DETROIT— In this very special EaterWire discover a round up of people's feelings about and reactions to Anthony Bourdain's Detroit episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown. The responses have been everything from "Great job, Bourdain showed it like it is" to "ruin porn ruin porn ruin porn" and not that much in between. Local news outlets and the media have written and tweeted and everything else asking for reactions, and people are forthcoming. It's gotten ugly though as it's gone past the point of people getting mad at Bourdain, to the point of people getting mad at other Detroiters.
One extreme example comes from Nicole Rupersberg at Eat It Detroit, who posted a profanity-laden rant today, ending by saying Detroiters aren't currently worthy of respect: "For fuck's sake, you just made me defend Anthony Fucking Bourdain. Not everything has to be one extreme of tinkling yourself with excitement or the other of spearheading a Twitter hashtag lynching. Learn how to be stoic. People will respect you more."
But shutting up and taking it will not bring Detroit out of it's current sinkhole, to use one of Bourdain's own descriptions. Instead, healthy dialog about what is good and bad about Detroit, what Detroiters (okay, and Metro Detroiters) want others to see and think about the city, and how to make that a reality is how game plans for change (like a new restaurant for example) are created.
Maybe the portrayal was fair, maybe it wasn't. Detroit means something different to each and every Detroiter and Metro Detroiter and visitor too. That was Bourdain's Detroit. And here's what a few Detroiters and Metro Detroiters are saying, starting off with Eater's own Facebook page:
Brittany B. was in the negative camp: "I'm a huge fan of his, but I have to admit I was very disappointed that it focused so much on the negative. There were so many opportunities for him to show all the amazing things happening. The only positives he showed are results of the decay."
While Sylvia S. agreed with Bourdain but wanted the harsh reality tempered by the 'burbs: "It was a fair and accurate portrayal. I would have enjoyed some exposure about the suburbs though. Big fan of Bourdain"
Kendra K. felt that what was delivered was different than what was promised: "I was sadly disappointed. There are so many amazing things going on daily in the city but with the exception of Guns and Butter they chose to focus on the negatives. It made Detroit look desperate and desolate. I was expecting a totally different show based on the press and the promo. I guess it was wishful thinking."
The online forum Detroit YES got very heated today as people weighed in on both sides. The whole thread might be worth a read, but here are some choice quotes:
D_Town introduces the concept of "positive" ruin porn: "I guess it is a more "positive" spin on ruin porn. I wish they would show some nicer neighborhoods though."
Mikefmich thinks that people will be drawn to the city at its worst: "I don't understand those that would desire a Madison Ave. pro job on trying to sell Detroit. How about a little straight up honesty? Ya know.....if I was younger, I'd look at Detroit as a frontier I'd want to be a part of. The grittier I see, the better I would've liked it. Too old for the challenge now, but man I woulda come running if I was under 50. "
Cliffy thought that it was realistic: "It was the cold hard truth. Thats what the majority of Detroit looks like."
But dmike76 disagreed: "Cliffy, he only told half of the 'cold, hard, truth'. There is a part of the truth where sections of the city are growing, businesses are opening, etc. I don't deny that what he did show wasn't real, but it wasn't the whole story. He could've skipped the open fields and cut part of the packard plant portion and focused on Eastern Market."
EastsideAl waxes artistic: "I thought the colored lights on the vacant buildings looked purdy. Maybe they'd look better to us if we did that all the time... "
And JoeSmithRocks thinks everyone should just stop whining: "I'm sick of hearing people cry "ruin porn." Get over it. Name a Detroit story that is as half as interesting or compelling to the rest of the world as our unique and oddly beautiful ruins. There isn't one. Bourdain did a great job explaining that very fact in his blog. If you're so upset about the media's continued coverage of our massive and ever-present ruins, then get out there and clean them up."
And Maverick1 closes out the conversation (for now) by insisting Detroit just needs to focus on itself and forget what everyone else thinks: "At this point I don't care anymore. I don't care because people overall will not make the effort to understand Detroit. Detroit's problems are worse than other cities. I have no problem with the bad parts getting the most attention. It's here and it's bad. Even when the city was in better shape we still had to deal with this. Frankly, asking mainstream media to show all of Detroit is asking too much. I just want us to make it better. Forget them. I've stopped discussing Detroit with people not from Detroit. It's not worth it. We need to get over this inferiority complex too. At what point do we stop begging for the rest of America to notice it's not all bad here? As long as we are the poster child for deindustrialization, urban sprawl, white flight, and the decline of the working class we will have this problem. If the city is awesome it will speak for itself but begging for the national media to show Sherwood Forest and Rosedale Park when most of Grand River and Linwood is in shambles is asking for too much."