I don’t enjoy Boston-based films like “The Town”, “The Fighter”, “The Departed” and “Gone Baby Gone” as much as I thought I would. And I think it’s because I don’t have a Boston accent.
Whenever I hear a new movie is coming out that is based in Boston or some other area of Massachusetts, I feel a distinct mixture of pride and dread. I love Boston, and I love that I grew up around here. I love the culture, the soul, the colonial-style houses steeped in history and the beautiful stone-sculpted buildings. I love that you cannot navigate through Boston proper unless you already know the streets and side roads, even if you’re armed with a Garmin. It’s a city of beauty, of affluence, and of intense cultural exclusivity. We also have a concentration of some of the best colleges in the country; which is why I’m flummoxed by the portrayal of such ignorant characters in every Boston-based movie I see nowadays.
I think most of the problem is that so few actors, even ones who grew up in say, Cambridge, Massachusetts, can even use the Boston accent correctly on film. It is intricate, slight, and when overdone it makes everyone sound like a complete idiot. Some of my family members sport a thick Boston accent, but not the younger, more educated ones. They all sound like me. As does everyone I work with in Woburn (a town just 9 miles north of Boston). We might drop an “r” here and there, or give ourselves away with our use of the word “wicked,” but for the most part you can’t differentiate us from our accent-free newscasters. So why does Will Hunting speak like a bleeding idiot and still manage to be one of the world’s most genius mathematicians?
Dane Cook grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. Arlington is a suburb of Boston, so close that some call it a neighborhood of the capital city itself. But Dane Cook doesn’t have a Boston accent. Why? Because he’s not a moron (but to his level of douche-bag-ness, I cannot speak). Ben Affleck? No accent. He can’t even make one up on screen. So what’s the point of inserting this distractingly unauthentic dialect into what could otherwise be meaningful dialogue? Who is proud of the fact that the speech patterns of the least educated Bostonians are the ones that get put on the silver screen? Certainly not I.
Dropped “R’s” aside, let’s talk about the way women look in many of these movies. “The Town” stars Blake Lively as the smelly-looking, claw-nailed, cheap hoop-earrings-wearing Oxycodon addict. In “The Fighter,” Mickey’s five sisters look more like homeless trolls with, let’s call it learning deficiencies, than the family members of two talented prize fighters. Yes I know, the story took place in Lowell (ew) and the actors were probably trying to authentically portray actual living people. I get it. But a majority of the people who live around here don’t forget to wash their hair for weeks on end, didn’t miss every fashion trend that occurred after 1984, and aren’t throwing their talented lives away by shooting heroine and letting their creepily close-knit families ruin their careers. Moreover, there are more intelligent, successful, well-mannered people here than there are mobsters and criminals. But a majority of films about the people who live around here show very little about that.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh a critic, and forgetting that this is all part of Boston’s distinctive charm. But I’ll tell ya that I’ve never pahked my cah in Hahvad yahd because there are “No-Parking” signs posted everywhere, and besides, I know enough to take the T to Harvard Square anyway. I don’t follow The Red Sox like a religion, and even though I make a wicked awesome clam chowdah, I make sure that there’s an “r” at the end of it.