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"Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word 'Frisco', which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars."
Really close to the San Andreas fault, San Francisco has a lot of incredibly steep hills crisscrossed with streets. But of course, these streets must intersect, and these intersections must be level and horizontal, otherwise the cars will tilt sideways while turning. As a result, many streets in San Francisco are long, alternating series of flat intersections and steep slopes, similar to stairs -- the perfect place for grabbing a lot of Slo-Mo Big Air.
Of course, this is a Discredited Trope to many familiar with the area. San Francisco's streets are very narrow, often crowded, and stop and go in nature, and the charming little cable cars (that climb halfway to the stars) run in city streets, sometimes necessitating urgent lane-changes on the part of automobiles in their vicinity.  Lombard Street is particularly a bad street to take when fleeing, as there is a large back up of the cars of tourists that wish to drive down the famed road, in addition to the eight switchbacks between Hyde and Leavenworth streets from which said fame derives. Despite being a horrible idea, Bullitt (and lately, Driver San Francisco as well) inspired too many teens who now try to do it.
In almost any film or TV show, the cable cars will be made to seem almost everywhere, with the stock establishing shot a cable car cresting over a hill lined with Victorian houses while the Golden Gate bridge is framed in the background. In reality there are only three lines, they serve a very small part of town (primarily the wealthy part of town), cost almost three times as much as other public transit, and are almost always packed with tourists who wait in long lines to ride them. Many residents have never ridden them, preferring the rest of the Muni system, which consists of buses, streetcars, the Market Street Subway, and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
In addition to car chases, San Francisco is known for its countercultural roots (the Beatnik movement and hippiedom were both born here) and its large gay community. Thanks to both of these, there's a popular (and not entirely unfounded) stereotype that San Franciscans are very far to the left of the American mainstream, especially on social issues, to the point where some conservative pundits use the term "San Francisco values" (as contrasted with "American values") to describe this. There is some truth to this belief, as San Francisco does have the highest percentage of gay residents of any city in the U.S., coming in at a whopping fifteen and change percent of the entire city's population -- and those are just the ones that are open about it. Its closest rivals are Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Boston, not one of whom tops thirteen percent.
Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, decreed the page quote condemning use of the nickname "Frisco". Use of the term today will immediately peg you as an out-of-towner, and will result in the same kind of eye-rolling a 50-something authority figure will receive when trying to use "cool" slang amongst teenagers. San Francisco is "The City." Oakland, the city across the bay, is "The Town." There does seem to be recurrence of the term among some of the younger locals, perhaps for reasons of irony.
San Francisco is, of course just one city on the Bay. Oakland as well as the cities of the peninsula have been growing for some time. San Jose has the rest of Silicon Valley between it and San Francisco. Although most deny it, San Jose is now larger than San Fransisco, in part due to San Fransisco being on a peninsula and not having room to expand. However you only call it the Peninsula for the parts south of the city.
Wearing flowers in your hair is not advised these days. Especially if you're a guy. Unless you're into that sort of thing. If so, for aforementioned reasons you've chosen a wonderful place to be.
Nancy Pelosi, the congressional representative for most of the city, is the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
Stereotypical portrayals set in the 19th century will generally either center on the Gold Rush or with San Francisco portrayed as the "New York of the West". Those in the early 20th century tend to show it as a blue-collar port town, perhaps with a major US Navy presence, and still the largest city on the West Coast. The '50s characterization trends towards Beatnik stereotypes and will be set in North Beach, while the '60s shifts that to hippies in Haight-Ashbury. If set in the '70s or '80s, tropes will tend to either focus on the homosexual population, inner-city crime, or, at the latter end of the spectrum, the AIDS crisis. The mid-to-late '90s is likely to be dominated by the dot-com boom.
Though less frequently a trope, San Francisco is also particularly known for its large homeless population, which shows up primarily when a creator showed their work and generally has a point to make with it.
And please don't forget your heart (or your head) when you leave.
San Francisco in the media:
Anime and Manga
- Kaleido Star is nominally set in San Francisco.
- The X-Men currently call San Francisco home, and have invited the few remaining mutants to settle there.
- Speaking of X-Men, that whole Alcatraz attack thing in the third movie.
- Since their last revival, the Teen Titans have lived in San Francisco.
- The chase scene from the film The Rock is one of the best examples of a car pursuit in that city.
- This might be the best example, because it includes nearly every San Francisco and chase scene stereotype in the span of a few minutes. Obscene wealth (it's a Ferrari chasing a Hummer), the Camp Gay Hummer owner and hairstylist, a bottled water truck playing the role of a Fruit Cart, a crashing cable car, a wheelchair race, talking on a cell while driving and a hipster on a dirtbike. Yay!
