Sept. 17, 2010 -- In the old days a film or TV series could put your town on the map as a tourist destination. Think "Hawaii Five-O" or "Vega$" -- shows that had some grit but mostly depicted their settings as glamorous places to live and visit.
Nowadays, cities mostly take a beating at the hands of scriptwriters.
We take a look at five cities that have come under Hollywood's spotlight. Here's what we discovered about Hollywood perception over reality:
Staten Island, New York "Angelina is just like the Staten Island ferry. It's free and everybody gets a ride," the guys of the "Jersey Shore" joked about their fellow cast member. The borough of New York City has birthed three of the eight castmembers on the top-rated MTV show. Between the cast member known as "Trash Bags" and a gym and tanning parlor frequenter who refers to himself as "The Situation," the island isn't known for being classy. The island was once home to Fresh Kills landfill, one of the largest in the U.S. but is mostly known for the epic traffic jams that litter the Staten Island Expressway. But to enter the traffic queue you must first pay an $11 bridge toll. Welcome to New York!
A native of Staten Island, Mary Beth Matterfis, is not a fan of the "Jersey Shore" cast that calls Staten Island home. "The way they're portraying themselves is an embarrassment," says Matterfis. The portrayal only creates more problems for Staten Islanders because people think everyone from the area are loud mouth boars, she says.
"There's more to Staten Island than garbage dumps and pizzerias. The generation I was a part of was about community, continuity and tradition," says Matterfis. She argues that "over population and perpetuated stereotypes make people forget about the physical beauty of the island, which includes golf courses, a boardwalk, and historical areas like Richmond Town."
"The Daily Show" didn't visit any of those places last week when it reported that Staten Island also has the distinction of being the only borough of New York City that hasn't produced a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.The smallest borough took a thrashing when correspondent Wyatt Cenac went scouring the area for potential justices and came back with a sketch jam-packed with stereotypes from the track suits to the pizza.
Scranton, Pennsylvania The real target of the mockumentary "The Office," based on life in the fictional cubicle world of Dunder Mifflin, may be this town. Last year, the city managed to hold its unemployment rate slightly below the national average, keeping the unemployed masses from toiling in a town best described as boring.
"While Scranton lacks the flash, it's really populated by hard-working blue-collared people that want to spend their days at the park" and doing other recreational family events, says Dave Caolo, a technology blogger for AOL. The current Massachusetts resident makes sure to visit the city at least twice a year, making a stop at Catalano Importing Co. on Main Avenue. The writer, who has tasted hoagies up and down the eastern seaboard, swears he has never found their equal. The native Scrantonian has never denied his home town, adding that would be impossible since "we don't pronounce our I's or T's."
"The Wire" introduced an audience to New Amsterdam, the docks, and the inner workings of council and police stations and the results weren't all that pleasant. The novelistic approach taken by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon gave the HBO cult series authenticity that can cloud the beauty of the urban destination. The national harbor fails to beautify the big city in Maryland that skates in at number 3 for large cities with the highest crime ranking, according to research company CQ Press. With a graduation rate of 41 percent, the city's education system ranks 46th in a recent study produced by America's Promise using 2005 data. On Thursday, the area continued to earn its violent reputation as "Bodymore, Murdaland," after a gunman shot a physician at John Hopkins Hospital, then killed his mother and himself.
Cleveland, Ohio America's perception of this Midwestern city has been placed in the hands of Drew Carey, Lebron James and Betty White. When the city was looking for ways to save Cleveland, naturally they turned to Carey, a comedian who shot to fame on his self-titled show that sang "Cleveland rocks," according to Cleveland.com. Unfortunately, his plan did not include ways to keep NBA player Lebron James who fled the town and the Cavaliers in a public mea culpa that left former fans hurt and on the street burning jerseys. Left in his wake are the elderly ladies of "Hot in Cleveland," the controversial cartoon "The Clevelands," a graduation rate of 34 percent, and an unemployment rate of over 11 percent.
Fargo, North Dakota The city of Fargo became the butt of many jokes after the Coen brothers film borrowed the town's name. Snow and distinct funny accents became the city's attributes more than 100 years after the town became known as a top destination for divorce seekers. But the town gets the last laugh for minimizing economic fallout during the recession. The city has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country --closing out 2009 with an annual unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent. When it comes to foreclosures, at a time when many cities are hit with staggering numbers, the city, with a population of around 90,000, saw just 21 fillings, according to Realtytrac.