Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Indiana is the In-Thing...I'm Serious!

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but many TV shows and movies are taking place in or having characters from Ohio and Indiana recently.  What is the appeal of Indiana, then, to creators?

Perhaps the most notable example is Parks and Recreation, which takes place in a small city/large town of the great Hoosier state. And, being from Indiana, I can tell you, it's the most accurate example of Indiana. Believe me, Muncie is the WORST. Somehow the jokes about Jerry and his wife having a timeshare in Muncie are even better when you lived in Muncie for 4 years, going to college at Ball State. There's even a course at Ball State on how to troll Muncie. I'm positive there is a writer on staff that went there because they know way too much about how Indiana really is, raccoon infestation and all. The celebrity reality show Armed & Famous filmed there, after all. Parks and Rec brings to light that small town atmosphere, both good and bad. And, yeah, a trip to Indianapolis is a big thing! We're a state of a whole lot of nothing, so we have to travel a bit for some big city entertainment. I still call "The City" Cincinnati because I live closer to it than Indianapolis. It was where we had to go for our shopping needs. And believe me, small-town rivalries between both families and neighboring towns are entirely true. These characters on Parks and Rec are relatable on a whole different level than most comedies, partly due to their setting. I have a feeling that Leslie Knope would be completely different had it been set in California. She wouldn't have her small-town mannerisms and the love of community we often have. I'm sure there would also be different matters to take up in the government, rather than building a quality (decently terrible to others) park out of an abandoned lot used for a landfill by locals.

Yeah, that's our quarter!
What Parks and Rec also hit on was our love of sports, specifically basketball. There is literally nothing else to do, so when they referenced Hoosiers, it was very accurate. That's essentially the only thing people know us for, other than corn, President Lincoln, Michael Jackson, the Colts, the Pacers, and the Indy 500. So, yeah, all we have is sports, so no wonder Milan was good! The 90s teen show Hang Time, which I soooo loved, also featured a cast that revolved around basketball in Indiana. SURPRISE! The football movie Rudy also took place and was filmed in Indiana, with it being about a Notre Dame football team and all. Do people forget Notre Dame is in Indiana? I do! Much of A League of Their Own was filmed and takes place in Indiana. Baseball is a thing we like too, I guess. And we even find films in hyrdoplane racing because the 2005 film Madison is about a character trying to win the 1971 hydroplane race in Madison, IN.  Nothing is more inspiring than a dumpy sports team from a clunk midwestern town rising to the top and winning.

The Middle also takes place in fictional Orson, Indiana, where we get that midwestern everyday familial element. I don't really care of this series, but I can see why people like it. The family deals with everyday problems with economical issues, raising kids, teenage drama, and neighbors. I love that Mike, the husband and father, manages a stone quarry. Indiana was once famous for producing large quantities of beautiful rocks and minerals, specifically Indiana limestone, for masonry. The Pentagon and the Empire State Building, among other notable buildings, imported Indiana limestone for their construction. You'll find quarries all over the state. The South Central area, around Bloomington and Bedford sits on a large chunk of limestone, as it was the bottom of a prehistoric sea at one point. However, the top half of the state is rich in minerals and stones washed down from the north due to the glacial movements. The glaciers stopped around central Indiana, which creates quite a difference in traveling in the flat North and the hilly South. In 1979, the film Breaking Away featured the main character's father as someone who worked in the limestone quarries with pride, as it should be.

The Jeff Foxworthy Show epitomized the redneck value. "Lucky for us" it was set in Bloomington, Indiana. However, the show tanked due it being "too Southern." So it wasn't midwestern or general enough to appeal to a mass audience, I gather, despite Southern Indiana being very southern.

"Downtown" Madison captures the historical village image.
One common tool used for both comedy and drama is the clash of urban and rural. The Clampetts moved to Beverly Hills from rural Kentucky. Dr. Zoe Hart moves from hoppin' NYC to rural Bluebell, Alabama. It's a method used in countless films and TV shows, and it works because it sets up inner and outer turmoil. Recently, we've seen June on Apartment 23 and Rachael on 666 Park Avenue. Topher Grace's character in Valentine's Day is from Muncie. These characters bring the small-town values and work ethic to the big city, and it creates internal and external conflict for characters.

The small-town feeling is evoked through coming-of-age stories set in Indiana. It's perfect! The upcoming film Old Days is set and was filmed in and around Evansville, where a high school reunion is held. Now & Then took place in fictional Shelby, Indiana, where women reflect on their lives growing up together and how they grew apart.

There are other stellar movies that take place in Indiana. Kinsey explores the IU professor's sexual journey as he examines human sexuality and its fluidity. A History of Violence explores a character's past in the mob when it comes to haunt him in a small Indiana town. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter also takes place in Indiana during the first part of the film, as it should, since Lincoln spent his boyhood in southern Indiana. (PS-his boyhood home park is amazing.  I suggest it!  There's an outdoor theater!)

Downtown Indianapolis offers a variety of entertainment!
Then there was the children's program Eerie, Indiana, which certainly did not paint Indiana in a good light, considering it was full of creepy things. So good thing we had a break from all of that. Luckily, we had the movie Hoosiers to pick up the slack, you know because we love basketball.

In addition, you have Ohio being a prime spot with George Clooney's hometown Cincinnati being the setting of his political film The Ides of March, Hot in Cleveland, and the hilarious and canceled-too-soon Hamilton-set Sons & Daughters.

Hoosiers are relatable. They're people, everyday people. We don't live in L.A. or NYC or Chicago. We have a rich history (and proud about it), a go-get-'em attitude (but a laid back playtime quality), and a standard accent (in the central region, none of those Chicago accents) in the epitome of the Midwest. We have wonderful cities full of art and life. Indianapolis is actually the second largest city in the Midwest and 12th largest in the country. But we have everyday hardships, just like the rest of America, who doesn't know how to relate to rich people living in the upper east side of NYC or in Orange County or L.A. We don't have to shimmering glitzy lifestyles, which might be fine for escapism, but it's hard to relate to those characters. No matter where we go, we take our Hoosier personality with us. But the sad part is, clearly America doesn't want to relate to the Midwest; they want to see rich people pulling each other's hair out, flaunting their money, hanging with celebrities, creating melodrama, and being spoiled brats. All of our Indiana-based programs have low-to-mid-level Nielson ratings. 666 Park Avenue was one of the first shows of the fall to be cancelled. Yet, we produce people who rise above the standard, the smallest people that do great things.

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