Created By: Tuckerscreator on October 29, 2017 Last Edited By: randomtroper89 on November 28, 2017
Troped

Villainous Gentrification

Renovating an old city to new can be anywhere as bad from an annoying trendy wave to an evil conspiracy.

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trope
Gentrification, a type of urban renovation in which older buildings are replaced with newer apartments and businesses, has become controversial over the years, viewed as a form of community displacement in which the prior residents are made to leave or be run out of business by the new tenants. As a result, fiction depicting gentrification often does so negatively, from merely an annoying attempt to market to liberal newcomers, to an evil conspiracy or ethnic cleansing scheme.

The Urban Hellscape trope is often a precursor to this trope, as the lawless and ruined city is used to justify why the Gentrification is happening in the first place. It may also be a motivation for Saving the Orphanage or otherwise raising money in order to protect a particular house or landmark.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Princess Jellyfish features a land developer company buying out homes in an old neighborhood for a gentrification project, and the main character's goal is to save their retro boardinghouse from being bought out. The characters look down on the development, and the main representative of the company is an evil vamp.

Comic Books

  • In Volume 5 of Ms. Marvel (2014), Kamala and the residents of New Jersey discover that a local avenue has been massively renovated by a new corporation. She is aghast to find her superhero image being used without permission for the company's billboards, and that her favorite Serbian-Vietnamese grocery store has been replaced by luxury condos. Investigating the operation, Kamala discovers that the rebuilding is planned for the entire city and run by Hope Yards Development and Relocation Association, aka none other than HYDRA. Their next plan? Hypnotizing all the current residents of New Jersey and making them all move out of town.
  • In Black Panther and The Crew, T'challa also uncovers a gentrification scheme by Hydra, this time targeting Harlem. Not only do they intend to move the old residents out, but are working alongside a business manufacturing robot cops and have laced the new buildings with devices meant to increase anger in the residents and encourage racial riots. But they couldn't resist building all their new complexes in the shape of the Hydra logo when seen from above.
  • DC Comics four-issue crossover series has the Justice League meet the Looney Tunes. Mister Mxyzptlk is seen planting seeds in vacant lots in downtown Metropolis. Within seconds, whole buildings rise from the ground, every one a Brand X clone of a franchise chain, such as Czarbucks coffee, Klunko's printing, et cetera. Clark Kent realizes that such oversaturation of the market will monkeywrench Metropolis's economy.

Animated Film
  • In Up, the elderly Carl is pressured by the city skyscraper building company to sell his old Victorian home that he and his late wife have used ever since they were children. Carl refuses, but ends up losing ownership when he injures a construction worker and the case is used to declare him unfit to live alone and his house to be torn down.
  • Hey Arnold!: The Movie centers around Arnold's neighborhood being targeted for replacement as a shopping mall. The kids set out to save their houses by acquiring a document certifying their neighborhood as a historic district, currently owned by none other than the CEO planning to mow down their homes.

Live-Action Film
  • Burlesque has the LA burlesque theater risking being shut down and replaced with a skyscaper and condos. However, the conflict is easily resolved by Ali and Tess of the theater by convincing the condo owner to spare their theater since the skyscraper would obstruct the view from his condos.
  • *batteries not included: The residents of an old apartment building are fighting to keep it from being demolished by a company that wants the property for their new high-rise complex. It gets burned down in the end, but the Fix-Its return and rebuild the place, good as new. The high-rises are then build around the building.
  • Robocop: Detroit has become a dangerous Urban Hellscape that even the police are powerless to control. The Mega Corp., OCP, thus plans to demolish the city and rebuild it as Delta City, which would be controlled and operated almost exclusively by OCP and patrolled by robot police under the employ of OCP. While this is merely a looming threat that drives the plot in the first two movies, stopping OCP from destroying their city and homes is the main conflict of Robocop 3.

Literature
  • Discussed in Patriot Games. Jack Ryan sees a bunch of charming old homes in England, noting to himself that in the US they'd be torn down and replaced by a bunch of soulless glass boxes.

