Created By: Lawman592June 23, 2012 Last Edited By: Lawman592June 30, 2012
Troped

The Big Rotten Apple

New York is Hell on Earth.

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Do We Have This One? Rolling Updates.

Go ahead, bite the Big Apple. Don't mind the maggots.
--Shattered, The Rolling Stones.

Basically, City Noir + Big Applesauce = The Big Rotten Apple. New York City is depicted as a dysfunctional, crime-plagued, vermin-infested, smog-choked, polluted, grimy, sleazy, seedy, corrupt, racially-divided, poverty-ridden, financially-bankrupt Wretched Hive filled with Apathetic Citizens, hostile Jerkasses, violent psychotics, drug addicts, deviants, a crumbling infrastructure, and not enough parking spots. The Big Rotten Apple trope can come into play in any story set during the city's existence but you'll most often see it in stories set in New York in the years before Rudy Giuliani became mayor--roughly the period lasting from the early 1960s to the early 1990s.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In Daredevil, the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York has this element.
  • The Punisher: The change in the city since the 70s and 80s is acknowledged at one point during the "Welcome Back, Frank" story arc when Frank, during an inner monologue, laments a bit about the fact that the city's cleaned up quite a bit.
  • Gotham City is an expy of the darker side of NYC in the Batman franchise. ("Gotham" has been a well-known nickname for New York City long before Batman even came about, and artist Frank Miller has referred to Gotham City as "New York City after dark.")
  • Watchmen (in Rorschach's opinion)

Film
All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.
  • The Warriors portrays New York as having an entire alternate society of warring tribes (which includes the police) that only come out at night.
  • Fort Apache The Bronx
  • After Hours
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Quick Change
  • Trope is Played For Laughs in Last Action Hero where, after two people are shot dead in the middle of a street in full view of numerous bystanders, one of the shooters shouts to the rooftops that he did it and wants to confess only to be met with apathy by the crowd and one person yelling at him to shut up.
  • Summer Of Sam
  • This trope can also be seen in films that take place during the 19th century that show the gritty side of 'Gilded Age' New York:
    • Gangs Of New York mostly takes place in the historic Five Points slum, which is filthy, violent and crime-plagued, ruled over by rival gangs and a corrupt police force. And then the Civil War Draft Riots break out and the area gets destroyed by cannon fire (which really happened).
    • An American Tail has a New York ruled over by cat gangs (representing racial persecution in historic New York at the time) extorting immigrant mice with a protection racket. The sequel accentuates New York's negative characteristics to force the Mousekewitz family to move out west.
  • Movies set in a future New York that take the hellishness depicted in this trope and multiply it exponentially include:

Literature

Live Action Television
  • All In The Family
  • Barney Miller
  • Late Night with David Letterman and Late Show: Before 9/11, the opening would have the announcer make some disparaging crack at about the city ("From New York, where the subway cars smell like urine, it's The Late Show with David Letterman!"). Post-9/11, every episode begins, "From New York, the Greatest City in the World...."

Magazines
  • Mad Magazine in the seventies and eighties liked to make use of this.

Music
  • Billy Joel's song Miami 2017 takes it to its logical conclusion...
    They said that Queens could stay
    They blew the Bronx away
  • Shattered by The Rolling Stones (quoted at the top).
  • Walk on the Wild Side and Dirty Boulevard by Lou Reed.
  • New York's Not My Home by Jim Croce describes New York as a wretched, depressing place.
  • The Message by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five.

Print Media

Theater
  • Both the theatrical and film versions of Jules Feiffer's pitch-black satire, Little Murders, feature an over-the-top depiction of New York as a decaying urban hell-hole beset by continual garbage strikes, electrical outages, and numerous unsolved random murders.

Web Original
  • The Nostalgia Chick seems to agree that NYC is rotten but loves the city anyway, as movies that depict it as clean always draw her ire, and the insults in "Fairytale Of New York" make her nostalgic. (She was in LA at that point.)

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: In "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" episode, Homer tells about a previous visit to New York during the 70s when this trope was in full force.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • June 23, 2012
    surgoshan
    Comics
    • Watchmen, at least Rorschach thinks so.
  • June 23, 2012
    chicagomel
    There's a future variant of this in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer spinoff comic Fray, where it's now called "Haddyn". There is a wealthy area of the city,known as the 'Uppers', but apart from the super-rich, most of the city is just like in the description.
  • June 23, 2012
    Omeganian
    Place Worse Than Death already has a New York section.
  • June 23, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The Simpsons: Seen that way from Homer's eyes in "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson".
  • June 23, 2012
    Surenity
    Works that take place in the 1800's usually show the gritty side of 'Gilded Age' New York:

    • Gangs Of New York mostly takes place in the historic Five Points slum, which is filthy, violent and crime-plagued, ruled over by rival gangs and a corrupt police force. And then the Civil War Draft Riots break out and the area gets destroyed by cannon fire (which really happened).

    • An American Tail has a New York ruled over by cat gangs (representing racial persecution in historic New York at the time) extorting immigrant mice with a protection racket. The sequel accentuates New York's negative characteristics to force the Mousekewitz family to move out west.
  • June 24, 2012
    ShiningArmor87
  • June 24, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Also, the years that Prohibition and the Great Depression coincided were not New York's finest.
  • June 24, 2012
    RedneckRocker
    At one point during the "Welcome Back, Frank" story arc of The Punisher, Frank's inner monologue laments a bit about the fact that the city's cleaned up quite a bit. I forget the exact wording, though.
  • June 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Pre-9/11 Late Night with David Letterman and Late Show would have the announcer make some disparaging crack in the opening. "From New York, where the subway cars smell like urine, it's The Late Show with David Letterman!" Post-9/11 every episode has "From New York, the Greatest City in the World...."
  • June 24, 2012
    emeriin
    The Nostalgia Chick seems to think so but loves the city anyway, as movies that depict it as clean always draw her ire, and the insults in "Fairytale Of New York" make her nostalgic. (She was in LA at that point.)
  • June 24, 2012
    nathandoe2016
    take out the sauce how about the rotten apple?
  • June 24, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^"Sauce" is there because the title is related to Big Applesauce. However, I'm not bound to the title. I'm considering New York Is Hell but that probably works better as a laconic description.
  • June 24, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Film: The Warriors portrays New York as having an entire alternate society of warring tribes (which includes the police) that only comes out at night.

