Ain't that American?
Where most Steven Spielberg
and David Lynch
films take place (though for different reasons).
Basically, if an American film or TV show doesn't take place in a famous big city, it will be set in some version of Everytown, America. Everytown, America is a usually fictional town or small city containing pastel suburbs, a single elementary/High School
(depending how old the main characters are) with the same name as the town, and a main street or town square of some kind. Everyone drives a Chevy
, wears blue jeans and has a fondness for apple pie. Most people will be friendly except for the Pointy-Haired Boss
, the Alpha Bitch
or the Jerk Jock
. Anyone worse than that will be an invader from some big city or The Government
. It is often a Close-Knit Community
Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here
(or at least it didn't until the aliens/vampires/witches/commies/weirdos showed up). The town's history, if discussed at all, will probably be very simple (usually it will have been named after whoever founded it — there might be a statue of him
) and everyone living there will be familiar with the story. The characters may become routinely involved in city affairs, which will usually consist of convincing the city council not to tear down some historic building or to clean up the local park so all the children can happily play there. The townfolk can cause it be a Quirky Town
For such an average place, Everytown seems to become a City of Adventure
surprisingly often, and occasionally masks a Town with a Dark Secret
. If featured in a TV series fond of Special Guests
, celebrities may visit the town a disproportionate number of times.
To be fair, there are
a lot of towns like this in the U.S.A., but it also taps into a very powerful vein of nostalgia about what kind of town many Americans wish
they lived in.
Together with Down on the Farm
, this is one of the main components of Flyover Country
, though that trope is usually more dismissive than idealized.
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Films — Live-Action
- Bedford Falls, New York in It's a Wonderful Life.
- The resort-island of Amity, New York in Jaws.
- Hill Valley, California in the Back to the Future films.
- The unnamed town featured in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
- Cuesta Verde, California in Poltergeist.
- Parodied, Justified, Lampshaded, then played with till it can't play no more in Pleasantville. Basically, the trope was a basketball, and Pleasantville was the Harlem Globetrotters.
- Parodied in the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, where the protagonists pass three identical small towns during their cross-country trip. Naturally, the characters lampshade this.
- The town in Edward Scissorhands is pretty much like this trope (Except for the out-of-place Gothic mansion on a hill in the centre, and the fact that some people are not as nice as they seem in the beginning).
- Bomont, Utah in Footloose.
- Carvel, in the Andy Hardy films of the 1930s and '40s.
- Edge City in The Mask.
- Fringe City in Son of the Mask.
- Haddonfield, Illinois, in Halloween.
- Grandview, USA in Grandview USA. Filmed in the middle of Illinois.
- Kingston Falls, heavily based on the above Bedford Falls, from Gremlins.
- Sherwood, Ohio in Heathers.
- Smalltown, USA, in The Muppets.
- Woodsboro, California in Scream.
- Stoneybrook in The Baby-Sitters Club.
- Similarly, Sweet Valley, California.
- In Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent, he goes off across America in search of the quintessential small town (an idea he most likely got from the famous Universal Studios backlot). He starts out thinking the best examples will be in the Midwest, but discovers they're mostly in New England and the Deep South.
- He eventually decides that he'll just have to start picking out his favorite bits of the towns he's passed through and create his own ideal Everytown, America, which he dubs Amalgam.
- Viciously parodied in William Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town with the town of Mariposa, which is inhabited mostly by blithering idiots who can't do anything right. Also transposed to Canada (because that's where Leacock was from), but still basically the same trope.
- Played with in 1632 by Eric Flint. Grantville is just like this - which means it is very different to Everytown, 17th Century Germany.
- [Undisclosed] in John Dies at the End, distinguished only by having a considerably higher than average population of the mentally ill.
- Mayberry, North Carolina of The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry, R.F.D. (and referenced in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.); stated to be 60 miles from Raleigh, NC.
- Mayfield of Leave It To Beaver.
- Cicely, Alaska of Northern Exposure.
- Rutherford, Ohio of 3rd Rock from the Sun.
- Westbridge, Massachusetts of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
- Subverted with Sunnydale, California in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The whole point of founding the town was for a cultist to create the Hellmouth.
- Wellsville of The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Also an example of Where the Hell Is Springfield?.
