Parody Tourism Videos Tell Serious Truths About Cities
In 2009 you may have seen this "hastily-made" tourism video for Cleveland as it made the internet rounds. This very funny and very obviously satirical look at the city's shortcomings by Mike Polk features lyrical gems like "come and look at both of our buildings" and "this train is carrying jobs out of Cleveland" over dismal footage of the city's downtown. Polk followed this up with "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video: 2nd Attempt" in which he lobs more zingers like "under construction since 1868" and "at least we're not Detroit."
Shortly after the videos came out, they had caused such a stir that Positively Cleveland launched its own contest for a more "positive" tourism video. Maybe they were positive, but they weren't funny.
Since these were first posted over a year ago, the "hastily-made tourism video" has become a meme, with hastily-made videos for Detroit, Boston, Orlando, St. Paul, North Korea, and Yosemite, and, as I just discovered today, even a Canoga Park Tourism Video (plus a Part 2) for a city outside of Los Angeles. None of these are as good as the originals, of course, but they each get to the heart of the problems with each city's urban environment.
While it may seem like these are just silly tongue-in-cheek jabs at cities, these videos actually offer some pretty specific criticism, and working within the frame of parody allows them to be even more honest. The Canoga Park pieces, for example, opine about the prevalence of strip club billboards and the absence of bike parking, against seemingly endless footage of people pushing shopping carts through the city. I would like to see more of these videos, actually, because if a city's residents spend the time to observe their city enough to make a "hastily-made" tourism video, it means they're actually thinking about what's wrong with their community. Now let's hope their mayors are watching.