A Gentrification Carol

Standard

On Monday, Carol, a feature film starring Cate Blanchett. will shoot a scene in Over-the-Rhine. The neighborhood is a stand in for 1950’s New York, where the film is set. Carol is the latest film to shoot in and around Cincinnati, three years ago, George Clooney directed and starred in The Ides of March, and much like Ides, Carol is getting a lot of coverage in the press. But what the press ignore, and what Carol represents, at least during its filming in OTR, is a rewriting of the history of the neighborhood to suit the ideology of gentrification.

As with the actual removal of people from Over-the-Rhine, here we get a removal of the neighborhood’s history. In the story told by gentry, there is a tendency to downplay or forget large sections of the history of the neighborhood. What is striking is that the history that is ignored is that which is most relevant to its current condition, notably, the history of a black and appalachian diaspora which populated the neighborhood starting in the second half of the twentieth century. One of the most egregious cases of this comes from Michael D Morgan, who wrote Over-the-Rhine: When Beer was King. The book centers the history of OTR on its apparent hey-day in the late 19th century, when it was populated primarily by beer-loving German immigrants and their descendants. At the end of the book, published in 2010, Morgan imagines an Over-the-Rhine of the future that rekindles the spirit of these early residents. A neighborhood of beer halls, and culture and a sometimes oppressed ethnic minority. But of the period from 1950 on, Morgan has only this to say: “waves of appalachian migration in the mid-1900s dramatically changed Over-the-Rhine and so did a shift in racial composition that occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century…. these stories are as compelling as the story of the neighborhood’s original era, but they are of the place that had become obsolete (153).”

Continue reading