Later, America, Road Trip, Hot Donut, Bad Meeting.
Brotherhood is a new series on Showtime. It's set, and shot, in Rhode Island, a state I have some cause to spend a moderate amount of time in. Which pleases me. Now, those scummy New Jersey folks can't location drop from the Sopranos without a New England answer; remember, we had our mafia first.
However, there are several problems with Brotherhood. I'm going to go chronologicaly, rather than in order of magnitude. Because it's the only way to do it. God, I want some fucking ravioli.
The second or third scene in the first episode features a girl having her earring ripped off, her boyfriend kicked onto the ground, and threatened with rape, in front of a bookstore in gritty downtown Providence. A bookstore I've shopped at. Where I've leered at a beautiful, gay, near-shirtless clerk. Symposium Books. Gritty, no? It's right near a cuban restaurant I frequent, and less than a mile from an inordinately, unneccessarily upscale downtown mall, which seems to be so ritzy, clean cut, and suburban, that it's killing the malls that actually are in the suburbs.
Just not a believable scene.
The accents. Oh, my god. First, I'm going to admit that a Rhode Island accent is not neccessarily a Boston accent. There's a little more "w" in it. A Boston accent has almost no "w" in it. "Cah", not "Caw". The rhode islanders in this series mostly talk like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting; that is, like people from Maine with serious chromosomal abnormalities. Thick tongued, slow, loving that "ah" sound.
The secret to a reliable, urban, New England accent is speed and efficiency. People like to think that New Yorkers talk fast; not so, compared to Bostonians. People from Boston, it has been studied, speak faster and are more impatient than anyone else in the US. And it is consonant deletion, not vowel addition, that allows us/them (because my accent was mostly beaten out of me, while immersed in non-newenglanders of every stripe, in Vermont) to make ourselves understood at high verbal speeds.
And "ah" is not actually the sound that replaces "ar" "er" or "or". They're more precise than that. For the love of god, don't linger. Just because Steve Sweeney does, doesn't make it authentic. That's his schtick. And if you forget to add the "r" between vowels, to delineate words- you're instantly inauthentic.
Fionulla Flanagan, however, gets her accent spot on. She sounds exactly like my Great-Aunt Eileen. And demographically, she is my Great Aunt Eileen. Daughter of irish immigrants, settled in New England, spent a good amount of time Rhode Island. Perfect. I expect her to reach out of the television and ask me whether I have a boyfriend and why girls these days don't wear slips.
This isn't an error, this is just weird. A scene takes place in Olneyville New York System (New York System is a wacky Rhode Island thing that has nothing to do with New York. Little hot dogs, with celery salt and meat sauce) which, despite being a place that it's not reasonable to me as a place that these characters would meet, is a fairly authentic bit of local color. But nobody's eating.
There's the neon sign that says "Hot Weiners", but nobody in the place is eating one. Nobody. There isn't a weiner in evidence.
'The hill' is described as being primarily poor white families, distinguishing it from the East Side, where rich people live (True! and Brownies!) and, I assume, Olneyville/Manton, where minorities mentioned probably live. Not. Entirely. Accurate. Maybe thirty years ago. When it was the heavily Italian home of the Patriarca crime family. (They were headquartered in a building quite close to an Indian Restaurant my boyfriend and I like)
My boyfriend lives on Federal Hill. And, according to my experience, and observation over the past two years, poor white families are the only demographic absent from the hill. Guatemalans, Bolivians, and other central and south americans are well represented. Closer to the highway, hipsters and young, upwardly mobile gay couples cluster close to two overpriced eateries, and one mob front/infrequently open diner. African American families are evident in my boyfriend's neighborhood, as well as students. But poor white families I haven't seen evidence of. Even at the grocery store.
White flight hit Providence hard.
Brotherhood gets racial politics wrong. First. They want to bring racism from 1970's south boston and Dorchester into 2005 Rhode Island. Doesn't really ring true. Sure, racism persists. But the character is different now. The type of racism depicted, a paranoid type where the pasty majority fears losing ground and neighborhoods to an 'other', is largely over in New England. Racism is quieter these days. White flight is over. Gentrification has begun. The neighborhoods that the irish characters didn't want blacks to move into are already into and out of their hands, split between newer immigrants, artists, and pioneering homosexuals. (like my boyfriend's landlord)
Racism in New England, in the Boston area, and the suburbs, is different. It's ignorance. A character, an older woman, refers to "Hmongs and D.R.s" moving into the neighborhood. First of all, to be authentic, she'd have to say "Orientals, and Spanish people". Because in New England, the racists don't care where you're from. They pick a difference, and stick with it. If you speak spanish, you're spanish. If you're slightly tan, with an eastern eye, you're "Oriental". Like the rug. Always.
Too much self conscious Irishizing. "Like the fat girl at a parish dance." "Did you learn to park like that in parochial school?" Irish bars. Irish festivals. Geh. Give it up.
What I like about Brotherhood?
Location. Symposium Books. New York System. The Green bar. (Yick. I don't believe these people would actually go to that bar.)
Lots of violence. More than the sopranos. Female infidelity. The plain looks of Annabell Gish.
But what do I like about Brotherhood?