- Bullitt has perhaps the archetypal example and one of the first movie chase scenes to be filmed at real speed rather than having the film sped up.
- Parodied in the Barbara Streisand comedy What's Up Doc? With a Sheet of Glass scene (and a handful other tropes) thrown in for good measure.
- Another comedic version climaxes the Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase vehicle Foul Play. ("Far out!")
- Freebie and the Bean has a chase scene that ends with a car flying off the (now-demolished) Embarcadero Freeway and landing in the apartment bedroom of an elderly couple.
- Parodied in the Starsky and Hutch movie, where doing this wrecks the car. This scene was probably meant as a parody of Bullitt.
- The Towering Inferno is set and partially filmed here. The cablecars can be seen here, and prominent San Francisco landmarks double for the Tower's exterior and lobby.
- The silly-ass Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a 1965 comedy staring Vincent Price, has possibly the longest, silliest (rear-projected) car chase ever down San Francisco's Lombard Street - part on location, part green screen, as the antagonists & protagonists switch between on cars, trollies, & even a boat on wheels. Vincent Price makes a great show of looking carsick through it.
- The first two Herbie movies (The Love Bug and Herbie Rides Again) take place in San Francisco.
- Hitchcock's Vertigo is set in San Francisco, while The Birds has its opening scenes there.
- The Maltese Falcon.
- Dirty Harry and its sequels were filmed on location in San Francisco, with many prominent landmarks visible, also including the portrayal of the SFPD.
- SkyNet's home base in Terminator Salvation was located in San Francisco.
- A View to a Kill was mostly set here.
- The Presidio is set in here and the film opens with a car chase, complete with cars hurtling through the air down that hill.
- The Conversation, with the opening scene taking place in Union Square.
- The 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
- Zodiac is set in San Francisco and its outlying communities.
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- Although most of Interview with the Vampire features flashbacks set in New Orleans and Paris, the Frame Story is set in San Francisco. The Scenery Porn is a little more creative than most, if for no other reason that that it emphasizes the less famous (but far more widely used) Bay Bridge rather than the Golden Gate.
- Mike Myers' So I Married an Axe Murderer is set largely in San Francisco. They even manage to fit in a tour of Alcatraz.
- Frank has to travel to San Francisco where he'd been poisoned in DOA. Lots of running through crowded streets and traffic, of course.
- Mrs.Doubtfire was set and mostly filmed here.
- Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct and Jade, all written by Joe Ezterhaus.
- Three of The Thin Man movies: After the Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man and Song of the Thin Man.
- Guess Whos Coming to Dinner.
- 48 Hours and the sequel Another 48 Hours.
- The last parts of The Book of Eli.
- The Room.
- Electric Dreams.
- The second half of The Social Network.
- Pirates of Silicon Valley
- Star Trek IV the Voyage Home
- Flubber - filmed largely in San Jose.
Live Action Television
- The Myth Busters call this city home.
- As did Battlebots, when it existed.
- An episode of The Evidence had a murderer attempt to kill someone by sabotaging their brakes so they would fail on one of San Francisco's steep hills. The sabotaged car ends up ploughing into the detectives' car.
- Monk lives here. But when he goes outside it's usually in Los Angeles.
- The city's Presidio district is the future site of Starfleet Command HQ, Starfleet Academy, and many other Starfleet things. (Hence the moment in the most recent film where a falling Romulan machine almost wipes out the Golden Gate Bridge.)
- During The Sixties, the Presidio was still a working military base (though so low security you could drive through it). It's since become a park managed by a national trust, making it almost impossible that Starfleet could ever build there now.
- In a crowning stroke of irony, there is one famous company that owns a significant amount of property there today: Lucasfilm.
- The '70s police series The Streets Of San Francisco was set and filmed in the city.
- Charmed is set, but clearly not filmed, in San Francisco. Almost every episode begins with Scenery Porn of the city. The manor exteriors are in LA.
- Nash Bridges also took extensive advantage of filming in San Francisco, including museums, piers, and enough landmarks to deeply satisfy viewers who live in the city. The show's production was headquartered on Treasure Island and brought $2 million of business to San Francisco per episode.
- In the final episode of Frasier, Frasier is offered a tv gig in San Francisco, but is at first hesitant. His agent tries to persuade him by implying the advantage of being a straight man in a city where, supposedly, so many men are... not interested in women.
- Full House is based here in the area surrounding Alamo Square park.
- The final episode of Stargate Atlantis lands Atlantis in the ocean just off San Francisco; the series ends with the cast relaxing on a balcony with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Human Target takes place (mostly) in San Francisco, although it's filmed in Vancouver.
- One season of MTV's The Real World was set in San Francisco. It featured, among others, an aspiring comic artist name Judd Winick....
- The first season of Top Chef was set in San Francisco.
