The Gorge in Pop Culture: Movies, Books, and Television
How do we know the New River Gorge is an iconic Appalachian setting? Because it gets shout-outs and mentions from pop culture all of the time! For example, when GMC wondered how to prove the strength of its trucks, it couldn't help but think of the Gorge. GMC hopped aboard the local culture of outdoor adventure, and plunged the vehicle off the New River Gorge Bridge on a bungee cord. (Or, at least they made a commercial to look like they did.)
A natural choice for the silver screen, the natural beauty of the Gorge has drawn the attention of major movies, too. It set the scene for superstars Samuel L. Jackson and Vin Diesel in the movie "XXX."
James Earl Jones was another star to visit the Gorge to film, working on 1987's highly critically-acclaimed "Matewan." The movie chronicled the struggle of early coal miners as they went on strike to oppose the dangerous conditions imposed on them by the companies that basically owned them. The movie won an Independent Spirit Award for Best cinematography, and was nominated for an Oscar, among other award nods.
Nearby, Jake Gyllenhall made an appearance in Coalwood to film 1999's "October Sky," based on Homer Hickam's passion for rocketry as a kid growing up in a coal-mining town.
The 2004 comedy "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton" also featured shot of the bridge, and was filmed primarily in Fayetteville. Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel and Topher Grace starred in the story of a girl who wins a date with a celebrity.
Non-human celebrities have also graced the Gorge. The 1994 remake of "Lassie" brought the canine hero to Sandstone Falls along the New River.
The beauty of the New River Gorge isn't lost on authors, either. Nearby Welch, WV, is the setting for Jeanette Wells' New York Times Bestseller "The Glass Castle," a memoir of her upbringing in West Virginia, which is currently being made into a film by Paramount.
The more recent, 5-star reviewed comedic fantasy novel "Vessel, Book 1: The Advent" creates a Mythology in the current day as five deities discover their powers and take off on a tour bus quest.
The Gorge area steals the spotlight even in a state known for its scenic beauty. The Babcock State Park Grist Mill is the most photographed site in the state, and when you Google WV, you find a mix of maps, a few odd shots, and a slew of grist mill photographs.
Add all of that to the flurry of media attention the Gorge regularly receives to spotlight its adventure resorts, and you've got a pop culture powerhouse. The area was recently featured on the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," where host Andrew Zimmern chowed down on unique Appalachian dishes, like deer and pepperoni rolls.
Where have you seen the Gorge referenced?