In this city of ghosts we live our lives with little victories in the shadow of many defeats. We seek out archetypes and images that keep us going, superheroes: those that will save us. What else do we have when it seems like everything that is happening is happening to us? The Rust Belt, the region of consequences—the villains are everywhere…
Hollywood has come to Cleveland to shoot scenes of destruction and people scattering. I venture to say the extras in this particular case aren’t.
The Avengers are here. The film will entertain, no doubt. The site location of Cleveland as a scene of settings that needs to be saved by men coming down from the sky will only make the movie better—the script more believable. There will be folks in theaters from Ames to Asheville that are nobodies other than who they are and how they live: modest, real, frill-less—in jeans and t-shirts and working because their kids are hungry and because they sleep better after having worked—and they will recognize themselves in us.
Pop culture has all-too-commonly redoubled back to where it came from if only to make the impressions grittier, real. It wasn’t always like this. Take Laverne and Shirley, the ultimate Rust Belt Chic trailblazer (e.g., “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”) It was made in Milwaukee. Filmed in Milwaukee. Then it moved to Burbank where it lasted two years. The thread of its authenticity couldn’t take the tautness from being pulled so far from its conceptual and brick-and-blood home.
Still, the fact remains that it is all dreamed up in the Hollywood Hills now and plopped down in Appalachia and the Rust Belt because that is what this country has come to. The fantasy allows the reality to be. This is fucked up. Cleveland created Superman. Back then, reality allowed fantasy to be.
The Avengers are here and the city is ablaze with the prospects of Chris Evans walking around in tights and winking at girls whose fathers ate spaetzle, pirogues—and carried hammers.
We have forgotten who we are.
–By Richey Piiparinen