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Things Movies And TV Always Get Wrong About Famous US Cities

Updated May 17, 2021 3.8k votes 672 voters 60.8k 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: Gran Torino / Warner Bros. Pictures
    1

    Detroit: The City Is Dying, Decaying, And Falling Apart

    When it comes to movies set in Detroit, either modern (Gran Torino) or futuristic (RoboCop), the way they portray the city is almost always negative. Many media depictions treat Detroit as if it's decaying to the point of ruin.

    This is one of the most common complaints Detroiters have about portrayals of their home, and it contributes to a negative overall reputation. Tourists specifically visit the city expecting to see "ruins." In recent years, Detroit has undergone a renewal project that's led to a real estate boom and revitalization of the city. The decrepit version of Motor City is way out of date. 

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  • Photo: Casino / Universal Pictures
    2

    Las Vegas: The Economy Is Totally Based On Gambling And Tourism

    Like everywhere else, American cities all have specific features that make them unique. Just as Boston has many colleges, Las Vegas has many casinos. It is true that gaming and tourism are big contributors to Sin City's economy, but the media makes it seem as if that's all there is to the Vegas economy. To some, this means it isn't a "real" city. 

    In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been diversifying its economy into areas like health care and infrastructure, and has grown in popularity as a location for corporate headquarters. So, get ready for Martin Scorsese's next Vegas movie, Long-Term Care Center.

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  • Photo: Miami Vice / Universal Pictures
    3

    Miami: The Weather Is Always Sunny And Dry

    If a movie or TV show is set in Miami, odds are it's going to feature shots of sunny beaches and great weather. Miami weather is nice, but not all the time. What movies and TV often ignore is the fact that Miami has a tropical monsoon climate, with a dry season and a wet season in which it rains almost daily. It's also the American city most likely to be hit by a hurricane

    Hopefully that wasn't a surprise. And in fact, the University of Miami's sports teams are known as the Hurricanes.

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  • Photo: Home Alone 2 / 20th Century Fox
    4

    New York: Everyone Travels By Taxi

    New York City's iconic yellow cabs are one of its most famous features, and movies and TV shows often include them. New York City does have thousands of taxis, private cars, rideshare drivers, and many other kinds of rides for hire.

    But in a city where less than half of the residents own a car, the majority use public transportation daily. That means most New Yorkers use subways and buses, just as people do in many cities. 

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