Seeing low-density Nashville as well as its revived core on TV

Nashville may be about country music but it also provides some views of sprawling Nashville:

Nashville remains one of the lowest density cities in the United States, and both film and series rove widely over its suburban homes and scattered music venues. ABC’s principle location, the Bluebird Cafe, occupies a strip mall in traffic-snarled Green Hills, surrounded by chain retail and McMansions. Reyna James lives in snobbish Beale Meade, a former plantation turned moneyed bastion that pointedly excluded the music community in the 1970s. Then country was considered the music of loud and ugly bumpkins. But as legendary Nashville producer Tony Brown observes: “Money can kinda pretty you up.”

Sprawl now competes with new urban designs in Nashville. Employing soaring aerial views, the series’ opening sequence scans acres of wooded hills and pasture, within which are carved oases of development, including the Opryland Hotel, the Mall in Green Hills and the Belle Meade estates. But no longer is Nashville a city without a center. The camera circles the downtown’s middling skyscrapers, zeroing in on Nashville’s resuscitated heart, the 120 year-old Ryman Auditorium, a former tabernacle and “the Mother Church of Country Music.”

The rest of the article provides some interesting insight into how Nashville has been viewed in movies and on TV.

One thought while reading about the changes in Nashville and how it is portrayed on Nashville: TV and movies tend to show the “high points” of urban and suburban life. In other words, we tend to get sweeping shots of urban cores that show off tall buildings and lights. When showing suburbs, we tend to see big houses and well-kept lawns. Both sets of images tend to promote a more glitzy image. What we tend not to see is the more mundane aspects of suburban and urban life. In the suburbs, you don’t see much of the big box stores or strip malls or fast food joints or local institutions like churches, schools, and civic buildings. (I’m also thinking here of Modern Family – we don’t see much of their actual community as most of the action takes place inside of several large houses.) In the city, we don’t see “normal” neighborhoods but tend to see neighborhood hangouts, which always tend to look like nice bars or coffee shops, as well as cool apartments or condos. Perhaps “normal life” is too boring for these story lines but movies and TV shows aren’t exactly providing an honest image of places.

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