Live-Action TV
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the elderly Cloud Cuckoo Lander Lilian Kaustupper worships her decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood as a sort of vague benevolent force/natural order, and tries to make it appear worse than it is to avoid the intrusion of outsiders and its eventual gentrification. What starts as a comedic subplot becomes arguably the most important plotline of the show, and gets increasingly serious as episodes pass. Her situation is made all the more poignant in that, after accidentally killing her husband, the lost souls she takes under her wing are the only family she has. Those people (for instance a Camp Gay black singer who can't get a role in the Lion King musical because he can't pass as a straight giraffe and the Child Bride of the leader of an apocalypse cult whose naivete and tragic backstory keep being exploited) are constantly rejected by society, and it's shown that their little Dysfunction Junction is the only place in which they can be safe and happy. Eventually she becomes a heroic champion of her people and has to enter politics to defend everyone's interest.
  • This trope constantly hangs over The Wire. Gentrification is presented as, at best, attempting to paper over the problems of the city, and at worst as almost an equal force with the city's prodigious crime rate in making the city unlivable and unable to pull itself out of its downward spiral. Also, every real estate developer encountered for more than a few seconds is greedy, corrupt, and willing to screw over anyone to make a few dollars. Specific examples include:
    • Real estate developer Andy Krawczyk is a major behind the scenes power in Baltimore. He's also the very model of a corrupt developer, pushing to do things like building luxury condos after doing a land grab, skirting the law to bribe officials, bending city hall to do his bidding in everything from zoning laws to who gets promoted within the police force.
    • Drug kingpins often buy up cheap real estate in bad neighborhoods, then profit massively from corrupt deals made with developers or the city when the land has to be bought for urban renewal.
    • The second season features a protracted fight between the union dockworkers and the aforementioned Andy Krawczyk over a pier that has fallen into disuse. The dockworkers want to repair and reopen the space for commercial use, which could mean adding hundreds of badly needed jobs and giving that area of the city a chance at genuine renewal. Krawczyk wants to simply take the land and build luxury apartments near the water.
      • The second season also has a short incident where Nick Sobotka, the nephew of the head of the dockworkers union, attempts to by a house that used to belong to an aunt of his, only to find that due to gentrification the prices of real estate have soared so much that he could never hope to buy property in that neighborhood, showing how blue collar locals get squeezed out by gentrification.
    • There's a darkly humorous case in the third season. Stringer Bell, the Dragon-in-Chief of what was the biggest drug empire in the city when the story began, is trying to move into legitimate business and become a real estate mogul/developer. The business partners who are supposed to be helping him do this, Andy Krawczyk and State Senator Clay Davis, are actually conning him out of money while his projects go nowhere. They are literally bigger crooks than one of the biggest drug dealers in town and can cheat him with impunity. Stringer's attempt to get into the real estate business is discussed by a group of detectives who investigated him in Season 1 and are now doing so again.
      Detective Freamon: You know, a couple of years ago when they were buying all that downtown real estate, I thought they were buying it to flip it. Get the cash when the federal payout lands and the properties are condemned.
      Detective Pryzbylewski: Bell and Barksdale haven't sold any of it. They're buying more, in fact, and applying for building permits.
      Detective Freamon: Seems that Stringer Bell is worse than a drug dealer.
      Detective Pryzbylewski: [with distate] He's a developer.
  • One of the earliest episodes of Burn Notice concerns a greedy extortionist demanding outrageous sums of protection money from a Hispanic neighborhood and busting up the homes and businesses of anyone unable or unwilling to pay. (Or worse.) As she explains to Michael when he goes undercover as a crook and joins her gang, she wants the rates to be too high to afford and to drive out the people who are unable to go to the police because the real estate companies she owns can swoop in and buy up the property cheap and make far more money on it when the city later goes to gentrify the area than she ever could from simple protection rackets.
  • Daredevil: Season 1 is based around Wilson Fisk who wants to gentrify Hell's Kitchen, using intimidation to force the poorer residents to leave the area for his benefit. When tenets of an apartment he wants to tear down to build condos refuse to leave, he has "handymen" trash their rooms, and later has a junkie murder a woman who still persists. He's also seen as a hero by much of the city because of bringing "prosperity" and "business opportunities" to the area.note 
Theatre
  • Gentrification haunts In the Heights due to the ever-increasing cost of rent. The Hispanic inhabitants of the Heights put gentrification alongside racism and failing education in "96,000" and in "Finale," the protagonist laments that no one will remember the Heights he knew once the entire neighborhood is filled with rich hipsters.

