Today, in movie news, we learn that Johnny Depp will be playing the role of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in an upcoming film based on Bulger's life. This should not be confused with the other Whitey Bulger Boston gangster movie that Ben Affleck will be making after he makes a movie based on a Dennis Lehane novel that is also about Boston gangsters.
Sweet Jesus for the love of all that his holy, I beg you, Boston film people, on behalf of the rest of America, PLEASE GOD stop making movies about Boston gangster. There are gangsters. In Boston. They're Irish. OKAY, WE GOT IT.
Gone Baby Gone. The Departed. The Town. Mystic River. The Boondock Saints. And all of the Whitey Bulger movies and Dennis Lehane screen adaptations to come. Some of these are very good stories. Some are great movies. So can we all, together, accept that the "Irish Boston gangster" movie has been done? It has been done. Again, and again, and again. Did Ben Affleck grow up in Boston, I wonder? Sometimes I wonder.
Boston's Southie: Like South Central, But More Relatable to White People. The reason why there are so many Boston Irish gangster movies, of course (besides the fact that Ben Affleck's brain is occupied by a tiny canary repeating a single short mantra over and over again), is that gangsters make for great movies, and movies must be relatable to white people in order to be big time and not be pigeonholed as mere "genre" pulp entertainment, and there are only so many white ethnic subcultures with a strong tradition of gangsterism, so, boom, there are one million Boston Irish gangster movies. Menace II Society, for white people. Thank god for Irish gangsters—if they weren't real, Hollywood would have had to invent them, more so.
Which is fine, okay, but what about all the other gangsters in other cities who have no movies made about them at all? Is it really fair to make the dozenth "Southie brothers turn to crime and maybe one of them is a cop" flick when there are so many gangsters in St. Louis, and Kansas City, and Dallas, and Chicago, and Denver who are totally unrepresented on the silver screen? Irish gangsters in Boston have so many god damn Hollywood characters to model themselves after at this point that the number of movie gangsters threatens to exceed the number of real gangsters. Yet the gangsters in Houston, and Nashville, and Seattle are forced to find their own way with no fictional role models at all. Even on the streets of L.A.—a gangster-filled city where Hollywood is actually located—young gangsters must constantly squabble over who gets to be O-Dog and who gets to be Doughboy, because the number of legitimate gangster movie heroes they have to choose from is shamefully small.
Boston has fewer residents than Columbus, Ohio. You don't think that if Ben Affleck and Marky Mark grew up in Columbus, Ohio and made a half dozen god damn movies about the same people doing the same things in the same neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio, there would be an outcry in Hollywood at some point? "Look, Ben, you know, you're a great director and all, but I have to be honest, this new proposal for Streets of Columbus is really similar to Guns in Columbus and Hard Times and Crime in Columbus. I mean... we get it. There are other fucking cities, you know?"
Boston partisans try to play this dynamic off as if it's the natural outcome of Boston's imaginary rich depth of character, as if Boston is far more interesting than cities many times the size of Boston. No. It is the result of a few real powerful guys in Hollywood who happen to be A) from Boston and B) not good at coming up with new ideas. Shit, nobody thought Baltimore was a great rich subject for pop culture exploration until a genius named David Simon came along, and now all of a sudden Baltimore is so interesting. Yeah right. These upswells in pop culture are the largely random results of individuals who happen to create the right products at the right time. Every city is interesting.
Except Boston. A multi-volume encyclopedia could—and should—be written about why Boston sucks. But for our purposes here we will confine our discussion to the gross and exaggerated proliferation of Boston Irish gangster movies only. Except to note in passing the irony of the fact that Red Sox fans believe they occupy some moral high ground over Yankees fans when in fact the collective smugness of Red Sox fans exceeds the entire amount of smugness in the nation of France—a smug nation in its own right.
There are even more movies in Boston than there are in Philly which is objectively speaking an East Coast city with far more character and tough guys than Boston.
In conclusion, I, an American of Irish descent, respectfully ask assholes like Ben "Look at My Face" Affleck and those who enable him to quit with the fucking Boston Irish gangster movies already, and think about tapping into the far richer vein of gangster stories that could be explored in other cities that can properly be defined as "interesting," like, for example, New York City. The collective underrepresented gangsters of the rest of America thank you in advance.
Image by Jim Cooke.