All aboard the ferry to Chapel Hill!
What happens when your favorite show is less than accurate about North Carolina.
It’s been a long, busy week, which is why I’m only now getting around to typing up this here newsletter. But! I’m very excited to tell you that my favorite Netflix show, Outer Banks, is out today with its second season! The short version: It’s about a bunch of teenagers who set out to find treasure on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and they do very normal teen things like get into fights, make out, and drive speedboats through marshes at dangerous speeds. Also, a guy from Whose Line Is It Anyway? is on it, and he turns out to be (SPOILER ALERT) a bad guy. Every time he appears on screen, I half expect Wayne Brady to show up and upstage him.
Outer Banks does not approach a Breaking Bad level of moral and narrative complexity. In fact, it does not require much effort from my brain at all. It is very comforting. The story is easy to follow. The backdrops are beautiful. I’m rooting for the good guys/girls because the show makes it painfully clear who they are. John B., you’re my dude.
However, I do have one major problem with it. In a scene from the first season, the characters take a ferry from the Outer Banks to Chapel Hill.
Here was my reaction upon seeing that:
The show is not striving for stringent geographical accuracy, I know. They shot it around Charleston, South Carolina due to better incentives and because of the still-lingering fallout from House Bill 2. The show refers to a few real places, but it’s set in fictional Kildare County. It’s got the flavor of the Outer Banks. But it is, you see, a work of fiction.
But still, THE FERRY THING. From now until the end of time, when someone brings up this show, I will reflexively make some sort of Chapel Hill ferry joke. And, just to make sure we’re all clear, you cannot get from the coast to the University of North Carolina by boat.
To be fair, one of the creators of the show, Jonas Pate, grew up in North Carolina and lives in Wilmington and yes, he knows better. He’s explained, to every single North Carolina media outlet it seems, that a scene that shows John B. and Sarah getting into an Uber and riding from Wilmington to Chapel Hill was cut, but nobody from the show thought people would infer that the entire trip was conducted by ferry. In an interview with the News & Observer a while back, Pate stressed that he is not mad about this, he’s laughing, actually:
“The cast and I have sent these articles (about the ferry route) back and forth to each other. We have even thought about getting T-shirts with a ferry line on them from Kill Dare Island to Chapel Hill,” he said, noting the fictitious Kill Dare Island on the show merges the names of Kill Devil Hills and English colonist Virginia Dare.
Still, though, a Twitter search will quickly show you that no, North Carolinians have definitely not gotten over this.
People are willing to suspend their disbelief for a lot of things they read or watch on television, but when someone messes up a detail about the place where you live? YOU WILL DIE ON THAT HILL.
This is not a new thing. Growing up in Ohio, I felt extreme discomfort over the fact that Major League was about Cleveland’s baseball team, but the actual stadium they filmed in was the old County Stadium in Milwaukee. Every time I’d point at the screen and say “YOU IDIOTS, THERE’S NO CHANNEL 4 NEWS IN CLEVELAND,” or “THE OUTFIELD BLEACHERS DO NOT ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE THAT.” The Hollywood coup de grâce for North Carolina, at least until recently, came at the beginning of Days of Thunder, which depicted North Carolina’s largest city thusly:
It’s not just fictional movies. This sort of thing can happen in completely truthful, non-fictional shows that pride themselves on accuracy and fairness. I’m talking, of course, about The Bachelor.
So, folks, it is time for a Festivus-style Airing of Grievances. What shows or movies about North Carolina irk you because they got a small but easily-Googlable detail wrong? Or, what fictional North Carolina transportation option would be less accurate than the one depicted in Outer Banks? What, dear reader, is your personal ferry to Chapel Hill? As always, reply to this email, leave a comment, or tweet at me.
Time for me to go. I’ve gotta catch the 4:30 aerial gondola from Winston-Salem to Boone.
UPDATE: This post begat the Outer Banks Fictional Transportation Generator seen below (please share it at will!). It also led many of you to point out the many, many mistakes that shows and movies make in depicting North Carolina. You can read that followup story here.
I watched S2 E1 last night. They talked about Masonboro Sound. Masonboro is off the south end of Wrightsville Beach; its nowhere near the OBX. Peasants
Towns that used to be separate and are now together:
Towns that used to be separate and remain that way to this day:
(I know this frustration! Went to a school depicted in a movie as Romanesque Revival brick. The school is almost entirely built of locally quarried granite.)