Monday, March 14, 2011

Imported From Detroit

As a Michigander with family roots in the auto industry - my grandfather was rank-and-file UAW who knew Walter Reuther and one of my uncles was a long-time Chrysler worker - I'm captivated by the new Chrysler "Imported from Detroit" ad campaign, which premiered during the Super Bowl.

I get sucked in every time I see the ad, even though I know I shouldn't. It strikes a perfect note of midwestern ethos - fierce pride in the face of a hardscrabble existence and a belief that the final product is all the better for its humble origins. Detroit native Eminem provides the soundtrack for the ad via his biographical song, "Lose Yourself," suggesting that, like himself, Detroit is in Recovery.

The ad is a fascinating combination of social history and pop culture, gospel and rap, blight and luxury, all effectively combined to reinforce a deluded belief in the "American Dream," convince people that the economic recovery is real, and promote consumerism. The ad is so compelling that I want to believe it, I want to buy in to its message. No worries: I have no desire to buy a Chrysler. But I do want to buy the ad's faux populist message. I can't even remember the last time I was so drawn in by an ad campaign.


Chris Hartman said...

I am in complete agreement.

Though I was not raised in Michigan, I was fortunate enough to marry a Michigan lass, and I have adopted the whole weird two-part state as my own.

The history and fate of Detroit and the U.S. auto industry is endlessly fascinating to me. In many ways, Detroit and its auto plants created the post-war American middle class that became the envy of the world and arguably the high water-mark of human development to date.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit.

Still, SE Michigan is a remarkable place. Go to a real estate website sometime and search for properties available in Detroit, MI. You can pick up a 1920s 3 bedroom 1 bath bungalow with a driveway, garage, and yard for less than you'd spend buying one of the Chryslers hawked in that awesome Eminem ad.

Or, if don't mind a few boarded-up windows, some weeds in the yard, and no reliable neighbors for a couple miles in all directions, you too can buy a Detroit house for $150 or $200. Less than you might drop on a night out with a date at a halfway-fancy restaurant.

I loved the ad. Detroit loved the ad. I was in Ann Arbor one week after the Super Bowl and everyone was talking about it.

Eve's Apple said...

Good points... and although it's only present in the commercial via images of raised fists, it's interesting to think of it in the context of the current battle over organized labor and public funding. After all, the recovery of Detroit being sold in this ad was paid for by the federal payout and carried out by a unionized workforce.

Eve's Apple said...

And today's news about the Detroit census adds yet another piece to the puzzle.

Chris Hartman said...

I saw that the counted population in the city proper was down to about 710,000?

That's still a huge population. Whenever I think of Detroit, I think of an empty, abandoned city. Not even close.

Here is a little article about a Detroit neighborhood I came across recently.


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