Spite ruins lives, sure, but it’s hard to deny the quiet catharsis of a bad deed returned in kind, even if it’s something you’ll end up regretting. The question, of course, is how hard you’ll commit to the bit. How deep does your rage run? And is a commitment to another’s misery really worth it? For Ted Pelkey, a working-class man in northern Vermont, the answer is an emphatic “hell yes.”
A few years back, Pelkey erected a 6-foot wooden middle finger atop a 16-foot pole in his lawn as a not-so-subtle “fuck you” to the Westford Town Development Review board, who, time and again, refused to grant him the permits needed to build an 8,000 square foot garage in his lawn. Pelkey’s middle finger went viral at the time, especially once it was revealed that local authorities couldn’t do anything about it.
But what appears on the surface to be an amusing and ephemeral news story pulses with nearly a decade’s worth of pent-up anger, serving as an illustration of how, in small towns, the personal often intermingles with the political. In a short, compelling documentary, filmmaker Garret Harkawik speaks with Pelkey about the origins of the middle of the middle finger and the classist attitudes that Pelkey says drove him to hire a local chainsaw sculptor to make it. Harkawik also shares some testy recordings in which Pelkey and the review board trade insults and hint towards the depth of animosity that exists between them.
“People don’t stick up for themselves enough,” says Pelkey. “I feel that whether the finger helps the case or hurts it, it makes me feel better.”
A good thing, too, as the middle finger’s become something of a tourist attraction for fellow spite-lovers and those who, like Kid Rock, just really love middle fingers. (Yes, Kid Rock ordered one. Yes, he still sucks.)
Watch the documentary in full below.
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