Sunday, 29 July 2012

Week 31: New Jersey

"I'm proud New Jersey is my home,
 Yeah said I'm proud New Jersey is my home!
 Well they're breaking out the tractors to build more interstates,
 They're moving out my neighbours all across the Garden State...'
 - 'New Jersey is my Home',
 Bruce Springsteen

We're cranking up The Boss on the radio (well, it was either Springsteen or Bon Jovi) as we motor on down to New Jersey.

New Jersey was named the 'the Garden State'. And I think that is probably the last nice thing anyone has ever said about Jersey. It has a reputation for being everything that is bad and tacky about America. It is somewhere that people drive through to get to New York. No one ever thinks to stop. What is there? The dumb-ass nonentities of Jersey Shore? Sopranos-esque mobsters? The sleazy low-rent amusements of Atlantic City? The Jersey Devil? Interstates and pollution? It is the US's laughing stock. It is the US's Essex.

And like Essex it suffers from its location. Looking at the centres of population in the state they all seem to be overspill suburbs for either New York City or Philadelphia. I always think about Essex that if its population had any get-up-and-go they would have get-up-and-gone to London. Likewise NJ: it is home to the people who cannot make it in NYC or Philly.

But, why would you want to live in the middle of Manhattan with sky-high rents and crime and traffic if you are trying to raise a family? Surely you would want to find somewhere with space and trees and open air. Logically that place is New Jersey. Sure, if you've got the money you move further out to Connecticutt, but we've seen how soul-destroying those suburbs are. In the right place in Jersey you have a straight route into the city and a straight route back out again. Plus, it's home to Princeton university and Cape May (where Betty Draper's family summer in Mad Men) so it can't be as bad as Americans would have you believe. Can it?

My first choice for a New Jersey film was Garden State. But I've seen it before. And to be honest I wasn't blown away. So I've found three more that I actually did want to see. Obviously I would have to start with the filmmaker who is to New Jersey what John Waters is to Baltimore, Kevin Smith. So my chosen films are:
  • Clerks (1994)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Cop Land (1997)

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