by Jason Snell
‘The city where grown-ups live’
Elliott Kalan, head writer for “The Daily Show” and co-host of my favorite podcast, wrote a beautiful essay about how movie depictions of New York influenced his life:
Hidden among [“The Muppets Take Manhattan’s”] many scenes of dancing animal puppets was a truly inspiring vision of adult normalcy. Kermit, the Muppets’ frog vaudeville ringmaster, comes down with a case of cab-crash-induced amnesia and is handed the identity of Phil, a New York ad exec…. Kermit went from naked frog to independent adult, autonomous professional, self-supported citizen. That was the magic of New York. Even an amphibian could become a grown-up. I didn’t want to marry a pig and put on a show. I wanted a subway commute and a greasy spoon lunch hour. I wanted meetings around wooden tables. I wanted a desk with a phone on it. The return of Kermit’s memory was tragic. He lost all those amazing ordinary things New Yorkers get to do!
As someone who grew up in rural Northern California, in my mental landscape New York is the New York Public Library with its lion statues from the opening shot of “Ghostbusters,” the archway at Washington Square Park where Sally drops off Harry, the Forest Hills suburb where Peter Parker lives with his Aunt May. And I have to admit, every time I visit New York, there’s at least one time when I catch myself remembering a fond New York memory that only ever happened in the movies.