Created By: HersheleOstropolerSeptember 14, 2010 Last Edited By: hobbitguy1420August 22, 2011

Informed Locale

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Trope
Rolling Updates. Needs More Examples

If your story takes place in a specific, extant location, some local color is to be expected: the natives of the place should act like people who live there do; the ones who are visiting should react to the unfamiliarity.

But all that is complicated, particularly if it's a place you're not familiar with. Just start off with "It was a dark and stormy night in New York" and just like that, your tale is set in New York.

A type of Informed Attribute and a subtrope of They Just Didnt Care. Can result from California Doubling. Compare Hollywood Atlas, The Mountains Of Illinois; contrast No Communities Were Harmed. In extreme cases, can overlap with Creator Provincialism.

Examples:

  • A lot of sitcoms have a nominal setting they almost never actually show much (if any) of. Quick, where is Threes Company set? Santa Monica.
  • One book in the World Of Darkness game line, ostensibly set in New Orleans, mentions the city's subway system. Which it neither does nor feasibly can have.
  • Seinfeld and to a lesser extent Friends are said to take place in New York, and indeed Manhattan[[hottip:*:Cars are more useful in the outerboroughs, and the subway doesn't even go to Staten Island]], but frequently depict characters driving, and almost never show them riding the subway.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • July 28, 2010
    randomsurfer
    The suburb I live in (which I decline to mention right now) has been the nominal locale for three sitcoms that I know of, none of which bore any relation to this community. It was also the setting for a Cold Open on Supernatural which showed a view of the major city it's a suburb of that is absolutely impossible to see from here.

    Would this cover misplaced radio/TV station call signs? Here's a hottip with 99% accuracy: US radio & TV stations east of the Mississippi River start with W (like WKRP In Cincinnati) and stations west of the Mississippi start with K. (There are a few which break this naming rule due to being grandfathered in, having been named before that rule was put in effect in the 1930s.) But virtually all shows set anywhere (except maybe New York City) which mention TV or radio call signs will give them K signs because Most Writers Live In LA.

    [Edited to take an extra "ssi" out of the second Mississippi. I wonder why I did that??]
  • July 28, 2010
    JakesBrain
    Very little about the state of Arizona as depicted in Raising Arizona is an accurate reflection of the state or its people, then (at the time of its release) or now. For one thing, only about five percent of the people who live here talk like the characters in that movie... Really, they could have said it was Texas and how much difference would it have made?
  • July 28, 2010
    randomsurfer
  • July 30, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    But Raising Texas would have sounded like a movie about Jewish Government Finance.
  • July 30, 2010
    HersheleOstropoler
    I'm not seeing a whole lot of examples for this, should I wait a bit or just kill it?

    'Sa shame, I really thought there was something there.
  • July 30, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    Give it a little more time. It's a trope that takes a bit of perceptiveness to pick up on.
  • July 30, 2010
    the grene kni3t
    I think this is an interesting idea for a trope page, although I can't think of any examples right now.

    The inversion mentioned would also be a good trope, if we don't already have it.
    • Hey Arnold!, if I remember correctly, never mentions the name of the setting, but pretty obviously takes place in a close analogue to New York City.
  • July 30, 2010
    RossN
    The Jackie Chan film The Medallion is nearly all set in Ireland and was clearly filmed in Dublin but contains no Irish characters at all. Even the Interpol office where three of the supporting staff work is entirely staffed by English agents.
  • July 30, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Include The Mountains Of Illinois in your "compare to" sentence.
  • September 13, 2010
    Madrugada
    Laverne and Shirley was set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but aside from occasional references to the brewery they worked at I don't recall much that would have kept it from being set in any other medium-to-largish Midwestern city.

    The same went for The Mary Tyler Moore show. There was nothing noticeably Minneapolis about it.

    Both of them should at least have had distinctly cold and snowy winters, with a blizzard or two for good measure.
  • March 5, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Father Dowling Mysteries was set in Chicago, Illinois. In fact, almost all the outdoor scenes were filmed in Denver, Colorado. (By choosing camera angles carefully, Denver can resemble Chicago.)
  • March 5, 2011
    Puck
    Pretty much every Shakespearean setting is an Informed Locale, since Shakespeare's company rarely used props or scenery to establish setting. Usually, a character will state the setting in a line of dialogue early in the play ("This is Illyria, lady," in Twelfth Night) or following a change of scene ("Well, this is the forest of Arden," in As You Like It).
  • March 5, 2011
    Bailey
    Full House is set in San Francisco. We know this because the opening sequence is chock full of San Francisco landmarks. The rest of the show makes no reference to any of the city's famous locations or (counter)culture.
  • March 15, 2011
    SilentReverence
    Worthy weekly bump?
  • March 15, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I like this one. Fringe frequently does this, being a show filmed first in NY then Vancouver, which takes place in Boston. We NEVER hear Bostonian accents. And when the location shifts to cities other than Boston, it is ALWAYS an informed locale.

