when was the last time you saw a film that had a genuinely positive depiction of a backwoods person and didnt just laugh at them or paint them as violently deranged? (Someone needs to make a Dolly Parton biopic, as she’s pretty much the epitome of the hillbilly done good).
I know a little bit about this, having come from a background that means in the past many have wondered whether I was the British version of a Hillbilly. Having grown up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Devon (which in case you dont know, is right next door to Cornwall, the scene of Straw Dogs), I know all the jokes about my sister also being my mother, whether we made people squeal like a piggy and if we shot outsiders on sight. While its true rural areas can sometimes be a bit suspicious of strangers, its only of those who waltz in, treat everybody who lives in the boondocks like theyre an idiot and decides they need to show the yokels the light (and believe me, there were more than a few people who moved to my area when I was young, who tended to look down on the locals as backwards and dull, without ever trying to understand them). Other than that, everyone who lived in the sticks was very friendly to anybody who came along.
I also ought to add there was remarkably little inbreeding – in fact none as far as I’m aware of – and I certainly didn’t known any banjo-playing oddballs who were the result of an incestuous relationship.
The stereotype of people from the middle of nowhere is that theyre all inbred, murderous, weirdoes and rapists (and they probably have sex with sheep too), and there isnt really anything of the other side to balance it out. So maybe we do need a HAAD a Hillbilly Alliance Against Defamation which is there to campaign against the unfair depiction of rural people in the media. To be honest, sometimes we dont help ourselves (in the UK at least), such as Somersets love of getting to people to chase a cheese down a hill, and Devons predilection for having men run through a town with a flaming tar barrel on their back. Even so thats a far cry from being inbred rapists, so maybe the rural folk in both the US and UK need to get together and fight back!
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