I planned to post this picture yesterday, and i’ll be god damned if today i wasn’t reading mLive, Michigan’s aggregate news site, on my phone and came across the story of the year. Detroit is getting an eight-foot tall Robocop statue, and all because of some Twitter posts, a Kickstarter project that exceeded the original goal of $50,000, and a bunch of folk who like Robocop and see him as a symbol of hope for Detroit, a city plagued in real life by crime, poverty, drugs, and corruption, or just think it would be ridiculous and funny to have an eight-foot Robocop statue in downtown Detroit.
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s set his classic 1987 film in a dark vision of future Detroit, but also offered a hero in Peter Weller’s ROBOCOP character, a cyborg law-enforcement officer created by classic evil big-corporation OCP. The statue idea appeared on Twitter in early 2011, when a Robocop fan in Massachusetts tweeted @ Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:
@mayordavebing Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky’s butt. He’s a GREAT ambassador for Detroit.
— @MT (@MT) February 7, 2011
to which the mayor, or someone in his staff, responded:
@mt There are not any plans to erect a statue to Robocop.Thank you for the suggestion.
— Mayor Dave Bing (@mayordavebing) February 7, 2011
Although the original poster admitted the post was a joke, this bizarre social media exchange sparked a Kickstarter crowd-raising effort by The Detroit Imagination Station that raised $67,436 as of March 13, 2012. Amazingly, the statue should be up sometime in 2014 according to the latest reports.
Diving further I learned that The Imagination Station is a non-profit organization that aims “To construct a creative campus in Detroit built on community, technology, sustainability and the arts.” They intended to do this in two blighted old properties in Corktown, Detroit, but they recently burned down. A nice little article about those houses over at Corktown blog.
However, not all Detroit citizens look forward to the eight-foot bronze Robocop’s presence. Supergay Detroit’s “10 Reasons Why a Robocop Statue Is A Bad Idea” argues that the statue would reinforce Detroit’s reputation as a “believable dystopia,” is offensive to law enforement, and is “low culture.” I stopped taking this author’s whiny criticism seriously in just the second paragraph, when he states “I don’t have strong feelings about the film “Robocop.”
Supergay Detroit’s post recieved 99 comments, many supporting the negative position. Some opponents portrayed the the project as funded by “hipsters,” for example:
“…These hipster kids are adorable and everything and I’m glad they’re here, but this really is a slap in the face who is old enough to remember what Detroit was like in the 1980s and what a wave of pissing on the city this movie helped create. It’s a self-consciously ironic, silly created by people who, if tey do love Detroit like they claim to, should be channelling their energy and creativty in much better ways and understand what a thumb in the eye it is to people who have been through really awful times here.”
Although many equate Detroit with Robocop, let’s not forget that Detroit was, and still is, filled with crime, poverty, and corruption. But Robocop gave us a hero that eventually overcame the darkness. Unlike other sci-fi/horror/action films of the past 30 years, we remember Robocop for its hero protagonist. Think about it – Alien, Predator, Chucky, Jason, Freddy, The Terminator, Dante from Saw, and almost any other memorable franchise – we remember them for their central villain. What was the name of Nicholas Cage’s hero in The Rock? Who the fuck knows, or cares. But we remember Robocop, the hero, and even his human character Officer Murphy.
I really wanted to know more about the Imagination Station, but but the email address listed on their website bounced back. Here’s the letter I sent them:
First off, I like the name. Nevermind the haters. I’m originally from Kalamazoo and I work in Shanghai now and write a blog at http://www.heatwolves.com .
I saw the story of the Robocop statue on mLive for the first time just two days ago. I’m a huge Robocop fan and totally support the statue. If I had known about the Kickstarter campaign earlier I would have donated for sure. Naturally, I started writing a blog post about this incredible story, and the more I dug into news articles about the statue, the station, and the fire, the more intrigued I became.
When I stumbled upon Supergay Detroit’s blog post “10 Reasons Why a Robocop Statue Is a Bad Idea,” I realized that your project faced some resistance. There were almost 100 comments on that post. Heavy.
I also came across the unfortunate story of your two houses burning down last June. Sorry for your loss; it sounds like people put a lot of time and love into renovating those spaces.
I couldn’t find any news about the fire after the initial June 27th reports. Was the case ruled arson? If so, was it anyone who had beef with the Imagination Station? Is there any possibility that the fire could be related to the Robocop statue or a perception of the Imagination Station a “hipster” project? (note: this comes from comments I’ve read on web forums).
I’d love to talk more about this story on the phone/Skype, or if it’s more convenient to answer my questions by email, please feel free to do so. I’m happy to call you at a time of your choice, just leave a phone number please.
Conclusion: We are balls deep in the postmodern condition. We have trap music because of Ableton and the Internet, and we have people around the world who want to erect a real life statue of the Robocop in Detroit, and they can because of social media, crowd-funding, and the Internet. Although I didn’t grow up in Detroit, I love the movie and I don’t see anything wrong with the statue. He’s a hero for a dark city, and reflects the classic Detroit theme of using technology and innovation to overcome. Finally, I predict more weirdness as the internet, technology, and our lives continue to converge and interweave.
Now enjoy this classic Detroit techno track by Cybotron.
Cybotron – Clear
Note: If for some reason you haven’t seen the original Robocop, get on that with the quickness. If this article convinces you of anything, I hope that is to see the movie. A classic American sci-fi film* on equal standing with Alien, Blade Runner, and The Terminator, but different from those films in the use of dark humor and social commentary mixed with extreme violence, much more so than any of the aforementioned films.
*should note that the director is Dutch, which calls into question whether we can call this a classic American film, or an outsider’s vision and critique of America. that makes no difference though. Please note that this is my idea, but rather one that I came across on the Hipinion forum.