This essay analyzes films (8 Mile, Gran Torino, It Follows) and television series (Hung, Low Winter Sun) that use the setting of Detroit to depict characters who are dealing with deteriorating socioeconomic conditions and whose choices and relationships reflect their difficulties in, and anxieties about, adjusting to such conditions. While the familiar icons of Detroit's decline appear in all of these texts, the narratives evolve from working class realism to satire and ultimately horror, or from anxieties about white working class displacement to the displacement of such anxieties. The history of Detroit illustrates the complex ways in which global forces interact with specific socioeconomic conditions ad political structures, but the depictions of Detroit in American popular culture illustrate the difficulty of comprehending the complexity of these problems. The icons of Detroit's decline become simultaneously more recognizable and less graspable, their history evaporating and leaving behind only the vague anxiety and horror evoked by their familiar images. The protagonists of these narratives lose a cognitive map of their lives, their city, their country; the resentment and anxieties reflected in these texts become increasingly volatile and dangerous as the socioeconomic conditions that produce them become more difficult to map and seemingly inescapable.
Roe, Jae H
""The Headwaters of a River of Failure": Detroit as an Icon of American Decline."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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