Imported from Detroit Reminds us that Milwaukee Matters
“That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you have been reading in the papers, the one being written by folks who’ve never even been here.”
The Chrysler 200 Super Bowl commercial resonated with urbanists from Cinncinati to Chicago, no doubt an odd event for a car commercial. But it was because it exhibited the pride, spirit, and toughness that Detroit and our cities have in common. The imagery from the commercial shows steam pouring through the vents on a cold winter evening, moments of ruin porn contrasted with upscale neighborhoods, stark imagery of Detroit’s industrial history, and all set to Eminem’s workman like march “Lose Yourself”. These contrasts made the cold, hard, rough edge of Detroit look desirable, if not noble. Clearly the commercial wasn’t as much about the Chrysler 200, as it was about the branding of Detroit as a tough, imperfect city with a rebellious attitude, and most importantly one that hasn’t given up. But more than just Detroit, this was a rallying call for our post-industrial cities, to push on because our place, our history, and our future matters.
(if the video doesn’t show in your browser it is available here)
It is not to say Detroit, or any Rust Belt city for that matter, doesn’t have its fair share of problems, they do. Further, this commercial isn’t the silver bullet that is going to bring Detroit back, and quite frankly the automobile industry both built and destroyed Detroit, but it should act as a reminder to those who’ve never even been here that our cities matter.
What does this say about Milwaukee? We know our roads aren’t great, our schools are in desperate need of improvement, and that we have a divided region. But for those of us who’ve been here we know that we have amazing parks, diverse neighborhoods, a built environment prime for continued development, and even a little history in adventurous public policy. Unfortunately, in recent years all too often when an adventurous idea, such as the proposed streetcar system or commuter rail connecting our region together, is proposed we hear “we can’t do that, we’re not Chicago.” So it is our turn to remind those who’ve never even been here that although we are not the Windy City, we are the Brew City and quite frankly Milwaukee matters.