How Not To: Detroit

There is no denying that the city of Detroit, Michigan has fallen on hard times. In 2013 the city declared bankruptcy and it seems like things are not going to get better in the immediate future. Of course that means it gives the film industry the opportunity to showcase their message on how tragic the events are unfolding right now. We have seen several films, and television programs, take place in the Motor City with various results. Honestly it feels as though that the industry does not particularly care about the inhabitants of the city nor wanting to show how we can solve anything.

Take a look at some recent films that were filmed and set in the city:

Lost River

Ryan Gosling takes the crumbling infrastructure of the city and makes it into a dark, fairy tale like setting. So Detroit is now being used as a fantasy analogue which I’m sure to the people who still live there love. Like, what are the people of Detroit suppose to do with this kind of information? It isn’t like Gosling is going about with this feature in any way to find anything to help the character’s problems of living in the city. Hell, the overall message seems to be that they are screwed and are stuck living in this ‘hellhole’.

Here’s another example from the critical darling It Follows:

Throughout the picture we see some really worn down neighborhoods but never get a sense where the picture takes place. Suddenly the film does a one eighty and we realize this all takes place in Detroit. How do we know this? Because the characters suddenly take a tour to the slums of the city and we see endless streets of crumbling buildings. It all starts to make sense on why the lighting of the film as a whole is very bleak and most of the characters are mindlessly doing nothing. Heck, most of the characters are able to do whatever with virtually no consequences unless the absolute worst happens.

One thing these two films share, that others do as well, is that law and order does not happen in Detroit. Once again, the city is hitting some hard times and I can personally see cuts taking place in the Police Department. But in films like Lost River or It Follows they are virtually nonexistent. For the latter it is extremely frustrating because (mild-SPOILER ALERT) characters will get shot or severely injured and apart from a stay in a hospital there are no repercussions. There is always a level of disbelief in films we have to take but even in a fantastic horror film like It Follows it becomes a bit frustrating when the overall message is: “It’s Detroit! What are you gonna do?”

Now it must be said that I do not live in the city of Detroit personally. So heck, maybe the way film showcases the area is more accurate than I thought. It just feels a bit insulting though that a lot of bleak films, whether they are fantasy-based or not, to show that everything is horrible if you live within the city limits. Can there not be a positive outlook on the Motor City even if things are not financially viable right now? I, for one, am willing to pay for a film where the overall mood is positive even if Hollywood is not willing to produce a project such as that.


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