The Girls Next Door
What does Southie even stand for anymore?
When “The Real HousewivesÂ of South Bostonâ€ť hit YouTube last October, the spoof depicting five fake Southie girls fighting, fawning over Marky Markâ€™s cousin, and drinking their way through a Red Sox game went viral. News stations built segments around it, and co-creator Lucia Aniello (a Hadley native) promised to make another episode. Then everyone moved on. Everyone, but Southie.
A group of women published a comeback on a community blog called Caught in Southie, but quickly found themselves hitting up against 40 years of history. As a result of the neighborhoodâ€™s frequent appearance in movies and other media, Southie has become the place people think of as quintessential Boston â€” the accent, the sports fanaticism, the criminal underbelly, all concentrated below the Summer Street Bridge. Along with Charlestown and Dorchester, Southie is portrayed as a cautionary tale, embodied by a myopic worldview that you have to overcome and escape before it drags you down. See: Good Will Hunting.
And for a while, thatâ€™s been okay, even a point of pride for a place where residency is a birthright, not a parking sticker. Thereâ€™s a certain authenticity forged through shared suffering, a feeling that projects and pubs are more genuine than condos and coffee shops.
Except now the neighborhood wonâ€™t stop gentrifying. Also changing is the way we perceive that storied-to-the-point-of-mythical past. â€śThe Real Housewives of South Bostonâ€ť is this moment of transition revealed, especially in the people who rose to defend their neighborhood. One such woman, Maureen Dahill, a lifelong Southie resident, fashion stylist, and mother of three, co-edits the website Caught in Southie. In the YouTube parody, she saw the same â€śout-of-control, crazy womenâ€ť that lit up newscasts during the â€™70s busing riots.
Through her blog, Dahill launched a PR campaign for the neighborhood, presenting five professional women as modern, upstanding alternatives to the â€śuneducated and trashyâ€ť stereotype. Her attempt to set the record straight, though, quickly backfired when a commenter questioned why these women were qualified to represent Southie, given that two of them were non-natives.
This raises two questions: What is Southieâ€™s identity today, and whoâ€™s the right person to represent it? If not someone like Dahill, who by all accounts is a local girl made good (and without needing to flee to do so), then who?
While Southieâ€™s gritty past remains burned into the minds of old-timers, new residents donâ€™t quite know what to do with it. On one hand, itâ€™s an important, if ugly, piece of history; on the other hand, itâ€™s owned by a different generation of South Boston. In the end, no one ever talks about the hard-working, straight-ahead folks that residents most identify with, anyway. For Southie, itâ€™s become a choice of caricatures: criminal, boor, and, now, the cursed gentrifier.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/01/the-girls-next-door-what-does-southie-even-stand-for-anymore/