For people who aren’t able to travel or just don’t want to, watching television is a way for them to see what it’s like in locations both simple and exotic. But how authentic are these depictions?
I wondered this while my brother-in-law’s parents were in town, visiting from Switzerland. This wasn’t their first trip to the U.S., but the things they wanted to do were typical of a tourist. One of the places they wanted to visit was Hollywood, where they could see the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, etc.
Hollywood on television seems glitzy, glamorous and exciting. In reality, it’s dirty, sketchy and kind of gross. I am honestly terrified of some of the people who dress up like characters and bully you into taking pictures with them – for a price. It was their vacation, though, and they wanted to see it, so my sister obliged. We did gently warn them beforehand that it wasn’t going to be quite what they expected.
Growing up, for our family vacations we always seemed to go to the same places. Because I’m from Southern California, a lot of the time we would go on short local getaways, to San Diego or Palm Springs or Santa Barbara. Beyond that, we’d go to the Toronto area every August to visit family and Sedona, Arizona in October to visit my great aunt and uncle. I knew what to expect because I’d been to those places a billion times.
I thought I knew what to expect when I went to New York City for the first time. It was 2004, I had just turned 20, and we were going to be there for a long weekend. I watched Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, all those shows, so I was going to be totally prepared for what I saw!
Not quite. Obviously I was aware that the landscape was filled with skyscrapers, but I wasn’t ready for how claustrophobic I felt walking down the streets, surrounded by these massive buildings. I didn’t know how weird I would feel on the subway, trapped underground in a dingy car hurtling through hundred-year-old tunnels. I also wasn’t ready for the extremely high prices for everything.
I didn’t really go to NYC expecting my visit to be like an episode of Seinfeld, but it did feel a lot different from what I had witnessed on television and in movies. Because television reaches so many people, these depictions can really alter how people look at things. I know that throngs of young women moved to the city with the hopes that they would be the next Carrie Bradshaw, which freaks me out because she’s a fictional character from a fictional show. What made them think that they could emulate such a fanciful life?
So tell me, who was shocked to find L.A. was nothing like Beverly Hills, 90210? Who went to Connecticut and thought Gilmore Girls portrayed the state accurately? I’m interested in hearing if your expectations came true or fell short.