Web Original
  • Gente-fied examines the process occurring in a Boyle Heights neighborhood, with characters from a white property owner who thinks the Hispanic residents should be grateful his trendier stores raised the local property values, to Latino and Latina residents who either reject the encroaching rebuilding or attempt to assimilate but with mixed success.

Western Animation
  • An episode of King of the Hill has Peggy try her hand at selling real estate. She sells a house in Enrique's neighborhood to a hipster who later gets his friends to move into the other houses. At first, the changes are benign ("They put salmon in the fish taco!"), but Enrique later reveals that the gentrification has caused his rent to skyrocket.
  • In South Park's Season 19 episode "The City Part of Town", the town, in response to Jimmy Fallon's demeaning commentary, gentrifies the area around Kenny's house in a bid to get their own Whole Foods, which would validate them for being socially conscious. However, the resulting urban development does nothing to help Kenny and his family. Soon, the local Asian Store-Owner, forgotten by the rest of South Park, gets the idea to revitalize his own rundown part of town as well, and it ends up becoming the home for South Park's Whole Foods (and subsequently rendering the original gentrified district abandoned). The consequences of this scheme was explored for the rest of the season, especially in the final three episodes.

Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • October 29, 2017
    Tallens
    May lead to Saving The Orphanage.

    • Batteries Not Included: The residents of an old apartment building are fighting to keep it from being demolished by a company that wants the property for their new high-rise complex. It gets burned down in the end, but the Fix-Its return and rebuild the place, good as new. The high-rises are then build around the building.

    • Patriot Games: A downplayed example, mostly from Jack Ryan's POV, where he sees a bunch of charming old homes in England, noting to himself that in the US they'd be torn down and replaced by a bunch of soulless glass boxes.
  • October 30, 2017
    Omeganian
    Central in Robocop
  • October 30, 2017
    Chabal2
    The Punisher: The "Kitchen Irish" arc mentions that you can gentrify Hell's Kitchen all you want, it won't change the fact that the residents are proof that Humans Are Bastards.
  • October 30, 2017
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the title.
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
  • October 30, 2017
    BKelly95
    Western Animation
    • An episode of King Of The Hill has Peggy try her hand at selling real estate. She sells a house in Enrique's neighborhood to a hipster who later gets his friends to move into the other houses. At first, the changes are benign ("They put salmon in the fish taco!"), but Enrique later reveals that the gentrification has caused his rent to skyrocket.
  • October 30, 2017
    Lorialet
    • In UnbreakableKimmySchmidt, the elderly Cloud Cuckoo Lander Lilian Kaustupper worships her decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood as a sort of vague benevolent force/natural order, and tries to make it appear worse than it is to avoid the intrusion of outsiders and its eventual gentrification. What starts as a comedic subplot becomes arguably the most important plotline of the show, and gets increasingly serious as episodes pass. Her situation is made all the more poignant in that, after accidentally killing her husband, the lost souls she takes under her wing are the only family she has. Those people (for instance a Camp Gay black singer who can't get a role in the Lion King musical because he can't pass as a straight giraffe and the Child Bride of the leader of an apocalypse cult whose naivete and tragic backstory keep being exploited) are constantly rejected by society, and it's shown that their little Dysfunction Junction is the only place in which they can be safe and happy. Eventually she becomes a heroic champion of her people and has to enter politics to defend everyone's interest.
  • October 30, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    I have an objection to the name.

    While I'm no fan of gentrification on principle, the trope name implies that the work itself argues that ALL gentrification, regardless of any context, is evil without fail. My opinion is that if it's just a single instance which is portrayed as evil, that doesn't necessarily mean that the work is making the aforementioned argument.

