6 Places You're Picturing Utterly Wrong (Thank Pop Culture!)
You can learn a lot about the world from movies. Except for how the police operates. Or how to save a life. Or how guns work. You know, now that we think about it, movies are mostly full of shit. This applies to geographical locations and historical landmarks as well. The rule seems to be: If a movie takes place more than 100 miles from Hollywood, it's safe to assume the studio did all their research on Wikipedia. Which, come to think of it, does explain Ape-raham Lincoln...
The "Grim Ghetto" Of Hell's Kitchen Is Probably Out Of Your Price Range
Netflix's exceedingly gritty Daredevil adaptation faithfully takes place in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York. This made sense when Daredevil first appeared in the 1960s, because back then, Hell's Kitchen really lived up to its name. You had violent gangs roaming the streets, crack dens on every corner, rampant prostitution, poverty, etc. And that's exactly how the area is portrayed in the modern Netflix series.
Can you spot all five felonies happening in this image?
But today, that depiction is as divorced from reality as the plot of Iron Fist is divorced from entertainment.
Over the years, Hell's Kitchen has really gotten its act together. Crime is down 64 percent compared to 40 years ago. Murder is down 75 percent, burglaries 85 percent, and car thefts have fallen a whopping 92 percent. Honestly, the employment opportunities for evil ninjas in the area are pretty dismal.
But they're fantastic for artisanal muffin bakers.
With crime down so low, the property values in Hell's Kitchen have skyrocketed, a process helped by the wide range of cultural amenities available in the area, including easy access to Broadway, nightclubs, and LGBT-friendly businesses. A studio apartment costs about $300,000 to own, though the median price is three times that, and rents start at $1,600/month. Family homes are all in the $3-4 million range. That's why most of the criminal acts committed in Hell's Kitchen today (which the residents prefer to call "Clinton") are property crime. Basically, Hell's Kitchen doesn't need Daredevil. It needs ADT.
Appalachia Is Not The Murderous Yokel Capital Of The World
Appalachia is an American cultural region that stretches from the southern end of New York down through northern Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. According to Hollywood, it's exclusively populated by poverty-stricken hill folk whose main hobbies are inbreeding, hunting humans for sport and/or meat, then making you squeal like a pig. While Deliverance is the most famous example of this regional stigma, it also shows up in Hunter's Blood, Wrong Turn 1 through ... 6? (Wow, they kept it going that long? You'd think at least one of those turns would've been right.)
Say, how many people live in Appalachia anyway? Ten, twenty thousand? Can't be more than 50,000 inbred bumpkins ... right? A 2011 census puts the population at over 25 million hillbilly souls, approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population. Oh, and about 1,000,000 of them are Hispanic/Latino. So yes, there are almost certainly more than seven last names in Appalachia.
Now, it is true that the Appalachian region has seen an increase in violence and property crimes over the years, but even so, those rates are still well below the national average. What Hollywood has gotten right: the poverty. While around 21 percent of Appalachian dwellers have bachelor's or master's degrees, education and job training in the area is still directed towards failing industries, like logging or coal mining. Google and other companies have been trying to bring tech jobs to the region, but the progress there has been slow. Not because of mountain cannibals, but because infrastructure is tough to build. The hillfolk's struggle to run fiber optics through their rusty fucksheds in order to bring tech jobs to Pig Knuckle, Alabama makes for a less dramatic movie, though.
The Kremlin Isn't Some Disney Church
The Kremlin, as seen in everything from establishing shots of network spy shows to the cover of a recent Time magazine, is the seat of Russian government, and looks like a supervillain palace designed by the inventor of those nesting dolls.
Fun fact: The Kremlin actually houses three smaller Kremlins inside it.
The building has become an iconic symbol of Eastern European Imperialism, which is really weird, because the actual Kremlin is about 100 times more imposing than the quaint and colorful church you see above:
Still pretty colorful for a KGB stronghold, but at least it doesn't look like it was designed by Dr. Seuss.
The thing we most associate with the cold fist of the Russian government is, in fact, not the Kremlin at all. It's Saint Basil's Cathedral, and while it overlooks the Kremlin, it's not part of it. The modern Kremlin is essentially a city within a city, surrounded by the ornate Kremlin Wall, which houses gardens, cathedrals, and palaces like the Grand Kremlin Palace, the official residence of the President of Russia.
