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Robocop Returns To Save Detroit (Again)

Robocop Returns To Save Detroit (Again)

Robocop, the late 80s crime fighting cyborg, may be the closest Detroiters can get to a hometown cinematic superhero. Well, besides The Crow, but who wants to return to the era of eyeliner and clove cigarettes? Middle school was tough enough the first time around. In honor of marketing, MGM Studios and Fox declared Tuesday Robocop Day in Detroit. Their cheesy photo opts were weak sauce however, compared to resident’s own ability to laugh in the face of their impending dystopian reality.


If you haven’t seen the film (and seriously, what’s wrong with you?) it kicks off with a rather unlikely premise. Detroit is overrun with crime and nearing bankruptcy. In a bid to prevent a slide into chaos the city becomes highly privatize. Omni Consumer Products controls so much of the city that it knocks down some slums to set up Delta City, its own free enterprise paradise inside of Detroit. The powers-that-be send Alex Murphy and his cop buddies to clear out a rough part of town. When a gang of drug dealers gun down Murphy, the company turns him into a justice-dispensing machine. The movie Robocop expresses the ultimate fantasy for Detroiters; a police force that responds in a timely fashion to the calls of distressed citizens, blight being cleared and the city pulled from the brink of bankruptcy before it was too late. What will Hollywood think of next!

City residents didn’t need a movie studio to remind them that a cautionary fiction from nearly thirty years ago looks pretty sweet compared to the present. Robocop is already a crowd favorite. A 10-foot metal mother of a statue of Robocop is set to go up somewhere in the city this year, paid for by a Kickstarter campaign started in 2011 after a Massachusetts man tweeted at then-Mayor Dave Bing, “Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky’s butt. He’s a GREAT ambassador for Detroit.”

Our money would definitely be on the cyborg.

Bing wasn’t enthusiastic about the plan, but the Kickstarter campaign raised all the funds needed to build the statue in little over two months. It was hinted in official press releases that the statue would be unveiled during the Robocop Day festivities, but in true Detroit fashion, journalists were bounced around town before they realized that instead of a bronze, 10-foot statue, they were looking for a actor in a suit handing out cupcakes and fist bumping local landmarks.

Robocop tweeted as he visited several locals around Detroit, including Hitsville, U.S.A., the recording studio where Motown was born. He wrapped up his tour by throwing out the first pitch at the Detroit Tigers game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. The hometown hero made it across the plate but that didn’t help the Tigers much. They lost to Toronto 5-3. Afterwards, our gleaming hero disappeared into the dusk, possibly to fight crime, but more than likely to returned to his hotel room in the ‘burbs before the sun went down.

The entire event couldn’t have been better timed, even if it was not perfectly executed. Detroit is the only place in America where Robocop looks more like a documentary than an oft-ignored cautionary tale of what happens when privatization is allowed to run amok. Detroit is in rough shape. With 80,000 blighted properties and $18 billion dollars in debt, the city is clawing its way through the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. Privatization of essential city services such as water services and public lighting are on the table. It took a court order to prevent Detroit’s creditors from literally prying art off of the Detroit Institute of Art’s walls to assess the collection’s value. Even the idea of establishing a Delta City style free market island paradise full of Galt-going libertarian job makers was treated with varying degrees of seriousness a few years ago.


In an attempt to keep Detroit from throwing a fire sale the Michigan State Senate spent its Robocop Day approving what is affectionately known as the Grand Bargain, which could settle Detroit’s debts with creditors and pensioners alike and might keep the lights on in the Motor City for the foreseeable future. It still has a long road to go, but Detroit seems primed for a gritty reboot of its own, or at the very least, a passable sequel.


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