Lawsuit: “Out Of The Furnace” vs. Ramapough Mountain Indians
I finally saw “Out Of The Furnace” the other night. Lots of violence, tragedy, suspense, vengeance — all the things you look for in a white-knuckle edge-of-your-seat kind of movie. But more than anything else, I was intrigued by the setting.
I'm from Pittsburgh originally. We moved when I was ten. I was old enough for Pittsburgh to be my permanent “imprint” but not old enough to remember a lot of other neighborhoods or nearby towns. “Out Of The Furnace” took place in North Braddock, PA; a lot of the filming was actually done there too. The only references to North Braddock that I noticed in the movie were an occasional sign on a building. Other than that, the setting looked like hardcore Appalachia. I would have guessed the movie was taking place in some hardscrabble depressed area in rural Kentucky or West Virginia.
When I Googled the movie, I couldn't believe North Braddock was just eleven miles from Pittsburgh. I'd vaguely heard of the town, but I had no idea it was a 15-minute drive from where I used to live. (Like I said, I was ten when we moved.)
The other intriguing thing about the movie: The “New Jersey inbreds” (that was the term used several times in the movie) referred to an actual Native American tribe in New Jersey. I realize New Jersey isn't wall-to-wall cities and suburbs, but when someone describes a vicious clan of hillbillies, New Jersey isn't usually the first thing you think of. And this isn't a remote part of the state, either. Their stronghold — their tribal population is about 5,000 — is surprisingly close to the Greater New York metropolitan area. Who knew?
And this brings us to the title of the post. Seventeen members of the Ramapough Tribe are suing the makers of “Out Of The Furnace” for defamation. In the movie, Woody Harrelson plays the main villain, Harlan DeGroat. And “DeGroat” is a very common last name among the Ramapough. Harlan DeGroat and his henchmen are a cutthroat gang of drug dealers and murderers. The Tribe's lawsuit alleges that the movie's portrayal, plus using the DeGroat surname in the movie, has defamed their people and made them even more prone to the stereotyping and discrimination they've already been suffering from.
Here are some links. (Note: When I was doing the search, I typed in “degroat new jersey” and then Google automatically filled in the word “inbred,” and I just went ahead and clicked on “I'm Feeling Lucky.”)