The movie, “8 Mile,” directed by Curtis Hanson and starring rapper and Detroit native Eminem, has caught the nation’s attention. But what is unique about this movie is not its storyline, but its focus on Detroit. Hanson chose to film the entire movie in Detroit (minus a few scenes shot in Windsor) in order to capture the real essence of the city. “8 Mile” draws particular attention to the racial divide and economic collapse of Detroit and also calls attention to problems facing urban cities all across the United States.

By using 8 Mile Road as the title of the movie, Hanson draws attention to the symbolic nature of the road as the racial and economic divide of Detroit. The audience is constantly reminded of the racial segregation that is particularly strong in the Detroit area. Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith, Jr. (Eminem) is constantly chided by others for trying to be a rapper. He is told to go back to the other side of 8 Mile when he competes in rap battles in Detroit where he is the only white contestant.

The film also shows the economic decay of Detroit. As Jimmy is riding on the bus, the film captures the empty store fronts and restaurants that look to be frozen in time; many are remnants of the 1967 race riots. “White flight” was not a phenomenon that began with the race riots, but it marked the completion of the withdrawal of many wealthy whites and with them the money to finance business. Corporations and businesses moved out of the city with increasing speed after 1967, leaving no tax base and no infrastructure.

While this movie draws attention to the problems facing Detroit, it also shows that nothing about Detroit’s problems are specific to the city. Hanson was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “the problems that exist in Detroit are in every major city. They’re just more dramatically visible in Detroit.” Perhaps the best thing about this movie is not that it focuses on Detroit but that it draws the nation’s attention to problems faced by our urban centers. Almost all cities have some degree of segregation, although Detroit’s is more pronounced than most across the nation. Most cities also have suffered from urban sprawl and the growth of suburbia.

This movie should serve as a reminder to politicians and people living in suburban areas that more focus needs to be placed on improving the core of cities. The emphasis this movie places on inner city problems and that of Detroit will hopefully empower people to seek change from their local governments. The people of the Detroit area have been displayed nationally through this movie and hopefully this attention can be translated into increased pressure for improvement. If people are spurred to act to correct the gross inequalities then this movie has done more than its job of entertaining; it will be a vehicle of social change.

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