One commonly heard cliche among boosters of Buffalo, New York is that the city, the surrounding region, and its people and culture, are somehow more "real","authentic", "genuine", "honest", "character filled" and so on, and that the world outside of Western New York is "fake", "plastic", "corporate", "sanitized", "Anywhere USA" and so on.
In recent weeks, there has been a barrage a lot of promotional commercials for Detroit airing on Cleveland television stations.
"Are you interested in the real thing? Ready to step off the Interstate and discover an authentic American city?... If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, make plans to visit Buffalo -- an authentic, original, real American city."
"A while back, I left Buffalo and moved to Amsterdam. The 1 year experiment turned into 7 years... and I am still here. My heartstrings are naturally always pulled by Buffalo and my nostalgia. Trying to explain it to my Dutch partner was difficult. Why is Buffalo different then any other city, she asked? Because it is. It's more human I said."
I love Revitalize Buffalo, but this entry has another "Buffalo is more real" article.
"Here it is: Buffalo - The Real Deal!
I think it’s a pretty brilliant one and anyone who has lived here for a year or two can attest to that fact. Everything about Buffalo is real. The people, the architecture and history, the culture, the sports teams and their fans…if you’ve been here for more than five minutes, you already know that about Buffalo…Marv Levy said it best during his coaching tenure, “Where else would you rather be, right here, right now?”"
Ed Healy from the Buffalo CVB:
"It's tough-minded, to the point, matter-of-fact. It says this is an authentic place . . . We are what we are, and proud of it. It's smash-mouth football. Chicken wings at the corner tavern. Beers and kielbasa. It's not glitz and glamour, but the authentic America that has been lost in so many places.""
Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker:
"Buffalo has a kind of power, the power of the authentic place."
It's got a lot more heart, a lot more real-ness, than all the up-and-coming suburbs and growing-too-fast cities across the country.
"I encourage everyone to come to Buffalo for a good time, good people, good drinks, etc. Buffalo's image is not perceived very well around the country, and I really have no idea why. Buffalo is not the most amazing place on the planet, I'm quite sure of that. However, you'll be hard pressed to find a place where the people are more real and passionate than Buffalo, New York."
Looks like they got their copy verbatim from the comments of boosters in Buffalo's newspapers and blogs, and substituted "Detroit" and "Michigan" where appropriate.Television:
"In our pasteurized and sanitized world, we're crying out for something real."
"When you need to feel something, come on down to Detroit, because the thrill of a real city is pure Michigan."
"What's the definition of a day out? Going to the mall, or a chain restaurant?"
"But what if there was a city that was different, where things were like night and day?"
"We all need to get away from the norm, and there's no better city to experience a real city than Detroit"
Given the Detroit campaign, I'm increasingly under the impression that describing a city as "real" or "authentic" is the rough equivalent of calling a retarded person "special."
I believe that some Buffalonians throw around the "real" tag like some overweight women call themselves "real women", implying that thin women aren't "real". When Buffalonians claim that their city is more "real", could it be a way of applying a positive word to what might be seen as negative traits: urban grit (not "sanitized" like an evil mall), working-class attitudes and lifestyles (as opposed to "pretentious" but affluent yuppiedom), and a sense of being in a "time warp" (nostalgia for the simpler days of past, as opposed to more complicated 21st century living). Just like "real women", claims of Buffalo's "realness" might be a way of implying that more prosperous, affluent cities aren't "real"; it's a last-ditch weapon to validate one's loyalty to Buffalo when people sing the praises of cities like Denver or Portland, and the qualities and amenities of those cities that are lacking in Buffalo. "Sure, Portland might have urban growth boundaries, great public transit, a growing population of young educated professionals, and a thriving downtown, but Buffalo's more REAL."
Are there other cities whose residents seem prone to promoting the attributes of the place as "authentic", "genuine", "real" and so on, much in a way a hipster hypes their favorite unsigned band? Are the cities that claim to be more "real" generally less prosperous than the norm? Do you think these terms are really code for "we don't really have anything else going for us, so let's put a positive spin on our gritty side?"