January 25, 2011

A Boston Massacre

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I am from the Boston area and if you have never been there, you might be deceived into thinking that I’m lucky to be alive. It seems like every year another movie comes out that portrays the town in a negative light. Why don’t you see gruesome movies about Indianapolis or Cleveland, which are both around the same size as Boston, but have more violent crime? There are lots of cities that are statistically more dangerous than Boston, but they aren’t chosen for action movies as frequently as Boston. It is a relatively safe city, but if it were up to Ben Affleck, there would be at least one bank robbery or car chase every week.

Affleck opened his most recent movie The Town (referring to Charlestown in Boston), with the statistic that “[Charlestown] has produced more bank robbers and armored car thieves than anywhere in the world.” Where this is coming from, I have no idea. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, all of Massachusetts accounts for fewer than three percent of the bank robberies in America, and only two percent of all robberies in Boston are in Charlestown.

Now I am not saying that Boston isn’t badass. It was one of the first major cities in America, it was the location of the country’s first push toward independence, and it has been home to an array of mobsters like Whitey Bulger (plus there are the Pats, the Celtics, the Bruins, the and Red Sox, but that’s kind of rubbing it in). However, Boston does not deserve the gritty portrayal given to it by movies and shows such as The Town, Rizzoli & Isles, Boston’s Finest, Edge of Darkness, Fringe, Gone Baby Gone, The Departed, Spartan, Mystic River, Title to Murder, The Exchange, The Boondock Saints, Southie and Monument Ave.

The problem is that people like violent entertainment and Boston happens to be a great place to film. Boston contains some of the oldest architecture in the country, many famous landmarks, and it is well known despite its size. Taking advantage of this fact, Massachusetts set out to make some money by enticing filmmakers to come to their state and save money. In 2006, the states’ tax credits for filmmakers took effect.

The results of the various tax benefits were enormous. From 1999 to 2006, only 10 films were produced in Massachusetts, earning the state $67 million. Only two percent of the budget of The Perfect Storm was spent in the state. However, after only four years of the new tax benefits, over fifty films have been filmed in the Bay State, earning the state over $545 million. 70 percent of the budget of 21, which was filmed partially around Boston, was spent in the state. Massachusetts is now one of the country’s most welcoming states to moviemakers. Boston could become the new Hollywood.

Of course what does this mean for Boston? It’s fine if we have more Fever Pitches or The Social Networks, but it seems that most movies about the city portray it as a crime-filled dangerous place. We don’t want to drive people away do we? Who’s going to come to Boston if they think they are going to get dumped in the marsh by one of Jack Nicholson’s cronies? And what about those ridiculous Boston accents? Very few people actually say things like “go pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” or “that kid is wicked smaht.” Ok, I admit, I do say wicked, but the accent thing is going too far. I would like to believe that the entire world does not think that everyone in the Boston area talks like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed or Shutter Island. However I know that that is probably not true. It may be what people think, but if you go to Boston, you will be hard pressed to find someone who actually speaks with that strong of an accent.

There is, in fact, one actor that can pull off the Boston accented movie thug, and that’s Mark “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch” Wahlberg. He grew up in Southie, was addicted to coke by age 13, had a street gang, and went to prison for the random assaults of Asians and African Americans. Now there is a perfect story for the movies; a violent, gritty tale with a happy ending that actually took place in Boston for once.

Original Author: Zac Peterson