Thursday, December 15, 2016
Well, you would if you live in Philadelphia or anywhere close to the place because the paper of record, The Philadelphia Inquirer, has become obsessed with pointing out such information, ad infinitum, in reviews, interviews or any other pieces of scintillating journalism involving a celebrity with a local connection, even if the connection is tenuous. Aubrey Plaza is from Wilmington. Taylor Swift is from Wyomissing. And Will Smith and Lee Daniels and David Lynch and Seth Green are all ... Philly's Own!
Why, I'm sure Meryl Streep even crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge once. That counts, right? I mean, she would qualify even though she's from, well, Summit, New Jersey. Jersey is a suburb of Philadelphia, isn't it?
I know, I know - I'm being snarky. But I just don't understand this brand of unbridled pride. Do the paper's readers really care and do they have to be informed, over and over again, that Cooper was born in Philadelphia?
Lately, the Inky (as it is know locally) has been especially keen on promoting the local connection of "Ardmore's (and Friends Central's) own Benj Pasek" who penned the lyrics with his writing partner Justin Paul for the six songs in Damien Chazelle's "La La Land," yet the latest attempt to revive that eternally misunderstood genre, the movie musical.
Every piece - and there have been several of them - have referenced this. The connection has been shoehorned even into wire stories written by non-Inquirer reporters. And exacerbating this rather tacky bit of hometown chauvinism is the fact that the person who wrote the music for "La La Land" is never mentioned. That would be Justin Hurwitz who (no surprise) isn't from Philadelphia and who attended Harvard (with his friend Chazelle), rather than the University of Pennsylvania. Bad form.
For the sake of full disclosure, I hasten to note that my second newspaper job was in Philadelphia. It is more than 30 years since I worked there but even then, there was this outsized pride in the place. Case in point: When Grace Kelly died, it wasn't enough to run an obit or an appreciation. No, there had to be a separate pullout - about a dozen pages celebrating a movie star who made only a handful of films, half of them negligible, and who was competent at best as an actress. But she was Philly royalty, see?
And then there's "Rocky," a solid little film that has been transformed locally into a work of art as significant as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
An editor - a carpetbagger brought in from out of town to tweak the features section - once theorized that the incessant bragging was probably the result of Philadelphia being situated between Washington, D.C. and New York in more ways than one - that there was this desperate need to either call attention to itself or forever live in the shadows of N.Y. and D.C.
So, is this kind of horn-blowing a part of New Journalism or is Philly unique? I'm not sure. It may be routine in other cities as well. I don't regularly access the sites to papers in Boston or Chicago, for example. However, I do know I've never seen "hometown references" in either The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times or The Washington Post. And when I worked in Northern California, I certainly was not expected to mention that Tom Hanks was a local boy in any of my reviews of his films.
But I am more than aware that Kat Dennings is from Bryn Mawr, and that Alan Goldberg (creator of TV's "The Goldbergs") is from Jenkintown and that, yes, Blythe Danner and Bob Saget are also two of ... Philly's Own!
Posted by joe baltake at 5:19 PM