- Trauma was set and filmed in San Francisco.
- Phyllis, a Spin-Off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
- Too Close for Comfort.
- Eli Stone called The City home.
- The Doctor Who TV movie was set in San Francisco, though it was filmed in Vancouver.
- Kindred: The Embraced.
- Aaron Spelling's '80s drama Hotel was set in San Francisco, a change from the New Orleans setting of the novel and film it was adapted from.
- A Late Arrival Spoiler in How I Met Your Mother is the time Lily broke her and Marshall's engagement in a panic and ran off to San Francisco for three months. References to San Francisco in this context occur from time-to-time in the show, for example: Lily (who is notoriously lustful) mentions that it was the longest stretch of time she had ever gone without sex, driving her crazy to the point where, when one of San Francisco's famously frequent earthquakes occurred, she got off on the vibrations.
- McMillan and Wife
- Alcatraz is set here (though, as with many others, filmed in Vancouver).
- The music video for "I Disappear" by Metallica (who live in the Bay Area) includes a scene of James Hetfield fleeing a large shockwave in a black muscle car.
- Train's song "Save Me, San Francisco:"
Every day so caffienated,
- And who could forget Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" music video with the local hula group performing a hula they made specifically for the song.
- The Cab Calloway song "San Francisco Fan", a song about a dancer named Fan who takes a bullet for her gambling boyfriend, set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
- Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" has bits of San Francisco in the setting, and the city was home to Howl's famous first performance.
- The main setting for R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2020 is Night City, a very thinly-veiled pastiche of San Francisco with a Blade Runner-style makeover.
- Iron Crown's Cyberspace is set in a futurized version of actual San Francisco circa 2090.
- A large number of racing games feature San Francisco as well, though in those games, it usually makes sense that the streets are empty, since they've been closed off for a race.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features a parody of San Francisco called San Fierro. Although there are examples of the famous stairway streets, the whole city is quite small, and they are few and far between. Other famous parts of San Francisco, including the thick fog and the twisting road on the steep hill, are thrown in for good measure. Lombard Street makes an appearance as "Windy Windy Windy Windy Street," and the Transamerica Building (the tallest in the city) as the "Big Pointy Building" -- both decent enough descriptions.
- The city is quite small in real-life as well it's only about seven miles on each side... and many parts of that are generally considered to be "the middle of nowhere".
- A disproportionate number of Sega Dreamcast videogames featured San Francisco (or locations heavily based on it):
- Crazy Taxi
- Metropolis Street Racer
- San Francisco Rush 2049
- Sonic Adventure 2 - Mainly the "City Escape" and "Radical Highway" levels. The developers were Sonic Team USA (later Sega Studio USA), who were based in San Francisco at that time.
- Super Runabout: San Francisco
- The San Francisco Rush series of Driving Games is two-thirds Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It also has spectators. Who scream in terror when a racer careens out of control at them, and it's possible to jump the entire length of Lombard Street.
- This is one of the cities available for destruction in Crush Crumble and Chomp
- Driver: San Francisco
- Need for Speed: The Run starts out in San Francisco, complete with high-speed hijinks down the hills in a 500hp car.
- Parodied on The Simpsons in the form of a Troy McClure movie entitled Goodtime Slim, Uncle Doobie, and the Great Frisco Freakout.
- "There's more than one way to get high!"
- Also on The Simpsons: when they're escaping from Alcatraz by swimming, Bart says "Let's swim to San Francisco!" Homer responds with the classic line: "I'm not made of money! We'll swim to Oakland." A Simpsons writer must have lived in the Bay Area.
- Jackie Chan Adventures, is based in the Chinatown neighborhood and the city gets front row seats to some of the magical activities of the main characters and vilians. It almost gets destroyed in the a couple of episodes.
- Mummies Alive.
- Monsters vs. Aliens features a big battle in San Francisco, complete with car chase (sort of; Ginormica uses cars to skate down the streets) and a Monumental Battle on the Golden Gate bridge.
- In one episode of Kim Possible, Shego and Senor Senior, Junior go to San Francisco to steal the last intact copy of the Tome of Treachery. Shego ends up fighting Kim, and both Junior and Ron have trouble finding a parking space.
- While animated series are usually set to fictional cities or towns, The Mighty B and Robotboy both take place in San Francisco.
- The South Park episode "Smug Alert!" ripped into the city for its obsession with hybrid cars. The reduction of smog from their cars was causing a massive cloud of smug to ravage the western U.S.
- Inhumanoids: San Fran is about to be destroyed.
- Donald's Diary is set in a '50s-modern style SF.
- Seriously. Cable cars have priority over everything; the iconic "ding ding!" is your cue to pull over to the right immediately, because the cable car is not stopping for you.