Is This Where Toxic Masculinity Began?: “Deliverance” at 50

The film “Deliverance” was released on July 30, 1972, and was both a critical and commercial success, earning US$46 million at the box office (US$326 million in 2022 dollars).  There are many news items talking about the film’s anniversary.

Pop Culturista: A Look Back at Deliverance on Its 50th Anniversary

ABC: 50th anniversary: Infamous ‘Deliverance’ actor and NC native reflects on 1972 classic

The Guardian: Deliverance at 50: a violent battle between urban and rural America

But along with being a success both there and in award nominations, it also became infamous, a “meme” filled movie decades before memes existed.  And an example of how toxic and violent masculinity has become.  The four lead actors were the targets of violence in the movie, but in today’s society, they would as likely have been the set up as the perpetrators.  The support and emotions shown by the other characters to Ned Beatty’s character Bobby Trippe would today likely be mockery for his “weakness”, for “allowing himself to be bottomed”.

Ultimate Classic Rock (not a site where one thinks first about movies) has a very astute dissection of the film’s tropes, its characters and what it says about society then and now.  Even today, there are those who will laugh or smirk upon hearing “squeal like a pig”.  They may not know nor have ever seen the film, but they laugh at the thought that “being the rapist is better than being raped”.

No.  What’s better is that rape doesn’t happen, something toxic male “culture” seem unwilling to grasp.  Because it wants to be the perpetrator, to demonstrate dominance.

UCR: 50 Years Ago: ‘Deliverance’ Puts Masculinity Through a Trial by Terror

In 1989, actor Ned Beatty penned a brief, pithy opinion piece for The New York Times titled “Suppose Men Feared Rape.” In it, Beatty referenced the decades of catcalls he’d received since filming his infamous rape scene in 1972’s Deliverance, explaining that all those (invariably male) yahoos shouting, “Squeal like a pig!” are telling on themselves. Said Beatty (who proclaimed a penchant for brutal honesty in such situations): “Somewhere between their shouts and my threats lies a kernel of truth about how men feel about rape. My guess is we want to be distanced from it. Our last choice would be to identify with the victim.”

Deliverance was Beatty’s first film; both he and costar Ronny Cox were plucked off of the theatrical stage to support established actors Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds in Boorman’s adaptation of James Dickey’s 1970 novel. In it, four middle-class Atlanta suburbanites follow Reynolds’ survivalist-minded Lewis on a white-water canoeing trip down a rural Georgia river destined to be swamped under by the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Things go wrong once Voight’s pipe-smoking Ed and Beatty’s portly insurance agent Bobby find themselves at the mercy of two backwoods types (character actor Bill McKinney and nonprofessional former stunt-show performer Herbert “Cowboy” Coward) who, in a legendarily visceral scene, rape Bobby before the late-arriving Lewis kills one with a ready bow and arrow. (Ed, strapped by the neck to a tree with his belt, is forced to watch helplessly, just as viewers are.) A drawn-out and terrifying scene on its own, Bobby’s rape kicks off the second half of the film, where Dickey’s overheated debate on the nature of masculine virtue versus emasculating society sees Lewis convince his companions to hide the attacker’s body rather than submit themselves to the scrutiny of the legal system. Trying to sway the uncertain Ed and Cox’s rigidly objecting Drew, Lewis explicitly dangles the public shame Bobby would endure in any investigation, with the shell-shocked Bobby eventually relenting. “I don’t want this getting around,” Bobby mumbles.

[. . .]

Deliverance’s legacy, despite Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, rests firmly on its central scene of sexual violence. As Beatty suggested, the resulting flood of jeering and catchphrases (the second rapist’s taunt that Voight has “a real purty mouth” as ubiquitous as McKinnon’s pig line) says a lot more about masculinity than either Dickey or Boorman’s adventure cliches or speechifying. (For those claiming that homosexuality is at the film’s heart of darkness, one can only shudder at the thought of four women canoers being confronted in those woods.) As the film terrifyingly demonstrates (and Beatty’s later piece repeats), rape is about toxic, predatory maleness. It’s telling that only Drew, the one member of the party staunchly against Lewis’ plan to hide the body, can bring himself to comfort the shattered and still-naked Bobby, even putting his arm around him where he lies, streaked with mud and tears. “He was the best of us,” Ed intones as he and Bobby reluctantly tie stones to Drew’s body and continue their agreed-upon coverup.



