1. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    The deal with New Jersey

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Islander, Dec 8, 2010.

    In American comedies, there are sometimes friendly jokes about New Jersey, building on the assumption that nobody wants to live there.

    For a European like me, this is mystifying. What's special about New Jersey?

    I'm considering placing some of my very human, anti-heroic characters in New Jersey, and would be grateful if an American could shed some light on what stereotypes and images Americans associate to the place.
     
  2. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    From a mid-western perspective, New Jersey was always viewed as the best example of the worst of industrialization. Lots of poor/middle class people scraping a living by among factories and industrial plants and docks. Imagine the industrial zone in your home town and the residential neighborhood surrounding it. THAT is what NJ was to America.

    It was also home to down and dirty scrapyard & landfill mafia dons.

    And the setting of Bruce Springsteen's working class ballads.

    And don't discount the inferiority complex and subsequent reactionary machismo created by being the "wrong side of the tracks" to New Yorkers.

    -Frank
     
  3. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Actually, I happened to think of something.

    Are you from the UK? If so, think stereotypes of "Liverpool".

    -Frank
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure it is comparable even if Islander was from the UK - Liverpool is also noted for architecture, comedy, poetry, music etc They get thrown into the mix as much as the scally stuff.
     
  5. zaphod
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    zaphod Member

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    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but New Jersey is actually the richest US state, correct?

    There's the gritty industrial port area along the western flank of NY and the rough city of Newark, but once you get beyond that there is a lot of suburban sprawl. Both subdivisions and malls, and also small picturesque towns with commuter trains(NJ Transit) that go into NY.

    I've never been to the UK, but if my knowledge of geography is right, then it should be kind of analogous to the eastern slice of the London metropolitan area.

    It'd be like the traditionally crappy parts of East London, but made up of multiple small cities like some nastier Dartford with some Stratford and some Canary Wharf(=Jersey City, a new skyline across from Manhattan) tossed in, stretching on one side of the city, and then all of Kent's nicer suburbs where people ride trains into the city
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as of 2009, the state with the 3rd highest number of millionaires was new jersey, which makes it also have the third highest median income in the us, at $70,342...

    that's down from 1st and 2nd, in 2007-8... and probably due to the state's tax increases...

    having been a new yorker for much of my 'old' life, and having been forced to cross through jersey by car to get to pa several times, i consider it a black hole... a place you don't want to get sucked into, as it's near impossible to find your way out, if one strays off the throughway...

    upscale [e.g., westchesterites, of which i was one in my youth] ny-ers [and many in other parts of the country] have traditionally looked down on nj for reasons both understandable and nonsensical... including the mob connection and their accent, which is a rung or two up in perceived 'badness' to bronxese and brooklynese...
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, this was very interesting.

    I don't think New Jersey is quite right for my setting then. I was looking for a place with echoes of the everyday and boring. A place where life centers around 9-5 jobs and driving your kids to school, and the highest ambition is getting a big-screen TV or an air conditioning system.

    (Since this is literature, I'm talking about stereotypes and perceptions, not reality, of course :)
     
  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like South Dakota.
     
  9. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Ditto Unit7.

    Sounds like "flyover country" to me.

    Actually, sounds like most of USA's suburbia to me. Pick a more urban spot in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri. You'll have all you need, from the sounds of it, there.

    You could still have in in Jersey though. As noted earlier, it's much more than teh stereotypes.

    -Frank
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    still sounds like 'joisey'... that's how the vast majority live there...
     
  11. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I used to live on the east coast and NJ has some problems, many not of it's own making.

    1. As mentioned, it used to have a lot of factories spewing harsh chemicals in the air. However, since all the rich people decided to emply the third world, at "low, low, low prices!" there aren't as many.

    So, all of the rich surrounding areas would look down on NJ while benefiting from the labors of the people. In this same light, Trenton has a big sign that says "Trenton Makes, and The World Takes," as an in your face.

    2. NJ is surrounded by Philly and NYC, but has no comparable city to brag about. It is especially true that New Yorkers have an elitist attitude. People from NJ are called "Bridge and Tunnel People" when they come to NYC, like they're some subhuman race.

    3. All of the above is about irrational attitudes, but on the factual side NJ has several VERY high crime cities. Camden has been the murder capital of the US numerous times. I've known some of the kingpin criminals from there and have been many times. The city looks like a zombie movie, only worse, because they aren't zombies. Trenton is also squalid along the same lines.

    Of course, there's going to be good places, nice things, and people in both places, but if one decides to bet their life on traveling, or worse yet, living there a rational person would not do so, if able.
     
  12. Klogg
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    Klogg Member

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    Kansas would be a good option (if you're going for the whole life consisting of 9-5, etc) as long as they live inside a city. Kansas along with South Dakota, Nebraska, and the majority of the states in the region are largely agricultural once you get out of city limits. A smaller city in California or Oregon would also be a good choice.
     
  13. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I recently traveled through Kansas city and it seemed like a nice place and clean. I was in the market area which had a lot of people but none of the rudeness I'm familiar with.

    The rural part of Kansas was like being on another planet with the flatness and constant wind. I liked it.
     
  14. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    I apologize for resurrecting an old thread, but I thought I could contribute, as I actually live in New Jersey.

    The truth is, no one can quite articulate just what it is about New Jersey that guarantees a laugh, but most point to the heavily industrialized area most New Yorkers are familiar with, full of factories, ports, and highways, whose ugliness is rivaled only by the legendary smell.

    How bad is the smell in Northern New Jersey? So very bad that a new Jersey native was compelled to create a website entitled Jersey Doesn't Stink. So, there's that.

    New Jersey is also home to what New Yorkers see as nouveau riche ethnic stereotypes. Immigrants come to New York, work hard, succeed in business or have their college educated children succeed in business, and move from rat infested, crime ridden ghettos in unfashionable parts of New York City to enormous, gaudy homes made of brick and marble with polished brass fences and circular driveways containing two muscle cars and one pickup truck, as well as Dad's service vehicle.

    New Jersey is also home to hilariously corrupt and mismanaged state and local governments, adding to it's image as a banana republic.

    Further, New Jersey is the home of the (I beg your pardon) Guido stereotype, as seen on the fine television program Jersey Shore, which will be Exhibit A for the prosecution when superior alien beings put humanity on trial for criminal lameness.
     

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