    Thus, I think the current name should either restrict examples to works which outright state that gentrification is an evil concept, or change the name to "Villainous Gentrification" or something similar, to describe the individual instances in the work.
  • November 2, 2017
    Bisected8
    • In Life Is Strange, the town of Arcadia Bay is undergoing this because of the Prescott family, who've been buying up most of the town's land for new developments, and putting its residents out of work. While clearly treated as a bad thing, it mostly stays in the background (just another way for Max to feel like she's a Stranger In A Familiar Land) compared to the supernatural happenings and the disappearance of Rachel Amber ( Although Nathan Prescott was responsible for killing her, and Mr. Jefferson got his position and funding from them even if they didn't know what he was up to).
  • October 30, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    ^^There's other tropes with similar names like Armies Are Evil and Girl Scouts Are Evil, so I don't think it implies all of its kind are evil, just that that is what the media work depicts.
  • October 30, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    "Thus, I think the current name should either restrict examples to works which outright state that gentrification is an evil concept."

    This point can hold up, if we limit to and there are enough examples that depict gentrification as the villain of the work rather than just a background event the characters dislike.
  • October 30, 2017
    Skylite
    • Another animated film example: Storks has a moment where Junior thinks he's delivering the baby to her real home, but it's a trap. When asked What The Hell Hero regarding how he fell for a pretty suburban home in a Shady Warehouse District, his flustered reply is that he thought it was gentrification.
  • October 30, 2017
    Jokubas
    ^^^ That's what I thought. It's not always explicit but I think it applies. I don't remember specifics, so it can't be added as an example, but I recall a movie where the heroes were trying to stop some developers from turning an abandoned building into a community center, leading to a lot of Fridge Logic about why a new, dedicated place for the community was worse for kids than a dangerous old building.
  • October 30, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    "^^There's other tropes with similar names like Armies Are Evil and Girl Scouts Are Evil, so I don't think it implies all of its kind are evil, just that that is what the media work depicts"

    Aside from arguing the Grandfather Clause, this topic is far more personal and divisive. Even left and right leaning politicians think armies are necessary evils at best, buthe gentrification riles up both sides of the spectrum from the get-go.
  • November 1, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    If the current name is that inflammatory, then I guess it can be changed, though "Villainous Gentrification" strikes me as a little too light. Usually stories that feature gentrification as the main antagonizing force are depicting it as universally terrible, similar to deforestation in Green Aesop films. So the current title communicates that sort of philosophy. Any other title suggestions?
  • November 1, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Again, environmental messages aren't quite controversial in the same way. Just like war, everyone agrees that pollution is bad. Where disagreements lie is on what, exactly, causes it and what (if anything) should be done about it.

    Gentrification hasn't even gotten to the "this is considered universally bad' stage yet.

    I mean, yeah.. "works with gentrification as the antagonizing force" are going to treat it as bad. Just like works where Communists or Socialists are the antagonizing force are going to treat them as bad. Or Nationalists and Capitalists.

    I'll have to think on a name, but in the meantime:
    The Urban Hellscape trope is often a precursor to this trope, as the lawless and ruined city is used to justify why the Gentrification is happening in the first place.