Where he apparently sleeps in an ornate sarcophagus.
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa Is Empty Inside
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built with too shallow a foundation, which caused it to, well... lean. For hundreds of years, architects tried to hide that fact, by adding columns that were taller on one side than the other. This went on for nearly 200 years, and only stopped when the problem became too obvious to cover up. So they ditched it. Yes, while the Leaning Tower of Pisa may look classy and beautiful on the outside, it's totally empty on the inside:
Just like us.
That's because the whole thing is just a boring old bell tower. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is not its own thing: It's a very small part of the Square of Miracles, which also includes the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistry.
Which, while beautiful, is a lot less fun to pretend to push over in photos.
In reality, the nearby overlooked cathedral is way more interesting, and without it there would never have been a need for a bell tower, leaning or otherwise, but it rarely shows up in pop culture. And all because it didn't suck and fall over.
Slovakia Is Not Some Gloomy, Murder-Warehouse Wasteland
Slovakia gets a bad rep in movies. According to films like EuroTrip, Slovakia is a poor, ugly, post-Soviet reenactment of Hell where a nickel is enough to buy an entire hotel... but not hope. The Hostel franchise thinks Slovakia's primary industry is renting out dilapidated warehouses so rich businessmen can torture innocent people to death.
Let's look at the facts: Slovakia has a national GDP per capita of $31,200. Now, the U.S. has a per capita GDP of $57,300, but let's not forget that Slovakia is barely the size of a Texas Walmart. So while Slovaks make less money than Americans, they use it more wisely, with only 12 percent of the population living below the poverty line, compared to America's 15 percent. Slovakia is also one of the top five countries on the planet in terms of income equality. America is in the bottom third.
So the poverty thing is a myth, but what about the torture? Surely the torture stuff is accurate! Shockingly, no: Slovakia sports a lower crime rate than the United States. In fact, Slovakia is in the highest tier for efforts to combat human trafficking. In 2016, human trafficking in the United States rose by nearly 36 percent. Slovakia might not be paradise on Earth, but it's nothing like the torture-warehouse anus of Europe that movies make it out to be. Hell, it's actually the 40th happiest place on Earth. Why? Lots of reasons, though having one of the lowest beer prices in Europe probably helps.
The Alamo Is Mostly Gone, And What Remains Is Wildly Out Of Place
The bloody 1836 battle between the defenders of the Alamo Mission in modern-day San Antonio, and the superior forces of General Santa Anna has been featured on film dozens of times. It's an icon of the Wild West, and this is pretty much what everybody pictures when they think of it:
Just looking at this photo counts as a ninth-grade geography credit.
But just like with the pyramids, that image features some very strategic cropping. This is what the Alamo looks like when you zoom out a little:
Turns out the nation's seventh-largest city consists of more than just adobe ruins.
While no longer surrounded by the Mexican army, the Alamo is besieged by a collection of fast food restaurants, tourist traps, and a Ripley's Believe It or Not. The modern surroundings of the Alamo are reportedly pretty jarring to most new visitors, though it shouldn't really be a surprise that the world around the site has moved on. Well, maybe the word "around" is incorrect, because much of the town has actually been built on top of the original Alamo Mission.
The iconic Alamo building we picture from the movies is, in reality, just the mission chapel. It was central to the defense of the settlement, but the compound that it served was much larger than what you see today. It's just that huge parts of it were deemed "less iconic" than the stone church, and have since been paved over and forgotten in the name of progress. But even the chapel doesn't look as it did during the actual battle of the Alamo. Since 1836, there have been numerous revisions to the building: a roof was added, facades were put up and then torn down, buildings were added and removed -- even the iconic curved parapet at the top wasn't added until the 1850s.
In short, even the Alamo doesn't remember the Alamo.
Jacob Lewis is the sole writer at It's All Clown Shoes, the co-creator of the hit television series Alias and Lost, and the defendant in no less than 36 Intellectual Property related lawsuits brought by J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot... for unknown reasons.
Also check out 5 Insane Things You Believe About Money (Thanks to Movies) and 6 Myths About Famous Places You Believe (Thanks to Movies).
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