That’s so Cincinnati.
A pair of recent online attempts to encapsulate Cincinnati went viral, at least locally, and the responses to them inadvertently shined a light on a few overlooked traits of Cincinnatians — thin skin and chips on shoulders. (As a native, I wholeheartedly admit to also having these traits engraved into my DNA.)
BuzzFeed’s “BuzzFeed Community” site (buzzfeed.com/community) helps the list-empire target specific cities and regions, resulting in one of the more locally shared links of the past month: “31 Ways to Tell You’re From Cincinnati.”
At first, many seemed to celebrate our fair city getting more attention. Then they read the list. It has proven to be far more controversial than BuzzFeed’s “11 Cincinnati Foods That Are Better Than Yours” from earlier this year, likely because those “Cincinnati foods” actually still exist.
The “article” — really just a list with a photo and reaction-shot GIF for each item (lest you not know how to respond) — wasn’t the complete dung-pile some responses would lead one to believe. It’s just that the “community contributor” who wrote the piece either hadn’t been to Cincinnati for a while or was simply parroting one of the Enquirer’s old “Cincinnati is so crazy and distinct — we say ‘pop’ and ‘please’ ’’ articles from the past.
While mildly accurate, the list reinforced some old stereotypes, like “You will die if you step foot in Over-the-Rhine,” and “We can’t shut up about George Clooney’s Cincinnati roots” (he’s not from Cincinnati, he’s from Kentucky).
And things like Cincinnatians saying “Please?” instead of “What did you say?” or calling Coke and Pepsi “pop” are local quirks that seem to be dying a little more with each more-widely-connected-to-the-world generation.
Not long after, the site Cincy Whimsy (cincywhimsy.com) responded with an “answer list.” Its “31 Ways to Tell You’re From Cincinnati List: An Improved Version” seemed to ring more true to a lot of people.
Much of Cincy Whimsy’s list focused on contemporary Cincinnati attributes, including the recent wildly successful LumenoCity event at Washington Park and the MidPoint Music Festival.
Predictably, some people’s panties were bunched by the clever response list, writing it off as the views of a “hipster,” a derogatory term used by self-conscious people who are mad because they feel they weren’t invited to some imaginary cool-kid party.
That’s so Cincinnati.
Almost immediately after the BuzzFeed list, the local web buzz was all about the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s video ad for “Cincinnati USA,” featuring a hyper young man in capri pants and sandals talking about how Cincinnatians “do what we love.”
The video was also widely shared and, though well intentioned, widely mocked. But the video’s most egregious misstep was the corny tone. The manic hype man gets so giddy wandering around local landmarks, he’s nearly incoherent, at one point shouting out “Play-Doh!” without further explanation (the kids’ molding clay was invented in Cincinnati … as a wallpaper cleaner).
Local comedian Kristen Lundberg (check her great YouTube page under the name “Mammyspanx”) created a playful, pitch-perfect parody video in response, showcasing another Cincinnati trait — smart-assed-ness (not at all a negative attribute).
The original video does capture some of the essence of our revitalized city, though probably not intentionally. The gist of the video comes off as, “We are cool, we don’t care what other people think — you can come join us and move here or visit. Or not. Whatever.” It’s an oddly isolationistic approach to what is essentially an attempt to get young people to come to Cincinnati, weirdly showing off our residents’ shoulder chips and thin skin.
Ultimately, the video, the list and the responses were all great to see because they do, collectively, show one of the city’s best contemporary attributes: an ever-increasing sense of civic pride. At one point, not too long ago, it seemed like most of Cincinnati’s young, creative and talented population could not wait to get away from the city’s conservativeness and perceived lack of arts and entertainment options appealing to them. Now, more and more are sticking around to help the city keep getting better and see how it all pans out.
Thankfully, today, that’s so Cincinnati.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org