For our mapping assignment I created a map of the major vacation locations during the 12 seasons of the Bravo reality television series The Real Housewives of New York.
What Is This?
One of the main tropes of the series that acts as a narrative arc for the film editors who have to cobble together a narrative from hours of footage on such television shows has been to send the cast away from the location that the franchise is usually located in. This contrivance provided an interesting dataset to play with while I learned more about mapping tools.
What It Isn’t and Why
This was my third attempt at a mapping assignment. This is not my original dataset of misdemeanor drug incarcerations by state overlayed with states that recently legalized marijuana and by which degree. That data is available and was easy(ish) to clean but I kept hitting a wall in thinking about how to display the data. This is an issue I feel very passionate about but as with many issues right now it was exhausting to consider. Frankly I know the wall I ran into was abject despair. So, I scrapped it.
Instead, over the past weekend I started to work on something with a much smaller scope, as I have many looking at available open data regarding entertainment, another passion. I began to work with a map that completed the bare minimum requirements of “making a map” of the theater institutions in Times Square, but I could see how that didn’t offer me an opportunity to discover new information as much as I had hoped. However, when someone asked me if I would be watching the presidential debates I answered “I will be doing whatever the opposite of that is.” This is what I thought at the time would be the most oppositional feeling project and it frankly lifted me from said despair.
Some Decisions & Tools
I had to collect and clean a lot of this data from the web as it does not exist in one place. I used fan culture, blogs, and imdb to cross reference, as well as Google Maps search for location data. I added this information to a Google sheet which I connected to then geocode in Carto.
For the dataset, I did not include trips with the following criteria: in-state trips (upstate/Catskills/Hamptons), visits with fewer than 2/3 of the cast, or work trips that were not obvious parts of this narrative story lines.
I considered the “total number of episodes in the season” to be the number of filmed and edited “reality” episodes, and not the number of meta/reunion/seated episodes (the episodes about the episodes), as a trip would not be possible or likely. To consider the potent reunion episodes as well would require a different analysis, and is unlikely to be useful in this case. Another time.
I didn’t think I set out to learn anything about the data but I was wrong. It was interesting to me that the trips are generally set at the end of the season with a two or three episode arc, which conclude in the penultimate episode (a la the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones). This became more interesting as the seasons went on when there were interruptions to this pattern. For example, in 2016, a dramatic season ends during a vacation trip (dénouement from the suitcase). In the most recent season, there is a double arc, with a small trip to Newport at the beginning of the season, and a longer trip to Tulum at the end of the season. Was this due to the change in production from home in 2020? Is this season two seasons? How much vacation footage is always left on the cutting room floor in non-pandemic years? I was surprised that the more I dug into the map, the more questions I had about nonlinear narrative structures. I was unsurprised that this project reinforced my utmost respect for film, sound, and television editors.
None of this data exists anywhere in one place as I mentioned. In 12 seasons and multiple locations, many of the hotels have switched ownership as well. Some of the properties were private rentals, and as such I had to guess at their general area based on their proximity to landmarks. I of course wished I had more time to create deeper data with information about the hotels or more details about the episodes/seasons.
Now this is a great map idea! I also had to reduce my scope when mining for the data. It sounds like you were really thoughtful in deciding what to include. I’m also curious about what trip deserves a 2 vs 3 episode arc. Carto seems really user friendly from my perspective as a viewer. I like the neatness of it, and it looks like the ladies are due for a trip to Asia or the Pacific. (Never forget Scary Island or Cartagena boat trip.)
It was very fun to revisit the trips. I should have mentioned that originally I had considered including all of the franchise which would have provided an interesting contrast of locations visited. In class I mentioned my “mapping expert friend” in my small group who was encouraging me when I felt I was overdoing it in data. They have also encouraged me to continue to work on this as a side project, so I may learn yet more about mapping (and I may get to the other franchises as well)!