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Things Movies And TV Always Get Wrong About Famous US Cities

Updated May 17, 2021 4.5k votes 783 voters 69.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the tropes about American cities you've seen most often.

Movies and TV often get things wrong about American cities, sometimes based on the stereotypes associated with those locales. Anyone who's ever been stereotyped knows how unfair and inaccurate it can be, and this is true with citywide stereotypes, as well. Sure, some folks in Dallas do wear cowboy boots, but not everyone does. Yet the stereotypes persist. 

It doesn't help that movies and TV often reinforce these stereotypes by leaning on them. They do allow the creators to quickly establish where a story takes place. But the tradeoff is that for lots of folks who may never visit these places, the typecasting can become the truth. 

Here are 12 tropes that movies and TV often use to portray cities that are inaccurate, if not entirely wrong. 

  • Photo: Dallas / CBS
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    Dallas: Just Cattle And Oil Fields

    Yes, the city of Dallas is famous for both its cattle and oil industries. Dallas, Houston, and many other cities in Texas are home to many oil companies. But oil fields aren't usually located anywhere near the cities themselves, and definitely not in the case of Dallas.

    Cattle and oil aren't even the basis of the Dallas economy anymore, according to magazine. As of 2016, mining (including oil and gas) barely cracked the top five, at around 10% of the city's total economy. That's below finance, manufacturing, professional and business services, and "other." As for livestock, it didn't even make the top 11.

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  • Photo: The Fugitive / Warner Bros.
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    Chicago: Called 'The Windy City' Because Of Its Blustery Weather

    Chicago isn't called "The Windy City" because of its weather. The name comes from a 19th-century newspaper editorial criticizing city officials for their vanity and false promises, calling them "full of hot air." 

    So, the moniker has nothing to do with the weather - although Chicago does often experience severe weather, especially being located on Lake Michigan. But it's not an especially gusty place. 

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  • Photo: The Departed / Warner Bros. Pictures
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    Boston: Everyone Is Either A Cop, A Lawyer, A Criminal, Or A College Student

    Many movies are set in Boston, and for whatever reason, many of them tend to fall within the same genres. A number of movies about college are set in Boston because the city has many colleges (Good Will Hunting, Harvard Man).

    Another common genre for movies set in this New England city is crime. It does have a long history of criminal activity, and is home to notorious figures like mobster Whitey Bulger and serial killer Albert DeSalvo, AKA the Boston Strangler. That makes Boston a logical choice for movies either about crimes or inspired by them.  

    But it is not a city with only four possible occupations. No doubt someone is writing a killer script about a Boston taxidermist right now.

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  • Photo: Jackie Brown / Miramax Films
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    Los Angeles: Everyone Goes To The Beach All The Time

    Many movies and TV shows emphasize LA's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, but while beaches are popular tourist destinations, many people who live in Los Angeles seldom visit them - it's one of many unrealistic ways the city is depicted, according to Angelenos

    There's more to the City of Angels than beaches. A more accurate version would include things like traffic and other mundane aspects of city life. Los Angeles: the town where you can see Ice Cube buying a fax machine. 

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