So, Gentle Readers. You have probably been wondering what about the great fictional cities in the American cultural consciousness?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not altogether sure what you mean by it, but I think you have to count Gotham City and Metropolis at the top of the list. When you think about the number of people who have read or watched stories that take place in those cities, and the number of people that have written stories that take place in those cities, I don’t think there’s any question about their place in our culture. I suppose you could add the Emerald City, maybe, although it seems like a distant third. What am I missing? Orbit City?
Anyway, what strikes me about Metropolis and Gotham City is how little I know about them as places. I mean, they are both New York City, of course, and they both have harbors, and so are on the sea. But does Metropolis have a river that runs through or alongside the city, and if it does, is it going North-South or East-West? Is Gotham City’s infamous high-crime inner-city neighborhood north of Town Hall, or is that the stretch of mansions that holds Stately Wayne Manor? Where’s the University? How far out do the suburbs go?
Now, I don’t read the Batman or Superman or Justice League comics; my familiarity is mostly through movies and television. Well, and I have read some of the comics, sure, over time, but I’ve never been a consistent reader. So it may just be that Gotham City and Metropolis do have consistent landmarks, and I just don’t know about them. Or it could be that part of the American Cultural Consciousness is that Gotham and Metropolis are constantly remaking themselves, the bridges and towers of yesterday’s Gotham disappearing into the blank we call history. Certainly, part of the fun of the first few Batman movies of the nineties was the way that Gotham was an entirely different city each time around. And yet, I wonder.
Can you think of half-a-dozen landmarks in Metropolis or Gotham City, and have some sense of their relationship to each other in the imaginary geography? Is that just true of fictional cities in general? I think I have more of a sense of the map of Springfield, for instance, but that may be my misimpression, or perhaps the result of my having watched a higher percentage of Simpsons episodes than Batman books.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,