It does not matter the opinion you may have about Times Square, you cannot deny that this is a place that has power for capturing things: bodies, glances, capital, emotions. The attractiveness of this plaza can be found in many different scenarios: Its screens and media; its history; its many reproductions in popular culture; its location; its activities, traditions and street performances.
The daily crowds of tourists, the 24-7 advertising and its vibrant environment in any season of the year are proof of this. Precisely, one of the main questions I had at the beginning of my research was related to that capacity that this space has for attracting and capturing.
What is that “thing” that makes Times Square so popular? If you have never been to Times Square, I invite you to close your eyes and sitting you in a place that is surrounded by skyscrapers full of lights. There you can find street performances, fast food spots, and panhandlers of many types, as well as restaurants, shops and tons of tourists going around.
You can find in the Square people from almost any part of the world. On a typical day, you can hear more than ten different languages there. Now, think about a sidewalk full of people, you are part of a slow crowd that is walking northbound south. You can see stores on your right side, and more people with packets going out of the stores joining you for walking. Now, they are following you as a part of the multitude.
On your left side, a concrete barricade is separating the sidewalk from a big Avenue. Over this avenue, yellow cabs and touristic buses are dominating the panorama. The real purpose of the barricade is protecting the pedestrians from a possible car-incident, either accidental or a terrorist attack. The whole area around Times Square is full of those protections, the materials and shapes change depending on the zone. Please continue walking.
People dressed either red or garnet may try to sell you a bus tourist packet. They are all over the Square. There are three of them walking together in front of you. There is another group talking at the corner. Suddenly, someone is offering you a flier of a restaurant. Few steps later a man carrying a banner about Jesus is yelling at you. There is a group of Asian tourists recording you, and although it is not the end of the year, a man blowing a plastic horn is screaming “Happy New Year!” to everybody.
From time to time, you should have to avoid people that are going in the opposite way. There are crowds in any direction. Please be patient. Your walk will be regularly stopped because someone ahead of you is taking pictures or recording a video. Sometimes you will see that your way is blocked by a group of people watching a street performance. Join them or cross through. If you decided to take the first option, be careful of your pockets. If you want to opt for the second one, do not ruin the show.
You want to leave the sidewalk and going to the pedestrian plaza. You are not the only one who had that idea. You go to the corner for waiting for the traffic light and around you, dozens of people are waiting for the same. Then, after a few minutes, you arrive at Duffy Square, the heart of Times Square. Some groups of people are taking selfies. Others are seated on the big red stairs over the TKTS Broadway discount booths.
There is a group recording with their phones a street dancer. Others are making a video of some women in topples painted on red, white and blue. Finally, there are few small groups taking pictures of some Elmos, one Captain America, and two Minnie Mouses. The scene is surrounded by big LED-screens and large advertisement signals. Where is the attractive located? In not one place specifically.