Spinning ‘Deliverance’

Making the best out of a bad situation. It’s a common problem in public relations, frequently centered on an unseemly issue involving corporate salaries, criminal activity, or scandal. We have all seen these spun to varying degrees of success however while scanning Twitter today I caught an Associated Press story highlighting the ultimate in constructing “rose colored glasses” for the public – spinning the mountain community image created by the film ‘Deliverance’.

For those not familiar with ‘Deliverance’ (original 1972 trailer below), the movie features a group of friends traveling by river through Georgia, Burt Reynolds dons the tightest life jacket in the history of the film industry, stereotyped hillbillies set upon our heroes, audiences begin the fine tradition of counting teeth, cue banjo music, murder follows sodomy, archery becomes cool years ahead of The Hunger Games, and roll credits.

Now while I skimmed over the whole sodomy scene, arguably the predominant image from the film, no viewer will ever be able to wash those images and sounds out his or her brain (“Squeal like a pig!”). For many viewers, it remains the only memorable scene from the film. Or so I thought until reading today’s AP story by Dorie Turner as she previews a celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary and its central character, the Chattooga River:

This weekend, communities along the Chattooga are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release with the first-ever Chattooga River Festival, even though some locals are unhappy with the idea of reminding the world of the area’s connection to the movie.

At its heart, the celebration has the best of intentions, to raise funds to preserve the iconic river and raise awareness of conservation efforts:

“It’s one of those cases where some good comes out of most everything,” said Stan Darnell, chairman of the Rabun County, Ga., board of commissioners. “Certainly a lot of good came out of that, as far as opening up film industry, the kayaking, the camping.”

Still, Darnell harbors reservations regarding the movie tie in with the local celebration according to Turner’s report:

“It portrays Rabun County as backward, uneducated, scary, deviant inbred hillbillies. Even today when ‘Deliverance’ is mentioned, it raises unpleasant unfounded images of the wonderful Appalachian hardworking people that live in this region,” said Darnell. “I would like it more if it had just been the Chattooga River Festival. I would not have had ‘Deliverance’ as part of it.”

The partnering of the film and the festival is stirring debate locally and that may just end up saving the Chattooga. While it will be difficult to separate the film’s disturbing imagery from the mountains where it was shot, the odd pairing has captured the attention of the national press, helping to raise awareness. Hopefully, that attention can be cultivated and grown in to support to ensure that the river keeps flowing for generations to come.

What do you think? Did organizers go a step to far or is this a brilliant bit of marketing? Let me know in the comments below.

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One thought on “Spinning ‘Deliverance’

  1. I think this is something that a lot of places have to deal with. Movies and television shows can stain reputations of entire states. To cite just one example, I think NJ will live in the shadow of the Saprano’s, The Jersey Shore and those real housewives shows for decades. It places an extra burden, or better yet, workload, on those working in the local tourism departments but places like chattooga have the benefit of showing people the beautiful scenery that most missed when watching the movie. I think a good marketing strategy would be to remind people that this was fiction set in a very beautiful setting that everyone can enjoy and should be preserved.

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