We don’t have much choice as to where we're born. Some people live out their teenage days beneath sunshine and blue skies, while others bide their time between holidays, surrounded by grey clouds and tube strikes. For the latter escapism becomes an attractive prospective and we often choose to live vicariously through the lives of the characters in our favourite films, placing ourselves in their geographical locations and imagining a better life for ourselves.
I grew up adoring the America I saw in films and TV shows. Not really "real" America, as I've never actually lived there so I don't know what it would be like, but on the whole fictional America seemed like a pretty awesome place to be. Here is my pick of the best neighbourhoods.
Wilmington, North Carolina
I don’t know much about Wilmington North Carolina – it always makes me think of that song ‘Oh Carolina’ by Shaggy. Then I get sidetracked and start wondering about how he makes his voice go so low, and whether it’s like that in real life, etc etc etc. Yeah, so that pretty much concludes my knowledge of Carolina. However for this piece I obviously had to do ‘research’ so it ‘made sense’ and wasn’t all about Shaggy, so I can tell you now that North Carolina is situated, ironically, in the south of the USA.
Wilmington is a pretty big city which sits on the Cape Fear River, which has to be one of the best rivers in the world, even though its name reminds me of those lame No Fear T-shirts people used to wear in the 90’s. The ones with slogans like ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space’.
The most important fact about Wilmington is that it’s where numerous incredible films were produced. So if I’d grown up here I probably would have disappeared into the sewers to find some mutant turtles and returned some weird rat/human hybrid, worked at a record store with Renee Zellweger and shaved my head, seen Brandon Lee get shot dead by accident and made friends with Bruce Lee at the funeral, found a human ear on my way home and dated Isabella Rosselini, and totally become best friends with a melodramatic Joshua Jackson and Katy Holmes only to realise James VanDerBeek was pretty cool too.
Now that would have been a childhood.
It doesn’t matter that this place is fictional, because if we’ve learnt anything from A-Ha videos, it’s that it is possible to be dragged into the TV and live your life in a story. So that’s fine. I can live in Shermer if I want. I can have red hair and still pull off wearing pink, I can have a best friend called Ducky with a huge quiff, tube socks and penchant for lip-synching to Otis Redding, I can create a dream woman using an Amstrad, I can stick it to the man even while confined in detention, I can even put a brick on the accelerator of my father’s Porsche and watch it crash through his floor to ceiling glass window. Or I could just be that girl on the bus with the neck brace and wild hair. Yeah, I’d probably be her.
The only probably with living somewhere fictional is that you’d be stuck having to relive different scenes over and over again, with no ability to change anything or make the story progress, and no chance to say anything other than what’s in the script. But I guess in many ways life is completely out of our control and we ARE nothing more than actors in our own films. So at least this way you’d know there was going to be a happy ending.
Sherman Oaks, California
Sherman Oaks is also home to Van Nuys High School. Kids who attend Van Nuys High are pretty amazing themselves – its real life alumni include Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford and that woman who fell in love with a cartoon cat, Paula Abdul.
However, it’s also the type of high school where students have evil cars that can completely alter the way their driver behaves, crushing multiple students to death, running down some bully called Buddy, and ultimately *SPOILER ALERT* fatally impaling its owner on a shard of glass (the film Christine. It’s amazing. You have to see it. It totally puts Herbie to shame).
You may also find yourself fighting vampires, since your school just happens to be located above the Hellmouth, or hanging out with Kid ‘n Play as they desperately try to teach each other how to impersonate a hip-hop mogul and a posh boy respectively. Or you might find yourself side by side with The Ramones as they’re made honorary students for no logical reason whatsoever. More importantly though, you'd get to make friends with Sean Penn's teenage pizza-obsessed surfing burnout self.
‘Grease’ was also filmed here. You remember ‘Grease’ right? Cool.
Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Living in Grosse Pointe in the 1980’s you would have spent most days listening to the Clash in your quiet suburban house, taking your girlfriend (in the shape of Minnie Driver) to the diner, then disappearing mysteriously on the night of Senior prom never to be seen again for ten years. I mean, that’s pretty exciting in itself. So if you returned home ten years later, a moody and mysterious trained killer with a quick wit and long black trenchcoat, you’d probably have a pretty exciting life already. But then imagine going back, you'd be the coolest graduate (and have the most emotional problems) that place had ever seen!
Or maybe I would have been a blonde like my other four sisters, trapped in our house by our controlling mother (Kathleen Turner) who never let us go to prom, and always dressed us in her version of the Von Trapp ‘I make clothes for my children from floral curtains’ look. And sadly we all know what happened to those sisters.
FACT: It’s not easy to grow up in Grosse Pointe.