Plenty of TV and movie locations have been overused — take all of Manhattan, for instance. But at least you know what you’re seeing and what it represents, and it’s germane to the story since the plot is, in fact, set in Manhattan.
Other locations get overused in different ways — such as reprentations of scenery for a rugged setting. And perhaps none in that category has been used more often than the Vasquez Rocks.
If you’ve seen the Arena episode of classic ’60s Star Trek, you’ve seen the Vasquez Rocks. In fact, the slanted, jagged, alien-looking rocks supposedly appear in the upcoming 11th Star Trek movie, due next year, having already made a cameo in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Named after a bandit who once hid there, the Vasquez Rocks have popped up in dozens more movies and TV series, most recently in what should be an unlikely place: TNT’s Saving Grace. In promos for its new season, we see star Holly Hunter stand against the striking, jutting, craggy rock formations, which allegedly represent Oklahoma. (The series is set in Oklahoma City.)
Now, I’ve lived in Oklahoma — both OKC and Tulsa — and I’ve never seen or heard of such rock formations in a largely flat terrain of farm lands and open spaces. But somehow the show’s producers figured anything west of New York City is the untamed region of “the Weeeeeest,” and Oklahoma got the Vasquez Rocks.
Actually, they’re located in So Cal — north of Los Angeles, on property owned by LA County. So they’re Californy rocks, not Okie rocks.
So there you have it: If you thought the jagged rock formation looked familiar when you last saw it, well, chances are you’ve already seen it many times. In fact, the Vasquez Rocks have become so widely used on screen that, in a way, they aren’t effective anymore. They simply remind us, “No, that’s not Oklahoma or another planet. That’s the Vasquez Rocks of California — again.”