The Edge’s Advent Calendar: Fairytale of New York, or, why all festive films are set in NYC


It sometimes seems like there’s only one city in the world.

Often it can feel like every TV show and film – or those produced in America, at least – are all set in good old New York, New York. On our small screens right now, we’ve got Kimmy Schmidt, Matt Murdock, Harvey Spectre and Joan Watson all living in commutable distance from one another, just to name a few. Films are perhaps even worse for this, romantic comedies being the greatest perpetrators; no other city has ever been the location for as many meet cutes.

There is of course a reason for this. It’s because it’s New York. It’s special. Not to play into the trap these films spin themselves – while also trying to seem cool by making fun of at the same time, yeah, I see you Friends With Benefits – but the city is one that is so hugely diverse, with a place for everyone and a rich cultural history to play on. No matter your characters’ background, job, setting or story – you can find it in New York. It’s the epitome of the American Dream. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. All this works even more in the favour of Christmas films, which often have kooky or weird set ups needing any number of factors to come together. A department store needing elves? There’ll be plenty. A fancy hotel, limousine and a toy store for the child you keep loosing? Check. Need… about a hundred coincidences to occur repeatedly over a period of several years in a city that houses eight million people and probably contains a few thousand copies of the book Love in the Time of Cholera? Well, it’s okay,  Serendipity annoyed me too.

But what’s more and, again, at the risk of sounding cheesy, there’s a real magic to New York. At least that’s what we’ve been led to believe. It’s been played straight in films before – there’s a suspicion of disbelief that lends itself to a pinch of magic, like in Sliding Doors or Kate & Leopold. (I love urban fantasy, but even I still have trouble believing that one was a real film). On a holiday that’s about a miraculous birth and a man delivering presents to children across the globe, the whole ideal is a bit magical. If a shot of an iconic ice rink and a famous park helps a film sell that, it’s understandable. The whole atmosphere of the shiny and the special comes out in the holiday season, and in the city that never sleeps. It’s a winning combination. It’s been in Elf, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged, The Family Man and Noel to name a few.

What can you say? That big tree looks awfully pretty in the snow.



About Author

Features Editor 2015/16. PhD student. Sorry I give everything five stars, I just have a lot of love in my heart.

Leave A Reply