Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Will Boston Be Hollywood’s Next New York?

Thanks to the recent success of films like The Town, The Social Network and The Fighter it seems that Boston has become the city of choice for Hollywood these days. Although some are claiming that Boston has become the new New York of cinema, I do not think Boston has reached that level yet. If anything Boston seems to be turning into the east equivalent of the “dirty south”.

While corruption and crime have been prevalent in cinematic takes on Boston for years, there is a new wave of “Irish trailer trash” that has become a prominent fixture in many of the recent films. These are the characters that love their alcohol, frequently use drugs and take pride in their lack of education. In the past, these traits would stereotypically be associated with cinematic characters from the southern states. What was once considered a sign of southern backwardness has now become a badge of honour for Boston.

The fascinating thing about the recent emergence of Boston in modern day cinema is the portrayal of Boston women. Boston is becoming Hollywood’s hot bed for skanky and/or corrupt women. Whether it is the deadbeat mom Helen McCready (Amy Ryan) in Gone Baby Gone; the cokehead girlfriend Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) in The Town; the over-barring mother of nine Alice Ward in The Fighter’s Alice Ward (Melissa Leo); or the Lady MacBeth-like Annabeth Marcus (Laura Linney) in Mystic River, the women of Boston are nothing like the ones you would find in movies set in New York or Los Angeles.

Speaking of New York and Los Angeles, one of the main reasons Boston has not reached their level in cinematic dominance yet is due to lack of romanticism. This is crucial when you look at how these cities are portrayed in films. Sure there are the grimy streets of New York featured in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver; not to mention the urban decay of the Los Angeles’ hoods featured in Boyz N The Hood and Colors. Yet, there are countless other films that romanticize both of these cities. Can anyone picture New York without thinking of Woody Allen’s Manhattan or Annie Hall? Can you think of LA without the glitz and glamour featured in everything from Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Dr.?

Besides the corruption, and the obsession with sports, there is nothing in recent films that would make you drop everything and move to Boston. However, films like The Firm and The Departed have provided us glimpses of how the rich live in Boston. If we are to believe Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the affluent ones in Boston can even survive an alien invasion without even a scratch on their car. Does this make Boston a must on your bucket list? While I am not asking for more Good Will Hunting type of films where the blue collar guy gets the girl, I would like to see other facets to Boston on screen besides the caricatures that Hollywood is portraying more and more frequently. I think if Boston is to be relevant in film as places like New York or L.A. we need to see the diversity that the city has to offer.


  1. Really interesting post, it's funny because I was just thinking about how much screentime Boston's got in films lately. Which, frankly, is fine by me, especially if they make it more appealing. Maybe the tourists will head over there instead of New York. Not like I'm bitter. Or anything. But really, when I think of Boston, I think of dirty Irish punks with thick accents. Boston definitely needs a bit of a makeover--this is the same image we've been fed for quite a while.

  2. OR will New York become the new Boston? ;)

  3. @M.Hufstaders - While I have enjoyed the recent films set in Boston I just worry about the city becoming a one trick pony. I am all for having more films set in Boston, but I would love to see more than just rowdy Irish punks causing trouble. Everything in moderation I guess.

    @Castor – I do believe we may have a new age “chicken or the egg” dilemma on our hands. LOL


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