    Example:
    • Robocop: Detroit has become a dangerous Urban Hellscape that even the police are powerless to control. The Mega Corp, OCP, thus plans to demolish the city and rebuild it as Delta City, which would be controlled and operated almost exclusively by OCP and patrolled by robot police under the employ of OCP. While this is merely a looming threat that drives the plot in the first two movies, stopping OCP from destroying their city and homes is the main conflict of Robocop 3.
  • November 3, 2017
    NESBoy
    In South Park's Season 19 episode "The City Part of Town", the town, in response to Jimmy Fallon's demeaning commentary, gentrifies the area around Kenny's house in a bid to get their own Whole Foods, which would validate them for being socially conscious. However, the resulting urban development does nothing to help Kenny and his family. Soon, the local Asian Store Owner, forgotten by the rest of South Park, gets the idea to revitalize his own rundown part of town as well, and it ends up becoming the home for South Park's Whole Foods (and subsequently rendering the original gentrified district abandoned). The consequences of this scheme was explored for the rest of the season, especially in the final three episodes.
  • November 3, 2017
    DustSnitch
    • Gentrification haunts In The Heights due to the ever-increasing cost of rent. The Hispanic inhabitants of the Heights put gentrification alongside racism and failing education in "96,000" and in "Finale," the protagonist laments that no one will remember the Heights he knew once the entire neighborhood is filled with rich hipsters.
  • November 4, 2017
    KaiYves
    May be a motivation for Saving The Orphanage or otherwise raising money in order to protect a particular house or landmark.
  • November 5, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Comic Books
    • DC Comics four-issue crossover series has the Justice League meet the Looney Tunes. Mister Mxyzptlk is seen planting seeds in vacant lots in downtown Metropolis. Within seconds, whole buildings rise from the ground, every one a Brand X clone of a franchise chain, such as Czarbucks coffee, Klunko's printing, et cetera. Clark Kent realizes that such oversaturation of the market will monkeywrench Metropolis's economy.
  • November 9, 2017
    TheWanderer
    • This trope constantly hangs over The Wire. Gentrification is presented as, at best, attempting to paper over the problems of the city, and at worst as almost an equal force with the city's prodigious crime rate in making the city unlivable and unable to pull itself out of its downward spiral. Also, every real estate developer encountered for more than a few seconds is greedy, corrupt, and willing to screw over anyone to make a few dollars. Specific examples include:
      • Real estate developer Andy Krawczyk is a major behind the scenes power in Baltimore. He's also the very model of a corrupt developer, pushing to do things like building luxury condos after doing a land grab, skirting the law to bribe officials, bending city hall to do his bidding in everything from zoning laws to who gets promoted within the police force.
      • Drug kingpins often buy up cheap real estate in bad neighborhoods, then profit massively from corrupt deals made with developers or the city when the land has to be bought for urban renewal.
      • The second season features a protracted fight between the union dockworkers and the aforementioned Andy Krawczyk over a pier that has fallen into disuse. The dockworkers want to repair and reopen the space for commerial use, which could mean adding hundreds of badly needed jobs and giving that area of the city a chance at genuine renewal. Krawczyk wants to simply take the land and build luxury apartments near the water.
        • The second season also has a short incident where Nick Sobotka, the nephew of the head of the dockworkers union, attempts to by a house that used to belong to an aunt of his, only to find that due to gentrification the prices of real estate have soared so much that he could never hope to buy property in that neighborhood, showing how blue collar locals get squeezed out by gentrification.
      • There's a darkly humorous case in the third season. Stringer Bell, the Dragon In Chief of what was the biggest drug empire in the city when the story began, is trying to move into legitimate business and become a real estate mogul/developer. So what's the funny part, you ask? The business partners who are supposed to be helping him do this, Andy Krawczyk and State Senator Clay Davis, are actually conning him out of money while his projects go nowhere. They are literally bigger crooks than one of the biggest drug dealers in town and can cheat him with impunity. Stringer's attempt to get into the real estate business is discussed by a group of detectives who investigated him in Season 1 and are now doing so again.
        Detective Freamon: You know, a couple of years ago when they were buying all that downtown real estate, I thought they were buying it to flip it. Get the cash when the federal payout lands and the properties are condemned.
        Detective Pryzbylewski: Bell and Barksdale haven't sold any of it. They're buying more, in fact, and applying for building permits.
        Detective Freamon: Seems that Stringer Bell is worse than a drug dealer.
        Detective Pryzbylewski: [with distate] He's a developer.

    • One of the earliest episodes of Burn Notice concerns a greedy extortionist demanding outrageous sums of protection money from a Hispanic neighborhood and busting up the homes and businesses of anyone unable or unwilling to pay. (Or worse.) As she explains to Michael when he goes undercover as a crook and joins her gang, she wants the rates to be too high to afford and to drive out the people who are unable to go to the police because the real estate companies she owns can swoop in and buy up the property cheap and make far more money on it when the city later goes to gentrify the area than she ever could from simple protection rackets.
  • November 15, 2017
    Synchronicity
    • Princess Jellyfish features a land developer company buying out homes in an old neighborhood for a gentrification project, and the main character's goal is to save their retro boardinghouse from being bought out. The characters look down on the development, and the main representative of the company is an evil vamp.
  • November 16, 2017
    samitv
    • Series/Daredevil: Season 1 is based around a villain who wants to gentrify Hell's Kitchen. He uses intimidation to force the poorer residents to leave the area for his benefit. He's also seen as a hero by much of the city because of bringing "prosperity" and "business opportunities" to the area.
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