Editor’s Note: With “The Amazing Spider-Man” shaping up to be one of the summer’s largest blockbusters, contributor Daniel Pope decided to take a satirical look at an important element in the comics: the George Washington Bridge in New York City. While the history of the bridge that Pope presents is entirely fictional, the bridge may in fact make an appearance in the film.
By Daniel Pope
As far back as I can remember I’ve been enamored with the George Washington Bridge. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about it that boggles my mind and sends my heart aflutter. Truth be told, I’ve wanted to write a piece about this man-made wonder for a while, but I was worried I couldn’t do it justice.
What if I failed? Would the George (that’s what those of us in-the-know call it) be angry with me? Probably not, since it’s more-or-less inanimate. But I would have to live with the shame that comes with letting down that which has never disappointed me.
Then something magical happened. I rented the 2008 inspirational drama “Fireproof” (thinking it was the Denzel Washington film “Man on Fire”, talk about a thankful mistake) and I came to a realization: Kirk Cameron is the only main cast member from “Growing Pains” to still get movie work. Take that, Tracey Gold!
I also realized not putting forth an effort to illuminate the beauty of this wonderful bridge would be a regrettable disservice.
The George Washington Bridge was the brainchild of botanist George Washington Carver. Tired of having to canoe across the Hudson River to get from Bergen County, N.J. to New York City, Carver decided to do something about it.
In 1927, he commissioned up-and-coming architects Jeff and Beau Bridges to bring his vision to life. Although Carver initially insisted on using peanut shells as the primary building material, the Bridges brothers were able to talk him into steel, which numerous tests showed is far more durable.
Dubbed “The Manhattan Project”, construction of the bridge lasted four and a half months and cost an estimated $9,000 (about $3.2 billion when adjusted for inflation). The George Washington Carver-Bridges (as it was originally known), opened for traffic on March 21, 1928.
Although the bridge was a rousing success, it didn’t come without cost. Jeff and Beau, whose relationship had once been close, now found themselves at odds with one another. Jeff became more and more famous, appearing in several Hollywood blockbusters, while Beau faded into the background.
This growing rift culminated in 1933 when, in a fit of frustration, Beau decided to take his name off the bridge.
In a show of solidarity with Beau, George Washington Carver decided to remove the “Carver”, and the bridge became known as the George Washington Bridge. While none of this is technically true, it is a lot more interesting than the real history of the bridge, which is pretty boring.
One of the biggest movies of the upcoming summer season has to be “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Now what does this have to do with the George Washington Bridge? Good question! Well, there is a very real possibility that the George will be featured in the film.
In the “Spider-Man” comics, the bridge occasionally played a role, notably in one story line involving Gwen Stacy. I’ve found no concrete information as of yet that the George will be in the upcoming movie, but my guess is that director Marc Webb is just being coy with the details.
On the topic of the upcoming “Spider-Man” movie, I asked Olathe, Kan., senior Matt McCallum what he thought of the dynamic of substituting the more well-known Mary Jane Watson character for Gwen Stacy. McCallum seemed open to the potentially infinite possibilities.
“I think it opens up the opportunity for new storytelling and, while it may create some confusion, I think in the long term it’ll be the right call to have used her,” McCallum said.
Stacy was last featured in the 2007 film “Spider-Man 3”, but in more of an auxiliary role. “Spider-Man 3,” of course, is fondly remembered for the scene where Peter Parker, influenced by the symbiote suit, strutted down the New York City streets to the tune of James Brown’s “People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul.”
Man, that movie was awesome. I went on to ask McCallum who his least favorite villain in the Spider-Man universe is and he said his least favorite villain is Rhino.
“Rhino. I think he lacks any real entertaining motivations,” McCallum said.
I believe most people would agree that Rhino is a pretty weak character, and yet, for some reason he’s been shoehorned into nearly every single “Spider-Man” video game as a laughably easy mini-boss. It’s always the same thing: Rhino is on the loose somewhere causing a ruckus and you have to go stop him.
Luckily for Spidey, Rhino always chooses to fight in an environment with an indestructible brick wall. All battles go the same way: stand against the wall, and as Rhino charges, jump out of the way at the last second. Rhino will slam headfirst into the wall and a significant portion of his health bar will drain. After two or three probable concussions that would make Troy Aikman wince, the battle is over and you can go back to flying around the city.
But back to The George. For those living in New York, the George Washington Bridge is a daily reminder of mankind’s desire to attain greatness. I asked New York City resident Elisha Fieldstadt what she thinks of the bridge and she commented on its powers to take one’s breath away.
“I try to hold my breath when I drive over it,” Fieldstadt said.
Sounds like Fieldstadt and I are definitely in the same boat. If I ever get the wonderful opportunity to drive across the bridge, I’m almost sure its pristine beauty would take my breath away.
Not being much of an engineer, I decided to get the opinion of someone who knows a bit more about bridges than I do. I asked University of Kansas architectural engineering major Tyler Monnett what he found most remarkable about the George Washington Bridge.
Monnett was impressed by “its combination of a suspension bridge that uses a truss structure for the towers.”
Aren’t we all, Tyler? Aren’t we all? When asked his favorite bridge in the world, Monnett responded with the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina.
“A lot of cities use their architectural marvels as city symbols, but the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge actually deserves to be an icon,” Monnett said.
While I personally can’t fathom the idea of this bridge being better than the George, the pictures on Google look pretty cool.
At the end of the day, I realize that not everyone will share my passion with the George Washington Bridge. I very well may be the only one in the theatre applauding an establishing shot of the bridge during “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and that’s O.K.
My hope is that I’ve encouraged at least a few readers out there to learn more about this incredible structure. If you’re interested in reading more about the George Washington Bridge, you should visit Wikipedia. And don’t forget to see “The Amazing Spider-Man” in IMAX 3-D when it is released in theaters July 3.