Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Geography Of Fear And Migration

The film "Deliverance" is a classic piece of ruin porn. Since Appalachia is "off the map", the region serves as a geography of fear. Terra incognita is where monsters live. However, there is no such thing as bad publicity:

Some people would like to link the movie's anniversary with the inaugural Chattooga River Festival, set for June 22-24. The goal of the festival is to educate the public about the importance of protecting the river as a natural resource.

In addition to a screening of the movie, the festival would include guided hikes along the river's banks, rafting opportunities and an adventure race.

As intriguing as that may sound to some, others would like to let sleeping dogs lie and not reconnect the dots between Rabun County, "Deliverance" and its depiction of mountain folk as violent and primitive.

This debate reminds me of the term "Rust Belt". Some people hate it because of the pejorative connotation. For me, it is a point of pride and should be celebrated. Rust Belt is cool. I love Rust Belt cities.

I also love Appalachia. "Deliverance" didn't freak me out like "Easy Rider" did. I grew up familiar with mountain folk. I didn't take the negative stereotyping seriously. I did with "Easy Rider". I was terrified of travelling in the South. But looking behind the green curtain of one geographic myth dispels them all. I've enjoyed catching up on a part of America that I used to avoid. Really, no harm done.

I think the Chattooga River Festival should embrace the film, a bit like Cleveland embracing the Cuyahoga River catching fire. Ironic appreciation can work wonders for an overlooked place. Those locals still sporting open wounds are the ones doing more harm than good.

Take the lemons and make some lemonade. The movie is iconic and could help preserve a great river. Besides, Hillbilly Country is cool.

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