- One episode stated that it's in Michigan, if I recall correctly.
- Other episodes implied it was all over the map.
- Pawnee, Indiana of Parks and Recreation, creating an aversion of Down on the Farm at the same time.
- Stars Hollow, Connecticut of Gilmore Girls fame is definitely this, however, it's somewhat a subversion of the actual trope, in that IS perfectly normal.
- Haven, Maine is not to be found anywhere in Maine except in the series Haven (and a couple of Stephen King novels), but there is a North Haven in Maine.
- There's also Cabot Cove, Maine in Murder, She Wrote; and Crabapple Cove, Maine in Mash; and just when I was about to ask if everything is a cove in Maine, I remembered the very real and very pretty Christmas Cove, Maine.
- Warehouse 13 is located in an Unincorporated Unnamed Settlement, in South Dakota, known as Univille.
- Pickford in Phil of the Future.
- Lake Wobegon, Minnesota in A Prairie Home Companion, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.
- Unnamed home town of Fibber McGee and Molly, and the Great Gildersleeve. Both also did films and Fibber McGee and Molly did a TV series.
- And many many radio series were set in such a town: Lum And Abner (probably more rural than this trope); George Burns and Gracie Allen; Life of Riley; Father Knows Best; Our Miss Brooks; and many.
- Adventures in Odyssey: Originally envisioned as a one street town, Odyssey has grown rather large for a "small town" in the past twenty five years, but still maintains a quiet dignity about it.
- Angel's Roost, Washington in The Golden Apple. It lies in the shadow of Mount Olympus, but that's only significant as a Mythology Gag (though the state of Washington really does have a mountain named that).
- Bomont, Texas in the stage musical of Footloose.
- 13: Appleton, Indiana is 'The Lamest Place in the World,' at least according to Patrice.
- Onett, from EarthBound is the quintessential '80s Amer- er, Eaglandian town, replete with school, burger joint, arcade, City Hall and gang of street toughs. And a meteor, but we don't talk about the meteor. See also Twoson and Threed for variations on the theme, but Onett plays it to the hilt.
- Podunk, from Mother is a prototype of Onett.
- Secret of Evermore also starts in the town of Podunk. It's a popular name.
- Grand Theft Auto II takes place in Anywhere City. Unlike the cities in the first game, Anywhere City doesn't resemble any real city in particular.
- Springfield of The Simpsons.
- Elwood City of Arthur.
- Walkerville of The Magic School Bus.
- Radiator Springs in Cars.
- Played surprisingly straight in South Park. Only occasionally does anyone wonder why so much seems to happen in an otherwise anonymous Colorado town, and no explanation is ever given.
- Middleton, home of Kim Possible, besides appearing to be a hotbed of science labs and the odd Supervillain Lair. Part of a tri-city area including Lowerton and Upperton, and a case of Where the Hell Is Springfield?. Word of God says its somewhere in between California and Colorado given the mountains seen in the background.
- The show Hey Arnold! takes place in the fictional American city of Hillwood.
- The Fairly OddParents is set in Dimmsdale, California. An average American town filled with weirdness, in part because of Timmy Turner and his fairies.
- Subverted in Earthworm Jim. Terlawk, New Jersey has a crappy strip mall and a couple of old guys sitting on a porch predicting rain with their kneecaps, but every week they sit and not only watch the alien invasion, but explain that one or the other of them may have caused it. Also, they live next door to a giant earthworm in an alien power suit.
- Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, even after Rocky and Bullwinkle got famous.
- Peach Creek of Ed, Edd n Eddy. The craziness that ensues there is usually from the Eds' antics.
- Hazelnut of Pepper Ann.
- Quahog, Rhode Island of Family Guy.
- Langley Falls, Virginia, in American Dad!.
- Not really, since it's based on the real life Langley, Virginia, which is home to the CIA Headquarters and is even located inside the beltway.
- Arlen, Texas, from King of the Hill.
- Bluffington from Doug.
- Moralton, the capital of Statesota in Moral Orel which also happens to be in the exact center of the country.
- Main Street, U.S.A at the various Disney theme parks.
- A recurring motif in the art of Norman Rockwell.
- "Everyday America" by Sugarland has it right there in the title.