Another film that recently passed its 35th anniversary is RoboCop, which was released on July 17, 1987.  It portrayed a distopian world of neoliberalism where corporations controlled cities and governments, where “news” was vapid infotainment, cities full of people more concerned about survival than solving underlying problems where oversized gas guzzling cars were “desirable” (compare the SUX 2000 with any SUV today).  What was displayed as cartoon mockery and excess ended up being a perfect mirror to the rightwing nightmare of today.

Yes, it’s another link to Ultimate Classic Rock.  Sue me.

35 Years Ago: Dead or Alive, You’re Coming With RoboCop

Set in a near-future dystopia where the Omni Consumer Products corporation owns the entire city of Detroit, it’s the story of street cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), brutally murdered in the course of his duty, who’s resuscitated by the corporation and rebuilt as a cyborg officer, described as “the future of law enforcement.” Thus the name “RoboCop,” created by a marketing exec to be consumer-friendly.

But of course it’s not that simple. OCP owns the police department but also the criminal gang which runs the underworld, led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), who’d killed Murphy. As parts of his memory filter through his three-directive programming, RoboCop discovers how corrupt the city is, and also that OCP installed a fourth, secret directive, which prevents him from acting against the corporation.

[. . .]

The context was everything. If the violent scenes were so extreme as to be funny, so too was the social commentary in the script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. The dangers of neoliberalism running wild are illustrated in OCP’s ability to take over en entire city, including its police, while a hapless mayor tries to persuade an uncaring electorate to think about what’s right for the future rather than embracing tax breaks and consumer benefits. Newsreaders making free political commentary during reports, fudging the space between facts and truth for political ends, is now a world standard. While laughing, the audience are invited to consider that, if the worst of humanity is the worst of us all, how bad are we allowing ourselves to become?


To Air Is Human; To Forgive, Divine: The Max Headroom hack of 1987

Nostalgia Nerd (a youtube channel, about retro tech and events) just released a video on the “Max Headroom” hack of November 1987, when the broadcasts of two Chigago TV stations (WGN, and PBS affiliate WTTW) were interrupted by an illicit signal on the same night.  Thirthy five years after the fact, the perpetrators has never been identified nor come forward to take credit for the intrusion despite the statute of limitations long having expired.



NN also mentions the “Captain Midnight” broadcast of April 1986, when HBO’s broadcast signal was interrupted for four minutes.  Unlike the “Max Headroom” interruption for which the motives have never been fully explained, the Captain Midnight” broadcast has.  More below.

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I Beg To Differ: Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine at 200

Charles Babbage wrote a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society on June 14, 1822, announcing the Difference Engine.  It was the first mechanical calculator and precursor to the computer.  While Babbage failed to produce both the Analytical Engine and Difference Engine that he had designed, it was not failure in himself but failure in the technology of the day (think “Back To The Future III” and that huge box of vacuum tubes on the front of the Delorean).

This picture is from the Science Museum of London:


From Bits & Chips:

The man who invented the computer but never built one

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) was a man of many interests. He achieved notable results in cryptography, invented the cow-catcher for trains and engaged himself in public campaigns against nuisances, including the dangerous practice of boys running their iron hoops underneath horses. Today, he’s most famous for his pioneering efforts in computing. Like Alan Turing, Babbage invented the computer from scratch but never managed to build one. And also like Turing, his intellectual tour de force was only truly recognized after his death.

Over his lifetime, Babbage envisioned several mechanical calculating machines he called engines. The first one, the Difference Engine, was designed to solve polynomial equations using the mathematical technique of finite differences. This method reduces multiplication and division to addition, which is much easier to implement with the rods, gears, levers and linkages that were at the disposal of the Victorian-era gentleman-engineer. Two hundred years ago this week, Babbage presented his first paper on the Difference Engine to the Royal Astronomical Society, kicking off a visionary if troublesome pursuit that inspires awe even today.

There are other articles on Babbage and his invention: 200 Years Ago Charles Babbage Proposed His Difference Engine Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine Turns 200; Error-riddled astronomical tables inspired the first computer—and the first vaporware

History Extra: Why we should remember the public announcement of the Difference Engine

In 1985, nearing the 200th anniversary of Babbage’s birth, funding was provided to build the Difference Engine according to his designs, and it was completed by 2002.  It worked.  If the quality of parts machining available in the 20th century had been available in the early 19th century, the industrial revolution and world political history (e.g. the use of the DE for artillery measurement and firing) would have been very different.  From the Computer History Museum:

A Modern Sequel

In 1985 the Science Museum in London set out to construct a working Difference Engine No. 2 built faithfully to Babbage’s original designs dating from 1847-9. The project was led by the then Curator of Computing, Doron Swade. The purpose of the project was both to memorialize Babbage’s work in time for 200th anniversary, in 1991, of Babbage’s birth, and at the same time to resolve two nagging questions: could Babbage have built his engine, and had he done so, would it have worked?

