Your streets witness our struggle
Your bricks show are our rage through the emptiness of each house shuttered, of each factory closed
We've lived through the ups and the downs
But we remain, Detroit
We can never turn our backs on you Detroit, because we are you"
Detroit is the Motor City. Although much diminished from its 1920s-60s heyday, it remains the largest city in the State of Michigan and the focal point of the Great Lakes State's main population center (with a metropolitan population of 4.3 million, or slightly less than half the total state population of 9.9 million) and economic engine.
The Detroit area is the center of America's automotive industry. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler have headquarters there and it is known as the "Motor City" for this very reason.note Its most recognizable structure is the Renaissance Center.
It is geographically notable for a few reasons. Despite being separated from Windsor, Ontario by the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, it features the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing — the Ambassador Bridge. It is also the only place in the contiguous 48 States where Canada is south of the U.S., since Windsor juts out to the west just so. Detroit itself is surrounded by smaller independent municipalities, who form the Metro Detroit area. With both a Spanish Univision station in Detroit and (until it was shut down in 2012) a CBC tower in Windsor rebroadcasting the main Francophone feed from Montréal, it was for many years the only area in North America where you can watch free-to-air TV in three languages.note
The Metro Detroit area is home to a myriad cultures and ethnicities, including one of the largest Arab populations in North America, centered in Dearborn (with a sizable Lebanese outpost in West Bloomfield — where they get along rather interestingly with the large Jewish population - and the world's biggest Iraqi Catholic population outside Iraq, centered in the northeast exurbs of Utica and Shelby Township, where they get along rather interestingly with the existing predominance of Albanians and Macedonians). It is also very economically and racially-segregated, with poorer minorities living in the city, the white working-class in the eastern suburbs, and the predominantly white, Indian American, and Asian American upper-middle-class in the northwestern suburbs/exurbs and the Pointes just east of the city proper. The Metro Detroit area is one of the most racially segregated in the nation.
Detroit is also known as "Hockeytown" due to the Detroit Red Wings being a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Other, less flattering nicknames include "Murder City" and variations on such, as Detroit has one of the least-flattering public images of any major city in the country. The decline of the American auto industry in the 1970s, combined with simmering racial, economic, and labor tensions, have made it the poster child for, and butt of many jokes about, urban decay and inner-city squalor for much of America. Detroit has lost 60% of its peak population since 1950 (from 1.8 million to less than 700,000). For decades, mentions of Detroit in the national media and pop culture have typically referred to it as a Place Worse Than Death, and the crumbling ruins of some of its more destitute neighborhoods have honestly been described as looking post-apocalyptic. This tends to seriously annoy Detroiters, who feel that the city's bad reputation is making it harder to revitalize. They also feel that many of the jokes are tired, clichéd, and lazy. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Since the bankruptcy, the city's finances are much more stable, and there are a number of projects for growth across the city (especially in Downtown and Midtown). That being said, city redevelopment can be a slow process, as the experiences of many other cities in the U.S. can tell.
Films set in Detroit or its nearby communities:
- 8 Mile
- Brick Mansions (the English remake of Banlieue 13)
- Collision Course
- The Crow
- Detroit takes place during the infamous 1967 12th Street riot, specifically focusing on the Algiers Hotel Incident where three black teenagers were beaten and killed by Detroit police under suspicious circumstances.
- Detroit Rock City
- Dreamgirls (following the famous Motown music label and genre; the play is based in Chicago, but the movie places it in Detroit to make it closer its inspiration).
- Four Brothers
- Gran Torino (Highland Park)
- Grosse Pointe Blank (Grosse Pointe)
- It Follows: the protagonists live in the well-to-do suburbs, and venture into the decrepit inner city for a number of scenes. Yara remarks about the racial and economic divide, reminiscing on how, when she was younger, her parents wouldn't let her travel south of 8 Mile Road, even to go to the state fair. The large body of water seen several times in the movie is not the ocean, but Lake Erie.
- Max Keeble's Big Move (Robe briefly referred to it, although he mixed it up with Chicago).
- Only Lovers Left Alive: one of the vampire characters lives here, both for its music scene and because its relative desolation allows him to be left alone.
- Out of Sight (based on the novel by beloved Detroit resident Elmore Leonard)
- Sparkle (the remake takes place in Detroit of the 1960s)
- The Upside of Anger (Bloomfield Hills)
- The Virgin Suicides is also set in Grosse Pointe. Jeffrey Eugenides' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Middlesex is also set in Detroit.
