The holidays provide more opportunities than any other time of year to meet new people and get a feel for the zeitgeist, but I have to remind myself that if my goal is to do that kind of research I have to not ruin the sample by giving away my biases. Last night actually provided some really interesting information precisely because I came to a conversation late and closed my mouth throughout most of it. It revealed an extremely positive attitude toward Springfield the twist being that both families lived in “Long-mortgage”, the city’s wealthiest suburb, more at the wife’s insistence than anything else.
I’ve delved into these waters before: Women experience the city differently; women are given greater responsibility for child rearing and are judged more harshly regarding it; auto-centric suburban living facilitates the purchase and transport of consumer goods regarding which women are targeted by marketing. Beyond that, a recent article at CityLab noted that the most oft repeated Christmas movie trope on the Hallmark Channel is “woman leaves city for small town and finds true love”; the irony is that all of the romantic dating scenes are filmed in walkable urban locations which are defined as small town centers.
This brings me to yet another pop culture reference, albeit a more obscure one. (So obscure I can’t find it) it’s a video of a good looking guy in a bar who, while hitting on a girl, makes it pretty clear he’s been using social media and the Internet to stalk her; but he’s cute so his target responds positively. Seconds later a more average guy just says “hello” to the same girl and she sprays him with pepper spray and runs off as though she’s been attacked. That is in so many ways the status of the out of fashion city: its virtues are ignored and its vices are magnified or even just imagined.
On the bright side, it’s still true that visitors from out of town, especially performers who are in and out so quickly they don’t have time to realize that they’re not supposed to be impressed by the city, its streets, and its architecture, will express real admiration for the place. A Beatles cover band, the Classical Mystery Tour, did a show sponsored by MGM at Symphony Hall; it was the final night of a three day, three city New England tour. All three of the band’s front men took the time to mention how amazing the venue was, and how lucky we were to have such a beautiful space to experience their performance.
In a real change from just a handful of years ago when similar comments from performers actually were responded to with derision, and openly so, these comments actually were not only greeted with applause, but one brave soul (not me) actually shouted…non-ironically: “Wooo…Springfield!”
There may be hope after all. Happy New Year.