It Is Now Officially Ok to Say You’ve Got Mail Is a Terrible Movie


Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was always ok to say You’ve Got Mail was not a very good movie. Or, at least, I was never persuaded to pretend that I thought it was so great. You see, You’ve Got Mail has a major flaw. And no, I’m not talking about the saccharine storyline, or the fact that it somewhat celebrates (while pretending to denigrate) the presence of chain bookstores in New York City. No, I’m talking about the tediously monochromatic color palette. The New York City of You’ve Got Mail is one of tepid silvery blues, and muted earthy browns, and watered-down yellows. It’s the city as painted by watercolors, flat and two-dimensional, lacking the vibrancy of fat strokes of bright, unctuous red and green oils. But wait, is disliking the color of something sort of a stupid reason to dismiss it altogether?

Well, according to Delia Ephron (writer of You’ve Got Mail, which was, of course, directed by her sister, Nora) the color of things—especially when that color is a bold cobalt blue—is all the reason you need to hate something. Ephron wrote an editorial for the New York Times, “Color Me Blue,” in which she reveals her hatred for what she considers the scourge of New York: the color blue. Well, she hates blue as manifested on Citibikes, because “our city, if you look around, isn’t a blue city, or wasn’t until the bikes arrived. With the exception of Times Square, where loud clashing colors are the point, our city is browns, grays, greens and brick red.” Which, sure, isn’t true exactly (see old-timey NYPD cars above) but who cares about truth when you have a point to make about aesthetics? Not Delia Ephron, that’s for sure. Instead Ephron laments the fact that New York’s bike share program didn’t emulate the Parisian bike share look, because over in the City of Lights “the bikes are a silvery gray and the sponsors have discreet small tattoos on the bike frame. Paris bikes blend. They respect the romance that is Paris.” Which, well, New York is really not Paris. New York is all about vibrant colors. Has Ephron never seen a taxi? And even Paris isn’t Paris anymore with the whole Eiffel Tower light show and everything, and, anyway, why does Ephron even want Citibikes to be a discreet color? She also complains about almost getting hit by one every day. Does she really want the bikes to be even harder for her to see?

There is a definite argument to be made that having thousands of advertisements for one of the biggest banks in the world is crass and not something that is really good for New York and New Yorkers. But pretending that the problem is the color is patently absurd. And claiming that the introduction of an overwhelmingly popular bike share program, along with the addition of hundreds of miles of bike lanes, is a worthwhile reason to hate Mayor Bloomberg is similarly ridiculous. Ephron, like many New Yorkers of a certain age and socio-economic class, seems to want the New York of her fantasies (as seen in, uh, You’ve Got Mail) to remain static and not be spoiled by the introduction of bicycles. But guess what? That New York only exists in movies. And I pretty much guarantee that the next rom-com to take place in this city will a) not be on the Upper West Side, but instead be in Brooklyn and b) will involve bikes in some way, shape, or form. And it’s very possible that bike will be cobalt blue. Because the palette of New York is bright, and that’s not a bad thing.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  1. I feel that this is a bit shortsighted. Especially in having an understanding of what the city truly was back then. Color was everywhere, but when all colors blend together they make the most awful shade of shit brown. The fact remains that the city was dark, both in aesthetic and in aura. It was not until the 90’s with movies like this and Miracle on 34th, as well as the opulent Sex and the City that painted NYC in a very different light. These WERE colorful movies/shows. These changed the aesthetic of what New York looked like to the outside world. Now, indeed, NYC is a colorful place- but your line of reasoning didn’t get you there.

    As a New Yorker I am deeply confused. But more importantly, as a writer, I’d like to know on what basis you wrote this post. Where did this kernal come from? Is this how you view this city?

    Please don’t misconstrue this as a jab or a condemnation. You clearly have a differing opinion than I do, and I’d like to understand it. I’d like to have more information that I may understand how you got to your conclusions above.

    • You seem to miss the point here. Kristin is basically calling out Delia Ephron for making a stupid statement and using one of her own works as the means to do so.