Midnight Cowboy made history as the first X-rated film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. A brutal depiction of broken dreams and lives asunder in the fetid backwash of the swinging Sixties, Cowboy shocked audiences with its squalid subject matter and signaled a trend towards films that explored lurid and personal material. Whereas the mere suggestion of a blow job in Cowboy was scandalous in 1969, the film helped pave the way for later mainstream films in which a blow job might have as much shock value as the weather forecast. For that reason, Cowboy loses a substantial part of its impact when viewed all these years after its original release. That said, as a buddy film and as an ode to the impossibility of liberation from reality, the film retains a certain timelessness. Jon Voight's handsome but stupid Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman's desperate, verminous Ratso Rizzo remain iconic figures, symbolic of the resigned, bitter ending of a decade built on the tenets of liberation, progressive change, and the promise of collective struggle. The fate of Buck and Rizzo suggests that such liberation is illusory, and that human relations, no matter how tender they ultimately may be, are part of a quiet, desperate bid for acceptance and belonging.