hat happens when someone writes about a place you know?
I get a little giddy. My pleasure is about fifty percent nodding along with the author and mumbling “that’s right” and fifty percent is trying to catch the writer at getting it wrong.
Most of you probably remember the TV show ER. Before I moved to Chicago I just watched it. After I moved to Chicago I scrutinized it. “She’s going where? Ha, no way she’d take the Orange Line.” “Lunch break at Navy Pier on last week, lunch break at Shed Aquarium on this week? It must be nice to work at a roving hospital!” And my favorite, Nurse Sam stranded north of Chicago, near Winnetka…with mountains and cactus in the background. They could have at least painted the desert sand green to try and fake the midwest a little.
I do enjoy seeing and reading stories that aren’t set in New York or LA. And I often wonder why more stories aren’t set in other locales….locales that I know. Of course, if I listened to myself complain when they are, I might have answered my own question.
All of this brings me to the TV show Justified. It takes place in Kentucky, where I grew up. I heard about it and instead of getting excited, I ignored it. Like stuck-my-head-in-the-sand-hoping-it-would-go-away ignored it.
I’d heard enough shoe-less, electricity-less, outhouse-using redneck jokes to last more than one lifetime. I didn’t want to see Kentucky be the butt of another joke for season upon season. Yes, I moved away, but that doesn’t mean I want it made fun of.
A friend who had lived in Kentucky and had the same fears I did bit the bullet, watched the show and told me I should see it. Yes, there are racist rednecks galore in season one. That’s not great, however, they are from the same clan and the people in the big city of Lexington, where I actually grew up, are normal. Kentucky isn’t being made fun of, so I feel better. I even get excited when they mention roads that I actually learned to drive on, but the scenery isn’t quite right. Yes, they have white horse fences (good), green (good) and trees (good), but the mountains are wrong. The mountains and hill country looked right in the pilot (shot in PA), but were too distant in other episodes (shot in CA).
I watched the behind-the-scenes about how hard they try to make California into Appalachia. Maybe it’s because there’s no tumbleweed rolling past or because they explained how they shot it, but I feel better. They do do a good job and I often forget to scrutinize and just enjoy the storyline and characters.
What is it about the places you know and love that make it real — or not — when handled in a story (on screen or in a book)?