This past Thursday evening I got a chance to view Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie at the Wexner Center on the Ohio State campus. As I have mentioned in a prior post, my cousin ( first cousin once removed ) Shane Davis is the cinematographer. The two other principals are director, Jay Delaney and producer Jeff Montavon. All three of these men are from rural Scioto County, Ohio.
The film was exactly what I expected: a
sympathetic portrait of the working-class poor who have been left
behind when industry disappeared from one of the larger industrial
towns in Appalachia. The film does not make any effort to edit away
Dallas and Wayne's short-comings but unlike many more exploitive
works it doesn't magnify those flaws. It does concentrate on
elements that the subjects themselves would consider most important.
This is in addition to Bigfoot of course.
Both men are married with children.
Gilbert, whose wife appears on camera, has been married for over 20
years and has three children. I apologize for not taking notes so as
best as I can remember Wayne has been married for nearly 20 years and
has two children. In a rather sweet segment, Dallas' wife explains
that he is her best friend. In the same segment she also breaks the
news to Dallas that while his kids love him to death, they also think
he is nuts.
Wayne works at the carwash next door to
his house. Wayne is what most Americans would call working poor.
Wayne would like to “get ahead” and he probably doesn't always
make the best choices which has contributed to his difficult
situation, but the fact is that Wayne works. Dallas is on disability
due to emphysema. I don't know if Dallas' condition was brought on
by smoking or by workplace hazards or both. But seeing as how many
of the jobs in Scioto County were not lung friendly it is likely that
Dallas' illness is partly occupational. I can remember the black
soot that used to accumulate on the porches in Portsmouth and New
Boston when the foundries and mills were still in operation so simply
breathing could have contributed to Dallas' lung disease.
These men want to fix up their homes.
Wayne needs a $1,500 repair on his waterline and Dallas says he needs
a new roof, gutters and downspouts. Toward the end of the film Wayne
worries that he may have a lien on his home. This all leads me to
believe that Wayne and Dallas own and have owned their own homes for
many years. This further demonstrates that these men have provided
one of the basic necessities for their families, that of permanent
Wayne wants to prove to the world and
to Scioto County that Bigfoot exists. It struck me as odd that Wayne
felt the need to differentiate between the world and Scioto County
but listening to the men lament the passing of Portsmouth, Ohio's
heyday explains all. I think that Wayne and Dallas love their
hometown and southern Ohio. It gives them a sense of place and adds
to their identity. Even though these men live in town their hobby
takes them to the beautiful forested hills surrounding Portsmouth.
My guess would be that even if the rest of the world could not be
convinced that Bigfoot exists, Wayne and Dallas would be satisfied
if their hometown was convinced.
When an outside Bigfoot researcher encourages Wayne to fudge the date on a photograph while appearing on a radio program and is caught by the radio host, Wayne and Dallas' friendship is tested. Or at least Wayne fears that their friendship has been damaged. In a related segment Wayne feels left out when Dallas travels to Tennessee for a small Bigfoot convention and is recognized for his contribution to Bigfoot research. As a proud Appalachian I was buoyed by how Dallas' fellow Appalachian in Tennessee treat him with respect and kindness while the researcher from California strikes me as a bigger monster than the one they are hunting.
While we may feel pity for these men I think that we can see in them and admire the typical Appalachian values of family, persistence, home, community and friendship. I think that Delaney and crew did a masterful job of allowing these elements to be recorded without forcing them. It is easy to make fun of Dallas and Wayne at first. The American mainstream has been conditioned to poke fun at hilllbillies with such examples as SNL's “Appalachian Emergency Room.” But it is pretty damn hard to keep laughing at these two men without wading into the deep end of hypocracy or jettisoning ones humanity.