    Being a native Philadelphian, my personal favorite instance is the episode "Fractured." A scene is set in 30th Street Station. It looks nothing like 30th Street Station. And then, to add insult to injury, a character describes the station's purported high-tech surveillance/security equipment. This troper laughed for days.
  • March 15, 2011
    Reflextion
    While the Dresden Files novels take place in Chicago, the early ones were egregiously inaccurate as far as geography goes (the most popular mistake being putting parking lots outside of Wrigley Field). Later on, after author Jim Butcher actually visited Chicago, he's improved as far as accuracy.
  • March 15, 2011
    TreeofStars
    I may have to agree with "Did Not Do The Research" or "Just Don't Care," but I have another sub-trope that this encompasses which might be "Built on Misconceptions" (not actual trope). Perhaps yours could be the umbrella that encompasses all of these tropes with an emphasis on setting continuity?

    The first idea that comes to mind for this is "The Great Iowa Desert," and "Everyone in Iowa farms." In the case of Iowa (and other places too most likely), it's "Your Cannon is Confusing the Tourists" (note: also not actual trope). Many, many misconceptions about Iowa have been portrayed in movies and the like. The only one that got it right was Field of Dreams (and Twister, which in a reverse was filmed in Iowa but supposedly in Oklahoma).

    Examples: the newest Star Trek's parts set in Riverside, Iowa. When young Kirk is driving around on his motorcycle, we see: 1. A scrub desert (there's no desert in Iowa) 2. Completely flat (only one part of Iowa is flat, not the part by Riverside, and none of it is as flat is in those scenes) 3. A large, large canyon. (There are no canyons like that in the US outside of the Southwest.) 4. No river (unless it was off-screen in the canyon)

    In Shatner's one-season reality show set in Riverside (Sorry, I can't remember the name right now), the makers of the show had the main character, a farmer, buy and dress in overalls for the duration of the show to fit the image needed for the show; he had never actually owned a pair before that. So, they're inaccuracies built into the plot for the sake of making it seem more real to the viewer, in this case. ("What You Think It's Like is What You Get" or a "Make it Real" phenomenon, it could be called.)

    In the upcoming movie Cedar Rapids: despite being in Cedar Rapids, and about an insurance conference, it appears to have no hints of the world outside the conference center at all (and was not filmed at its namesake).

    This, and what you're talking about, may carry over to characters as well. Oftentimes in movies or shows, a type of character that appears from somewhere else is given a stereotypical character trait which they carry because people believe it's true (or it makes people believe it's true). It's creating a setting from afar---inaccurately, as you describe. I don't know if that's already a trope, but examples of this character-made setting-inaccuracy are

    1. Minnesotans saying "Eh?" Only people from one region say this, and very few Canadians do. Some people in South Dakota do, actually. 2. Token Iowans farming or caring about farming (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (remake), in which the main character has just come back from talking dirty dealings and, in the men's room, meets the young "Iowa Representative" who's gun-ho about the new Farm Bill) 3. All people from the American South having drawls or being into Southern Charm. 4. Everyone from Illinois is from Chicago (minus the Simpsons). 5. Anime: The Osaka/Kansai accent

    Just some ideas off the bat. I like your trope, hope you can fit it in somewhere, even if it's a sub-trope. (Maybe call it "Just Didn't Care About Your Town" or "Your Town is What I Say It Is"?...there's probably some "it shall be" trope like that though?)
  • March 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Adding to the Friends example in the OP:
    • Joey is a regular for a while on Days Of Our Lives, which is not one of the soaps which film in New York, it's filmed in LA. But in the FriendsVerse it's filmed in New York.
  • June 21, 2011
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • June 21, 2011
    jaytee
    There's a trope for places like Springfield in The Simpsons, right? That should at least be a "related to."
  • June 21, 2011
    bluepenguin
  • June 22, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Toronto, Ontario Canada is used a lot as a stand-in for New York and occasionally, Chicago.
  • August 22, 2011
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?

  • August 22, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Everytown America is also related, though in that case, there is no distinct city named or intended.

    I like this too, it fills in a gap bewteen Everytown America and actual places used settings.

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