Oct 03 2008

TV Tropes Presents: Big Applesauce!

Published by at 12:54 pm under Setting,The Empire State of Mind

TV Tropes notes the cliche that stories with real-world settings tend to be in New York City. In comic books, that’s overwhelmingly true. (And Gotham/Metropolis aren’t fooling anyone… at the time DC Comics first used those, they were nicknames for New York City). There are a few reasons for this cliched setting.

First, New York has one of the nation’s most prominent skylines and buildings– except for Chicago and Washington, it’s not even close. Second, if you have to set a story in any real-world setting, you’d probably like one that your readers are familiar with. New York plays very prominently in the media. Third– and most importantly, I think– people tend to write what they know, and many writers come from New York. For example, Marvel and DC Comics are both in New York.

TV Tropes seems to miss a relevant trend, though. The weirder a story is, the more likely it is to bend over backwards to use New York City. For example, let’s consider just the extremely narrow niche of “talking reptiles.”

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. First, I’m sort of stumped as to what appeal New York City would have for mostly naked coldbloods. Brr. Second, New York also ties into the history of the TMNT world in really contrived ways. Let’s see, if you had an ancient prophecy about stone statues, it’s a good thing all the statues are all in New York!
  • Jake Long, American Dragon. Again we have a completely-naked coldblood that can’t allow himself to be seen by humans. The show tries to justify this on the basis that he has to defend magical creatures (who all live in New York City, apparently). But why would they prefer New York?
  • Legendz. Legendz is like a combination of Pokemon and TMNT set in New York for no good reason except that it allows the series to end with the obligatory fight scene on the Statue of Liberty. Does the Statue of Liberty have some sort of waiting list where you can schedule a fight, or is it a first-come, first-served kind of thing?
  • Mario’s Bowser got started in Brooklyn.
  • Marvel Comic’s Lizard. He wears a lab-coat. Brr.
  • DC Comic’s Komodo is from Gotham. She wears even less.
  • “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story.” This was apparently a kiddy movie about talking dinosaurs. In New York!
  • Marvel’s Ned Ralston, an extremely minor mutant that is a dragon, makes a brief post-mortem cameo on M-Day. His corpse made for a cool visual, although one wonders why a dragon would have nipples.

Those buildings came outta nowhere!

  • Godzilla. He doesn’t talk in the movie, but some versions of the character have talked.
  • I’m not sure if gargoyles are reptiles (even though they have pterodactyl wings) — but they talk and Gargoyles is definitely set in NYC.

By my count, that’s eight definite cases of talking reptiles and a few possibles. Maybe that’s where the phrase “Zoo York City” comes from.

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