Our adventure The Patriot Incident is set in Massachusetts and we include a small section on the Boston accent (page 12) to help Gamemasters who like doing voices. I've been thinking about accents and the Boston accent in particular a lot since then. Now that it is Thanksgiving and I am surrounded by family (most of whom have heavy Boston accents) I think I understand why it is such a hard accent to get right (though I am sure this applies to many other accents as well).
I grew up in the North Shore, an area about twenty minutes North of Boston. When I was 8 we moved to Southern California for five years before moving back to the North Shore when I reached the 7th grade. I've seen video of myself during that time and you can actually see me lose the Boston accent over the course of about three years. Prior to the move, like most kids living in my area, I had a thick Boston accent. When I came back it was gone and I was speaking like Southern Californians. Since then my accent never fully recovered, and I actually find it hard to fake. Though I also find I go in and out of it depending on who I am talking to (I think people can probably tell it isn't a proper accent, I am just unconsciously speaking like my family when I am around them). This is why, as more and more movies are being filmed in Boston, you hear more and more Bostonians complaining about actors (even actors who are from here like Ben Affleck) not getting the accent right. Once you lose the accent it is hard to get it back.
This is interesting because when I watch films like the Departed, Boondock Saints or The Town, on paper the people are doing what they need to speak like a person from Boston, but it still sounds fake to me. You would think being from here, once having the accent myself, and being surrounded by family with the accent, I'd understand why it sounds fake. But this has been a mystery to me for a long time. I've come to the conclusion that it isn't just about dropping the R at the right moment, speaking with a vaguely nasal voice and using a wide sounding A. There is something else going on under all that that denotes a person is from the area. When I talk to my mother for example she doesn't just drop the R in car (it is actually kind of there if you really listen), she also lingers on it, hits it like a musical note. There is a tone and buoyancy in the accent and I think this is what actors miss when they try to replicate it, because the tone is almost invisible.
I could be totally wrong about this. It is just something I am noticing as I wait for the turkey to finish cooking. But I think there is something to it. Let me know what you think (particularly if you are from Boston) but feel free to share observations about your own regional accents.