  • June 24, 2012
    chicagomel
    Jake woke up in a Crapsack World version of New York in Animorphs The Familiar. All of humanity was enslaved by the Yeerks and the only free humans were the underground group of rebels.
  • June 25, 2012
    elwoz
    Mad Magazine in the seventies and eighties liked to make use of this.

    Billy Joel's song "Miami 2017" takes it to its logical conclusion...
    They said that Queens could stay
    They blew the Bronx away
    And sank Manhattan out at sea
  • June 25, 2012
    NimmerStill
    On record as saying the name's fine, and there's enough examples now. Don't know if we have it though.
  • June 25, 2012
    MidnightRambler
    Just call it "Big Rotten Apple".

    Music example: The Jim Croce song "New York's Not My Home" describes New York as a wretched, depressing place.
  • June 25, 2012
    Tzintzuntzan
    Question: is this distinct enough from all the other city-specific versions of City Noir out there? For instance, the Rotten Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Phillip K Dick.

    Unless we want to create specific tropes for each rotten city, which may be possible.
  • June 25, 2012
    JonnyB
    A new BBC America series called Copper is set in the same time and place as the film, Gangs Of New York, so it will deal with the same rotten apple.
  • June 25, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^Nothing wrong with "Rotten Applesauce" as long as Big Applesauce exists.

    ^^Just like the existence of Big Applesauce, there can be tropes for particular rotten cities that recur in the media.
  • June 26, 2012
    Arivne
    The problem with Rotten Applesauce is that you have to already know about the trope Big Applesauce (a reference to The Big Apple, AKA New York City) to understand that it's about New York City.

    That makes Rotten Applesauce a Bad Snowclone. According to that page:

    "If your trope title completely relies on the idea that "surely, everyone read that other page- I just have to make a pun with it", you should scrap it in favor of something clearer. Always assume that yours will be the first page on the Wiki that someone reads."

    Rotten Big Apple would work (I know Midnight Rambler already suggested Big Rotten Apple above, but the "Big" and the "Apple" need to be together so the reader picks up on the "Big Apple" part).
  • June 26, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^What ever happened to precedent? A good thousand tropes are based on the same snowclone principle. If we prevent this one, we have to redo thousands of others too.

    Having to know about other tropes is a good thing. It encourages the reader to get more involved in the site. Besdies, there'd be a reference right in the description, maybe even the laconic. It's not that hard.
  • June 26, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^ On the subject of the laconic description, would New York Is Hell be a better title or is it too on the nose?
  • June 26, 2012
    lu127
    Everythings Worse With Snowclones. Precedent or not, tropes with snowclone names are discouraged, and many snowclones are getting renamed.
  • June 26, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Says that page by fiat. Doesn't make it true. Snowclones are basically what makes this site what it is. And if it's true that they're renaming many, then they have a long way to go, during which time many new tropers like myself are going to get attached to the old format. Until things like Aerith And Bob are renamed, I'm not holding my breath.
  • June 26, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^The laconic should probably be a little more descriptive than that. Something like "New York is a dirty, crime-ridden slum."
  • June 26, 2012
    Tzintzuntzan
    So to Nimmer Still, the question is: what makes the fictional rotten New York distinct from other fictional rotten cities? Are there any particular things that turn up in rotten New York but not in rotten Chicago, rotten Miami, etc. other than the names of the streets and landmarks? (It's possible the answer is "there is no difference," but I'm hoping there's something specific to make the trope spicier.)
  • June 26, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Not exactly sure, but New York's size, and its being contained on an island, can lead to a more densely packed squalor from which there is no easy escape.
  • June 26, 2012
    chicagomel
    Oh, I know another one for film, Soylent Green.
  • June 26, 2012
    cjapplesauce
    Made fun of in the beginning of Mostly Harmless, which proceeds to outline all the ways in which New York is a terrible place to live if you care about your quality of life.
  • June 27, 2012
    Jhimmibhob
    The movies After Hours and Quick Change are two classic (and pitch-black) comedic examples.
  • June 27, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^ Good picks. I'll add them to the film examples.
  • June 28, 2012
    Lawman592
    Any other suggestions for a title? There seems to be a consensus that Rotten Applesauce doesn't meet the new naming standards for this site.
  • June 28, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
  • June 28, 2012
    JonnyB
    Gotham City is an expy of the darker side of NYC in the Batman franchise. ("Gotham" has been a well-known nickname for New York City long before Batman even came about, and artist Frank Miller has referred to Gotham City as "New York City after dark.")
  • June 29, 2012
    robinjohnson
    I vote for The Big Rotten Apple. It sounds more natural than "rotten big apple", and the "The" makes it recognisable as a play on "The Big Apple".
  • June 29, 2012
    Chabal2
  • June 29, 2012
    Lawman592
    I'll try The Big Rotten Apple as a title and see what the response is.
  • June 29, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Support.
  • June 29, 2012
    AP
    • In Daredevil, the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York has this element.

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