You, like the rest of Connecticut, may have heard about Bridgeport’s big moment in the sun…getting made fun of on Family Guy.
You know we love to tease Bridgeport, but we don’t like it when anyone else does it (even that smug, sexy bastard, Seth MacFarlane). But Stewie wasn’t exactly wrong about Bridgeport and we’re here to discuss it.
Frankly, I’m just tickled pink that anyone at Family Guy knows enough about Bridgeport to make a topical joke about it.
I like Bridgeport, I really do. Captain’s Cove is my favorite summer hang out, and you’ve all read about the fun PrissyBitch and I have had at bars all across Bridgeport. I’ve been to the zoo (which was depressing—but I’m biased, I find all small zoos depressing) and the Barnum Museum (which has the best miniature elephant poop around). I went curling. I even spent the 4th of July at a Bridgeport carnival surrounded by the overweight and scantily clad. So, I feel as though I speak with authority when I say Stewie was not wrong about Bridgeport.
Like most cities, it looks like a complete and utter shithole from the highway (think of Hartford’s butt-ugly building or New York’s co-op city). And if you get off the highway, well, it continues to look like a shithole. There are warehouses, abandoned buildings, seedy tattoo parlors, and some of the worst looking housing projects I’ve seen outside of 1990s John Singleton movies. The thing is: there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
Bridgeport’s downtown is trying to revitalize. Some nice apartment buildings, a Two Boots, and what appears to be a new fashion boutique are just a few of downtown Bridgeport’s attractions. But the downtown is small, and not where most people live. There are lovely parts of the Park City with old mansions, and beautiful parks, as well as the kinds of places white people warn their kids about. But aren’t these just part of what makes actual cities diverse, and worth living in?
A while back, Bridgeport was voted one of the best places to buy property. This is because people like PrissyBitch leave New York in search of their first home and find Bridgeport to be the only reasonably priced place within commuting distance. Which brings me to my next point: Revitalization really just means gentrification. Start moving in the displaced Manhattanites and before you know it, we’ll have Williamsburg Brooklyn on our hands (minus the enormous Hasidic population).
People love living in urban areas when it means art spaces, fancy restaurants serving cuisines from countries you can’t find on a map, and living next door to obnoxious hipsters whose ironic mustaches and over-use of flannel is insulting to the working class folks who used to live in the city, and wear mustaches un-ironically. (Ask Queer Theory about his exodus from Bridgeport for New Haven.) They don’t like living in urban areas when it means empty factories, or living next door to people from countries you can’t find on a map. (Just ask New London.)
Well, there are some people who don’t have a choice. Living in the PJs next to the power plant is their only option and while a bunch of hipsters and yuppies moving into their city might benefit the tax base and school system, it won’t necessarily help the people who already live there if the city decides to bulldoze their homes for a convention center or some other bullshit.
Don’t get me wrong, I think our cities deserve all the help they can get—and I love a good condo in a renovated mill with exposed brick as much as the next gal—but city life isn’t all about coffee shops and nights at the symphony. The people who already live in Bridgeport deserve a safe, clean place to live. But cities can’t all be sanitized places filled with annoying outdoorsy types (I’m looking at you Portland, Oregon), and not every Times Square can be turned into Disneyland for adults. No, we need to learn how to accept and work with the gritty parts of our cities, how to live next door to them without judgement or gentrifying them into non-existence….because without the working class, how will hipsters find their next ironic trend?
The day after Family Guy aired, I opened up Facebook and found status after status recounting how right Family Guy was and what a total dump Bridgeport is. I realized that what happened was that joke at Bridgeport’s expense turned into an attitude of “I give up.” I love that Anti-Couric (and certain other drunken CuTters) loves Bridgeport (I’ve been to Captain’s Cove with her…believe me, she loves it) the problem is that she’s largely in the minority. Most people I know won’t set foot in Bridgeport, and not because they’ve been there and realized there wasn’t really anything going on. To the contrary, they’ve never been there. They have no idea what’s going on in Bridgeport, and they’re not exactly sure why. They just heard that Bridgeport sucks and is just a bunch of run down shitty buildings…and hey, if Family Guy noticed, it’s gotta be true, right?
The problem is that the joke has taken on a life of its own and has morphed into an “I give up” attitude. It’s true, I used to live in Bridgeport and I am one of the people who wears flannel to match my ironic mustache. I’m holed up in a pretty nice area of New Haven and I love it. I got out because I wanted a more thriving urban experience mixed with affordability. But I have family still living in Bridgeport and I hang out there a fair amount. Yes, downtown is getting a little better, and a lot of Bridgeport’s neighborhoods are not, but revitalization doesn’t have to mean gentrification. Nor does it mean that we obliterate the gritty parts of our city. It does mean that we have to figure out a way to help neighborhoods revitalize themselves, not so that new people can move in, but so that the people living there can feel invested in their own neighborhoods and turn them around with the help of a community. But first, we have to stop laughing, at least a little.
I’m not debating that it’s unattractive and that parts of it couldn’t be seen as down right dangerous, but its one thing for Family Guy to have a good laugh about it and make a point about what’s happened to Bridgeport and a million other places in the US. It’s another thing for CT’s citizens to give up on one of its cities. Any de-industrialized city across the country knows exactly what’s going on here: suburban flight left a bunch of people on their own and then they started laughing from the outside.
It’s funny how you never hear anyone saying they went to catch the Greater Bridgeport Symphony show after hanging out at one of the 26 parks in the city. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone in southern Connecticut talking about the Bluefish game they caught or that they just got some kickass seats to the Soundtiger’s hockey game.* I’m not saying we should all move to Bridgeport; believe me, the city has a lot of work to do before I would consider moving back, but I think CT should ease up on Bridgeport and maybe try to make it a little better.