Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, April 20, 2014

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.)

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Blogger jadedj said...

Hmmmm, from what I'm reading on the links, it would seem their reputation preceded them. Surely Harrelson's lawyers advised him before production as to the legal problems he might encounter with such blatant references to a real group?

Of course, the publicity accomplished it's aim as far as I'm concerned...now I have to see it.

April 21, 2014 at 6:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I lived in New York, I would hear a lot of references about the New Jersey Hillbillies. Told once you get past Newark and Passiac and Teaneck, there are a lot of rural hills and country land.


April 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

jadedj: I'm guessing the person who wrote the movie script has a personal grudge against those people. There are too many specific references in the movie for the writer to say "oh, this is just fiction; I wasn't thinking of anybody in particular."

I still can't believe there's a remote hillside full of wild mountain people (according to the stereotypes anyway) just 25 miles from Manhattan.

April 22, 2014 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: (Sorry, I guess our comments crossed in the mail) -- You were a lot more in-the-loop than I was. I lived in Southern Connecticut -- not that far from the New York City metropolitan area -- for a long time, and I had no idea of any of this.

April 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM  

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