For those of you who watch HBO’s “Girls” – or at least follow the criticisms of it – you might have heard about last night’s episode. Titled “Boys”, it followed two of the male characters, Ray who is Hannah’s boss and Shoshana’s boyfriend, and Adam who is Hannah’s ex-boyfriend. Because Adam had a dog he stole or borrowed or whatever, the two decided to return the pooch to it’s owner – who lives on Staten Island.
Ah, Staten Island – my hometown. Some people here love it, others hate it, while the remainder are neutral. We are the Forgotten Borough in so many ways, and only received national attention when Hurricane Sandy ravaged us last October. So when the Island gets lengthy mention on the news or even a movie or TV show, I take notice – which I did last night during “Girls”.
At first I was tickled pink to see Adam and Ray enter Whitehall Terminal to take the ferry. But as I watched their adventure on the Island, I raised raised one eyebrow sometimes, but other times it was both. Here is my reaction:
Watching Adam and Ray bring a big dog on a leash onto the ferry made me raise one eyebrow. I’ve been taking the ferry to and from the city for years, and never once have I seen a dog on a leash allowed on the boat. The most I’ve seen a dog on the ferry was when it was in a crate. So don’t think that because fictional characters on an HBO show were allowed to bring a big dog on a leash on the ferry, you can too.
Adam and Ray’s verbal assault toward Staten Island was…amusing at times. It really didn’t surprise me. Many people who don’t know Staten Islanders or haven’t really been here (using the ferry or driving through via the Expressway does not count) say practically the same things about the borough. We are looked down upon. We are seen as the “armpit” of New York City. Just go to the comments section of the Huffington Post whenever it reports on the Island – the attitudes people have are no different from last night’s episode of “Girls”.
This line from the show, spoken when Adam and Ray are walking down a street after getting off the ferry, speaks some truth: “All these people, they want to live in Manhattan but they end up on this … weird little island watching the city in the distance with this quiet rage burning in their hearts.”
Is that overall true or false? No. There are some Islanders who do wish they lived in Manhattan, or even Brooklyn’s hip neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Park Slope or Greenpoint. For some, and I confess I am one of them, Staten Island is not a good place if you are 30 years old and single. I believe this place is good for those who are married and have kids. It is a more family-friendly borough compared to the other four, but not so much if you are not at that stage of your life. Others may not agree with me, but that is my experience.
But our island is not weird. There is no quiet rage burning in our hearts. Many of us accept our corner of the world as it is, and some wouldn’t want to live in the other boroughs. Seriously, what is weird about Staten Island? Has anyone actually been here? (Again, using the ferry and the Expressway does not count)
Finally, the girl who was the dog owner’s daughter was embarrassing to watch, for two reasons. One, it was pretty lousy for the writers of “Girls” to think we are all shallow, foul-mouthed bigots who do nothing but party at Webster Hall. But honestly…there are some – SOME! – who are like that here. It is sad they give off this image of Staten Island.
But again, that stereotype is not so true. In fact, a lot of what was said about Staten Island was not true. We have a huge mix of people of various attitudes, interests and intelligence here. To say we are all low class fools who envy Manhattan and are trapped on this “little weird island” is unfair. Basically, it is the attitude of New Yorkers who know no one or nothing about the borough, as well as though who don’t live in the area, but heard through the grapevine about our stereotypes.
It really sucks that this is how Staten Island is perceived by others. I hope the way we were portrayed by the media after Sandy will enforce a more positive attitude about us. By the way, that “Girls” episode was written and filmed before Sandy hit – hence the summery look of it.
I mentioned once that I would like to help make my hometown look better through my books. While I have no intention of sugar-coating or using novels as an excuse to portray the Island, I will use my work as an opportunity to let readers know about the Staten Island I know. No, not all my future work will take place here nor will it overindulge in talking about here (my book, The Dark Proposal, partially takes place on Staten Island, but it is not a tour guide). But I will do what I can to give my hometown justice.
Because after all, this is not really that bad of a place 🙂