[. . .]

The completed machine works as Babbage intended. Its 8,000 parts are equally split between the calculating section and the output apparatus. It weighs five tons and measures seven feet high, eleven feet long and is eighteen inches deep at its narrowest. As a static object it is a sight to behold – a sumptuous piece of engineering sculpture. In operation it is an arresting spectacle.



Exceptionally Repugnant, I’d Say: Three years is a light sentence for a double murder

Ridge Alkonis is a member of US military.  He killed two innocent people in 2021, falling asleep at the wheel.  His pathetic “defence” in court was “acute mountain sickness”, as if elevation changes from a mountain hike could cause it.  In a rare case of justice, he was convicted in a Japanese court, but sentenced to only three years in prison.

Naturally, the US military, government, and media see this as an “injustice” and the lives of Japanese citizens dispensible and unimportant.  From “stars and stripes”:

Navy officer reports to Japanese prison as US lawmakers pledge support for his release

Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, convicted of causing the deaths of two Japanese citizens last year, reported to a Japanese prison on Monday after U.S politicians voiced disappointment with Japan’s handling of his case. 

Alkonis, 34, of Claremont, Calif., was sentenced in October in Shizuoka District Court to three years in prison for negligent driving causing death. The Tokyo High Court rejected his appeal on July 13.

U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokeswoman Cmdr. Katie Cerezo confirmed by phone Tuesday that Alkonis reported to the Tokyo High Court’s Prosecutors Office on Monday and was taken to the Tokyo Detention House for processing. She said he’ll ultimately be placed in Yokosuka Prison, although the timeline for that is unclear, she said.

Alkonis was driving on May 29, 2021, in Shizuoka prefecture, about two hours from Yokosuka, when his car plowed into pedestrians and parked cars outside a soba restaurant in Fujinomiya. Alkonis, his wife and three children were returning from a hike on Mount Fuji.

The most galling part of that item is these paragraphs:

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., on July 22 said the trial process was unfair to Alkonis and violated the status of forces agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals affiliated with the U.S. military in Japan.  Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen, a Republican from Samoa, speaking in the House on July 20, said she was “deeply troubled by Japan’s mistreatment” of Alkonis and called on Biden and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel to act. 

“These abuses are hurting the U.S.-Japan alliance exactly when it needs to be strengthened,” she said. 

On Monday, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted that the U.S. should consider reevaluating SOFA if “this is how Japan is going to treat U.S. military personnel who have done NOTHING wrong …”

So falling asleep at the wheel, running over and murdering two people is “nothing wrong”?  Is Lee personal friends with Caitlin Jenner or something?  Once again, the laughable and revolting fiction that “the US prosecutes crimes, we don’t commit ’em!”

More below.

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Sometimes, Time Away Is What You Need….

My personal life is a mess, but getting better.

Soooooo many topics I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to write about.

As for the weather and the people, I quote Neil Peart:

“It’s not the heat, it’s the inhumanity”.



It’s not the heat, it’s the inhumanity
Plugged into the sweat of a summer street
Machine gun images pass
Like malice through the looking glass

The slackjaw gaze of true profanity
Feels more like surrender than defeat
If culture is the curse of the thinking class
If culture is the curse of the thinking class

Ceiling unlimited
World so wide
Turn and turn again, turn again

Feeling unlimited
Still unsatisfied
Changes never end, never end

The vacant smile of true insanity
Dressed up in the mask of Tragedy
Programmed for the guts and glands
Of idle minds and idle hands

I rest my case, or at least my vanity
Dressed up in the mask of Comedy
If laughter is a straw for a drowning man
If laughter is a straw for a drowning man

Ceiling unlimited
Windows open wide
Look and look again, look again

Feeling unlimited
Eyes on the prize
Changes never end, never end

Winding like an ancient river
The time is now again
Winding like an ancient river
The time is now again
The time is now again

Ceiling unlimited
World so wide
Turn and turn again, turn again

Feeling unlimited
Still unsatisfied
Changes never end, never end

Hope is like an endless river
The time is now again