New York City and Pop Culture

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New York City’s Popular Culture

There are many reasons as to why New York City has been referred to as, “The Capital of the World”. It has been known for its Broadway performances, iconic sports teams, popularity in the film industry, and creation of Madison Avenue. For decades, New York City has been central in defining and propagating American popular culture.

Before New York City was famous for its musical performances, Broadway was just a street. It wasn’t until the 20th century that Broadway became known for its theatrical shows. Since then, thousands of performances have accumulated over the years. The Broadway Theatre is made up of 40 professional theaters which are located in the Theatre District in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Many Broadway shows have continued their memorable performances such as The Phantom of the Opera (1988), Chicago (1996), and The Lion King (1997), while others have left their mark in history and no longer play. Most Broadway shows are commercial productions that are intended to make profit for their investors and producers. Shows that don’t make enough profit, or don’t make nearly as much as they once did, are closed from Broadway. In like manner, the longest running musical to date is The Phantom of the Opera (1988), with over 11,000 performances at the Majestic Theatre (“Broadway Theatre”). As of last year, The Phantom of the Opera (1988) had made almost $1 billion after three decades of performing (Sheward). Similarly, the highest grossing show on Broadway is The Lion King (1997), which made over $1 billion dollars since its release date on November 13, 1997, and $6.2 billion worldwide, making it the most profitable musical ever (Sheward). Musicals that are successful on Broadway are able to go on tour and perform throughout the country. This allows Broadway to not only propagate itself all over America, but even the world. Broadway gives international performances in countries such as Germany, Japan, and New Zealand. Popular musicals that are performed internationally are The Lion King (1997), The Phantom of the Opera (1988), Aladdin (2014), Rocky, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. If fans can’t make the expensive trip to New York City to experience the infamous Broadway performances, the musicals are able to come to them. This way, Broadway can still leave it’s mark on the world and isn’t restricted to New York City.

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New York City has a variety of professional sports teams that have drawn in millions of fans. One of these iconic teams are the New York Yankees. The Yankees are one of the most successful sports teams in the world and have won 18 division titles, 40 AL pennants, and 27 World Series Championships. It's safe to say that the New York Yankees are iconic in American major league baseball. The Yankees have gained an enormous and dedicated fan base over the years. The teams popularity began in the 1920's, and has escalated since, drawing over three million fans each year, with a league record-setting of 4,090,969 in 2005 ("New York Yankees"). The Yankee stadium itself is a historic landmark and the enormous building attracts millions. The stadium is located in the Bronx of New York City and has been praised for its amenities. Built in 1923 and remodeled in 2009, the Yankee stadium is made up of Indiana limestone, granite, and concrete, giving it a historic feel. The interior is just as appealing as the exterior. Hundreds of Yankee photographs cover the walls and capture notable moments in the Yankees history. One can find the infamous George Herman, commonly known as "Babe Ruth", in these photographs. The pitcher-turned-outfielder was one of the most talented professional baseball players in history and the reason for many of the Yankees early success, making approximately 714 home runs. Babe Ruth is a symbolic representation of the Yankees success and history. The Yankees, along with many other popular sports teams, have their own clothing brands and tourist items, which propagates their success. New York City is also home to other notable sports teams such as the New York Mets: another popular baseball team, and New York Giants: a professional NFL football team. America has always been known for its obsession over sports and New York City attracts those who feign for that experience.

New York City has been the set location and backdrop for many films, as well as the home and birthplace of many well-known film stars such as Adam Sandler, Robert Downey Jr., and Robert De Niro. Famous directors who grew up in New York City, such as Woody Allen and Spike Lee, created films like Manhattan (1979) and 25th Hour (2002), inspired by their home town (“History of New York State/New York State in American Popular Culture”). Since New York City is so enormous, it has many versatile aspects. The city holds the imagination of many because of its energetic atmosphere and consistent change. When filming in New York, the city presents itself a variety of different atmospheres. Deserted streets at night can be interpreted as violent and dangerous, whereas during the day they are seen as metropolis. An example of this can be seen between two very different films. The film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), starring Audrey Hepburn, follows a café society girl and her obsession with Tiffany’s in New York City. The director of the classic film, Blake Edward, stated, “because in that era-before-franchises, Tiffany’s was to New York as New York was to Tiffany’s.” (History of New York State/New York State in American Popular Culture). In contrast, the film I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith, follows the last man in earth, his dog, and zombie-like beings in New York City. The post-apocalyptic feel in I Am Legend (2007) and the metropolis setting in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) shows how limitless New York City can be for the film industry. It’s a place that can be used to make any movie or television genre. The city is also very recognizable to those who are comic book fans. New York City has been the setting and inspiration for popular superhero comics such as Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and Batman. Inspired by Batman, “Gotham” has become a popular nickname for New York City. Not to mention that the American comic book was invented in New York City in the 1930s, making it the birthplace of the comic book culture (“Culture of New York City”). Equally important, New York City has many iconic architectural structures, such as Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and World Trade Center, many of which have been shot in a variety of well-known films. Sadly, the infamous Twin Towers no longer stand where they once were, but are still very much alive in films such as Ghost Busters (1984), Independence Day (1996), and Manhattan (1979). Because of New York City’s huge popularity in the film industry, people around the world are very familiar with the city, whether they have been there or not.

New York City is iconic for advertisement, especially when referring to the term “Madison Avenue”. Today, Madison Avenue only harbors a few advertising agencies that are still established in the old business cluster, such as TBWA Worldwide, StrawberryFrog, and Doyle Dane Bernbach. It’s now merely a symbol of the agencies and methodology of advertising. However, when New York City experienced a rising growth in population in the 1920’s, Madison Avenue boomed with advertising agencies. For decades, advertisers on Madison Avenue created advertisements for television, comic books, newspapers, buildings, billboards, packaging, and radio stations, to name a few. In the 1940's and 50's, African Americans began working in the advertising agencies, particularly in the "special market" divisions. By the 1960's, some of these agencies were ran by Latinos and African Americans, whos pioneer advisors changed the view of advertising by presenting positive representations of ethnic consumers ("Madison Avenue, 1940's-1960's"). Around this time, ad agencies and broadcasters battled over advertising time on television and radio. Ads eventually evolved with the civil rights movement and the creative revolution, embracing consumerism, underrepresented consumers, and market research ("Madison Avenue, 1940's-1960's"). Teams of copywriters and artists worked together to create ads that would catch the eyes of the public. Their success was measured by their creativity and power to sell. The iconic avenue has also inspired the popular AMC television series, Mad Men, which follows the lives of those who work for the advertising agencies on Madison Avenue during the 1960’s. According to pop culture expert Natasha Simons, “Mad Men depicts a group of men who have great influence over what they consider their particular citizenry—consumers—and their particular emperor—consumerism. (301)”. The show also brings its audience the expose of sexual harassment and racism in the workplace, which was very common in the 1960’s.

In brief, New York City has been a huge influence in American popular culture and has without a doubt made a world-wide brand for itself. Because of it’s enormous size, the city offers limitless possibilities that are utilized by the film industry, advertising agencies, Broadway Theatre, and professional sports teams. Where ever one might go, whether it’s Japan, California, or Canada, New York City can be found anywhere, whether it’s on a T-shirt, poster, or Broadway performance, the world loves The Big Apple. It’s the city that anyone, anywhere, can recognize. It’s the city that is known as “The Capital of the World”.

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