Their next email/text/call is often: "Is it really like that there?"
And my resounding answer is: "NO!"
Whether they're portraying us as a tiny hick town with one outdoor motel or a flat-wide-open farm town on the plains or a mountain town with a one-gate airport, Hollywood is consistently getting it wrong. Why? Because no one cares. No one cares if they get their facts right. They just want something to fit in to a story that will bolster the plot and prove a counterpoint to wherever they are (Los Angeles/New York/Los Angeles/suburbs of Los Angeles/suburbs of New York/Los Angeles).
I did a post on the Montana Romance Writers group today about setting fictional stories in Montana, because I feel like I need to set the record straight. Montana is not a one-dimensional place. It's not only overwhelmingly rural, and there is a lot more going on here than cowboys, dusters, rodeos, and crazy militia.
Montana is a diverse place. Not as diverse as, say, New York City, but still very diverse. My friend Cathy and I recently drove almost the entire length of the state (which, if you take I-90 can take almost 14 hours), and she was amazed at the differences in landscape, topography, culture, and feel of the breadth of this state. I was amazed through her eyes. Because I live here, of course. I know how different it is. But I wanted to stand up for Montana (and for Bozeman) and say, we're not just the stereotype of the media.
For instance. Montana State University has one of the top Engineering programs in the country. We attract the top students and professors from all over the world to live and work and study here. We also have one of the top biofilm programs in the country. And film programs in general. The University of Montana has one of the best football programs in FCS in the entire country. And one of the top-ranked MFA programs in the nation (consistently in the Top 10). This tends to make our cities pretty diverse and trendy.
It's certainly not a town of 2000 with one outdoor motel. And we have an International airport that does not have plastic bucket chairs in its "waiting room" like a dirty bus station. I grew up in a town like that. It's nothing like Bozeman.
I'm not saying that I begrudge anyone using a small town in Montana for their TV show. But, please, if you're going to use a real place, show us the respect of doing your homework. Or make up a fictional town. Even that would be preferable. The great thing about Gotham City is that there are no real-life inhabitants to tell you that you got it wrong.
What do you think? Have you seen a town portrayed inaccurately on television or in books? Have you seen Montana portrayed in fiction in a way that seemed real or unreal to you? Have you been to Montana, or do you live here, and have a specific feeling about what Montana is like? What is that impression?
**All of the photography in this post is mine... courtesy of, well, me.**