TV shows set in Detroit:
- 8 Simple Rules
- Detroit 1-8-7
- Freaks and Geeks (faked-up Clinton Township)
- God, the Devil and Bob
- Good Girls
- Hardcore Pawn
- Home Improvement (Royal Oak)
- Hung (shot in West Bloomfield)
- Low Winter Sun
- RoboCop: The Series
- Sister, Sister
- Transformers Animated
Video games set in Detroit:
Musical acts from Detroit:
- Alice Cooper
- Anita Baker (born in Toledo, Ohio but raised in Detroit, started her music career there, and currently lives in Grosse Pointe).
- Aretha Franklin
- The "Belleville Three", Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, considered the creators of techno music
- Big Sean
- The Black Dahlia Murder
- Bob Seger
- Danny Brown
- The Dirtbombs
- Eminem (born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, though he spent most of his life in nearby Warren, and currently lives in another suburb, Rochester Hills)
- Esham (born in New York City; formed the Detroit-based rap label, Reel Life Productions)
- House Of Krazees
- Iggy Pop and The Stooges: Mostly associated with Ann Arbor, but definitely part of the Detroit protopunk scene in the late '60s.
- Kid Rock
- Madonna (born in Bay City [116 miles to the north], but raised in Rochester Hills, a suburb in Oakland County)
- The MC5, even referenced in "Motor City Is Burning" from Kick Out the Jams.
- Mitch Ryder
- Most of the Motown Records artists in the 1960s and 1970s, including but not limited to the Four Tops, the Temptations, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
- Psychopathic Records artists Insane Clown Posse, ABK, Big Hoodoo, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Zug Izland.
- Sixto Rodriguez (subject of the Oscar winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man)
- Ted Nugent
- Uncle Kracker
- The White Stripes
Professional Wrestlers from Detroit:
- Bruiser Brody
- Kevin Nash
- Sgt. Slaughter
- George Steele (Madison Heights)
- Rick and Scott Steiner (Bay City)
- Alex Shelley is from Detroit. For a while, he teamed up with Chris Sabin, who's from Pickney, as the "Motor City Machine Guns."
Celebrities from Detroit:
- Nerds Are Sexy poster girl Judy Greer (Livonia)
- Bruce Campbell (Royal Oak; attended school with...)
- Sam Raimi (Royal Oak)
- Tim Allen (Birmingham)
- Man of a Thousand Voices Rob Paulsen (Livonia)
- Casey Kasem
- Richard Kiel
- S. Epatha Merkerson, a.k.a. Lt. Anita Van Buren
- George Peppard
- Tom Selleck
- J. K. Simmons (Grosse Pointe)
- Frequent death threat recipient Michael Moore isn't from Detroit. He's from Davison, a suburb of Flint, which is 66 miles from Detroit. It's only a part of the Motor City if you inflate Metro Detroit or use "Detroit" as a metonym for the auto industry. To his credit, Moore never claimed to be from Detroit; he claimed to be from Flint. Considering that before 2015 hardly anybody knew about Flint, you can sort of give him a pass.
- Kristen Bell (Huntington Woods)
- Lily Tomlin
- John Witherspoon
- David Alan Grier
- Keegan-Michael Key
- "Dr. Death", Jack Kevorkian, famously portrayed by Al Pacino in HBO's You Don't Know Jack.
- Mitch Albom, sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press who moonlights as an author, most notably Tuesdays with Morrie.
- Robin Williams spent about half his youth in Bloomfield Hills (his dad was an exec at Ford) and half in New-Age Retro Hippie country, Marin County, California.
- Gilda Radner
- Butch Hartman (Highland Park)
- Chris Savino was raised in Royal Oak and used the city as the main inspiration for his show The Loud House.
- Michelle Ruff
- Jim Benton, creator of It's Happy Bunny (Bloomfield Township)
- He may not sound like it, but James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio was born and raised in Detroit.
- Tom Hulce (Plymouth). Famous for playing Pinto, Mozart, and Quasimodo.
- Mitt Romney was born in Detroit and raised in Bloomfield Hills. His father, George Romney, was president of the American Motors Corporation;note the elder Romney was also a Republican Governor of Michigan in the '60s, and was a vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and of equality for blacks within the LDS Church, and a candidate for President in 1968.note
- Grant Achatz, a Molecular Gastronomist chef, currently based out of Chicago, who got his start in cooking with his family's chain of kosher pie restaurants in Oakland County.
- Mary Lynn Rajskub (raised in Trenton).
- Ben Carson: Neurosurgeon, Republican politician, and as of 2017, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Moved to Baltimore to work at Johns Hopkins University Hospital; currently a resident of Florida.
- Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, producer of many DC films and TV shows, and writer of some famous comic storylines, including Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint, and Blackest Night. (Grosse Point and Clarkston)