The Geography of Smallville

My watching of Smallville continues - I'm well into Season 7 now. One thing that is being made clear is the invented geography, co-existing with real geography. I think this is derived directly from the comics, but it's a lot more jarring on the screen.

Part of it, of course, is the sheer deliberate blandness of the invented names. Smallville itself. Neighbouring Granville. Metropolis. Star City. Coast City. The only fictional place in the setting with a characterful name is Gotham, and that's only because it already unavoidably exists in the DC universe.

This is in contrast to the use of existing geography. Kansas in this reality is flat and dull looking, but it has magnificent storms, and these get used to great effect throughout the series. Likewise, it doesn't get full-on heavy snow in winter all that much, but it does get cold, and there's a fantastic sense of place from seeing little bits of snow about, and people complaining of the cold without it being of massive plot significance.

The Smallville tabletop RPG has recently been released, and it's currently the darling of the crowd. One of the things it plays up are the Locations, and their association with particular characters. As in, when you see a shot of the glass dome in Metropolis, you know Oliver Queen is going to be on screen next, and so on. They are, of course, the same shots over and over again - the one they show before an interior of the Daily Planet, with a helicopter swooping off to the left, must add up to nearly a full episode of air time. But they bring a very definite sense of geography.

I wonder if there are enough cues and details in the series to actually make a map, or if it would just be a complicated mess. For instance, we can see from the many views of a sunset from Clark's barn hideaway that the window faces west. So the house Lana lived in with Nell - since it can be seen in that direction - is also to the west, but it doesn't seem to be on the same road out of town - so Smallville itself must lie to the north or south. It'd be interesting to work out where things are in relation to each other, and see if there's a mapped fictional geography, or if places are just dots on an abstract plot diagram.

Posted by Drew Shiel at September 30, 2010 2:09 PM

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