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Affleck no Dot rat!

Posted by Joshua Glenn  October 19, 2007 11:03 AM

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Affleck poses in a Southie bar for the NYT

There was a funny item on the Boston-based blog Shamrag, yesterday. It was sparked by Charles McGrath's love letter to Ben Affleck in The New York Times this past Sunday. Affleck took McGrath on a tour of Southie, Dorchester, and Roxbury to help publicize "Gone Baby Gone," his directorial debut.

The tour gambit seems to have wowed McGrath, who doesn't even correct Affleck when the actor-director says, of the Boston locations he used in his movie: "I wanted something raw and authentic and even a little scuffed up. People go to the movies to see something they can't get otherwise, and I thought this was a chance to take you somewhere that you couldn't otherwise get to -- the Boston you never see in the movies."

This is, of course, absurd. Although movies shot in Boston might use the Back Bay or Beacon Hill as an ersatz Paris, almost every single movie that's actually set in Boston -- from "The Brink's Job" to "The Departed," and including "Good Will Hunting," "Celtic Pride," and "Mystic River" -- aims to be "authentic," a word that should make us suspicious. Affleck, who I'm sure has many fine qualities, is no more a representative of some "authentic" Boston than is the odious "Boston Rob," the Sox cap-sporting reality-TV repeat offender. Who hails from Canton.

The Boston that Affleck says you never see in movies

Anyway! Written in dialect, Shamrag's Lily Von Schtoop post seeks to correct the impression, created intentionally or unintentionally by Affleck and unchallenged by the impressionable McGrath, that Affleck hails from -- and therefore truly understands -- one of Boston's working-class neighborhoods. Von Schtoop says:

Ben Affleck is NAWT from DAWT. No mattah what the Noo Yawk Times implies. Seri-usly. He's nawt. He was born in California and raised in the People's Republic of Cambridge.

But Von Schtoop is forgiving. She adds: "But whatevah. I am still gonna go see Gone Baby Gone -- represent yo!"

Via Universal Hub.

UPDATE: Running list of comments made about "authentic Boston" made in reviews of "Gone Baby Gone," at Hub Blog.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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