Ever since I was young, my family vacations have consisted of one place and one place only: The Lake of the Ozarks.
If you are from St. Louis or another surrounding Missourian city, then you know what I am talking about. If you aren’t, then you probably have never heard of the Lake, or your only education of the sprawling waters comes from the show “Ozark”.
I sincerely hope it is not the latter.
I have a bone to pick with Jason Bateman and his portrayal the Lake. I will try to keep this rant both sarcastic and short, and if you aren’t interested in hearing me talk loudly at a computer screen or don’t want anything spoiled, then just keep scrolling on until after #3.
Dear Jason Bateman,
“More coastline than California,” Marty says, somehow unbelievably sparing himself from the handsome cartel leader.
Everyone at the Lake is not a redneck.
Alright, alright. It’s Missouri – there are rednecks.
However, each individual that Bateman encounters happens to be the most southern-twang, trailer-park living, strip-club owning, meth-tweaking redneck around. According to the show, even the police at the Lake are corrupt rednecks.
Do these rednecks just gravitate out of the woods towards him, as if Bateman is a literal white-trash magnet? I am pitching this story line now to you Ozark, because it would certainly make the show more interesting. The stereotype quickly gets old and causes the show to lose it’s realism.
The actual demographic of the Lake looks something more like this: Normal suburbia people, retirees, boat enthusiasts, people who like to fish, condo owners, city folk who either moved there to get away or who are on vacation, fratty college kids, people who are arguably “redneck” but aren’t the type of redneck portrayed in the show (think: I’m not racist, but…), and then yes, I suppose, a handful of script-like, Ozark-level rednecks. Marty only ever runs into the last on the list, astonishingly.
You will never be Breaking Bad.
It is no secret that I love Breaking Bad. So sure, when I heard that Ozark’s producers were inspired by Breaking Bad, my expectations weren’t terribly high. You can’t recreate a legend! And yet, the show was still unable to grasp my incredibly low set bar.
Everything that Ozark does wrong, Breaking Bad does right.
First: While I am not saying that Breaking Bad’s story line is perfect (I have my qualms), the set up is well articulated. The story’s slow crescendo allows you to relate to Walt’s health insurance woes, feel bad for Walt, make excuses for Walt, and then when it is unarguable that Walt is a bad dude – you still root for him until the end. There is no such story line for Marty, and instead Ozark just thrusts you into his bland, relatively motiveless life. The show tries to make up for this by jam-packing each episode with moody monologues and loads of violence, but it falls flat. Seriously, within 5 minutes the show blows the brains out of five characters and the episode is still remarkably boring.
And second is the community aspect: While a lot of people living in ABQ were not thrilled about the prospect of Breaking Bad showcasing the area as a meth kingdom, the show was intentionally very good to the community. The production crew filmed ABQ homes and businesses to remain true to the location, chose to use items from local candy shops and breweries for props, and even scouted crew and actors in the area to be a part of the production (Gomez, Combo). Additionally, Vince Gilligan’s beautiful portrayal of the Sandia Mountains and stark desert has now lured in other filmmakers who are interested in using the New Mexican landscape for their own projects.
Instead of give back to the Lake, however, Ozark filmed in Georgia for the tax breaks. Don’t get me wrong: I understand the incentive of saving money. But if you want to use a real-life city as your location while simultaneously not filming there, then you should at least try to make it as accurate as possible. This is where Ozark falls lazy, and instead chooses to shit on their setting situated hundreds of miles away
Ozark wants badly to stand out like Breaking Bad, but instead gets categorized as just another white-guy, anti-hero show.
There is always money in the banana stand.
Honestly, if any of Ozark’s characters had just remembered to look there then there’d have been no problems.
In conclusion: I know it is the unpopular opinion, but your show is bad and you should feel bad.
Moving right along:
As I was saying, since the dawn of time our family vacations have almost always exclusively been to the Lake of the Ozarks.
Now it is an unspoken rule that my sisters and my mom reserve a weekend once a year to go. Knowing we’d inevitably end up here, I was able to write it in as another travel destination for my 2017 resolution of traveling somewhere each month.
I like going to the Lake for it’s familiarity.
We always eat at the same spots, always stay in the same condominium complex, always eat too much candy from the within-walking-distance gas station, always get too sunburned by the pool.
There is a little variety, sometimes we rent a boat, sometimes not – but always a pontoon because they are cheaper. And when we do, we always try to fling whoever is tubing off of the raft and into the smelly water.
We play checkers, we drink beer, and we always get into a fight that leaves me swearing off family vacations for good – and then we repeat it all again the next year.
If you are looking for a nearby family vacation spot, a friends weekend retreat, or you are an Ozark fanatic who is fuming at my letter to Jason Bateman and want to prove me wrong, then the Lake of the Ozarks is the place for you.
A small Lake of the Ozarks suggestions list:
- A visit to the Lake is not complete without a pizza and a beer from Lil Rizzo’s. And you cannot leave without stopping by Dogpatch, for an old fashioned Coke, or Grandma’s Candy Kitchen, for a hunk of fudge.
- Rent a boat! Pay extra to borrow some tubes and get whipped around on the lake. And if you do heed my advice, motor on by the Bagnell Dam. It’s kind of ugly, but it is the creator of the Lake itself.
- Take some shots at party cove. I’ve never actually done this, as each time I have gone it’s been “family vacation”, so if you go you’ll have to let me know if it lives up to the hype.
- Explore one of the areas caves: Bridal Cave and Jacob’s Cavern are just two of the areas finest features.
- Relive your childhood at Miner Mike’s. It’s old, it’s outdated, and it is a necessary staple if it rains or if you have children.
(This guy below is waiting to haunt Jason Bateman’s dreams.)
As most St. Louis folk already know: if you are looking for a quick and familiar getaway from the city, then head to the Lake. Rent a boat, relax by the pool, and enjoy some mid-Missouri diner food or pretend authentic Italian pizza.
I hope I was able to curb any worries that one will get intercepted by the Mexican drug cartel if they visit, or that they’ll get swallowed whole by an over-used blue filter. The most you’ll have to worry about is not being able to sleep at night because some drunk frat boys are playing beer pong in the condo next to yours.
Oh and if you see Jason Bateman tell him I say hi.
Getting there: My mom drove. As far as my research goes, there is no better way to get to the Lake of the Ozarks than to drive. Amtrak does not pass through and a cab will likely set you back $200+ if coming from St. Louis.
Staying there: My family has consistently stayed in the Southwood Shores Condos – booked through VRBO. Though I know there are an abundance of other wonderful condos and Airbnb’s around.
Wearing there: I found my green fauna one-piece swimsuit on Amazon, and I adore it!
Shooting there: Images are all captured with either my Nikon D750 with a 35mm lens, or were shot on my iPhone 6. Check out these neat lenses I bought for the occasion, including a fun fish eye!
Etc., etc.: Purchase an underwater camera to grab some submerged shots!
Note: Nothing in this blog post was sponsored and all thoughts are my own. Post may contain affiliate links.