Why Detroit needs a Robocop statue

For starters, Verhoeven’s film is the big-screen’s second-best critique of Reaganomics’ devastating effects on the economy of southeastern Michigan (after Michael Moore’s Roger & Me). As Carrie Rickey writes in an essay for the film’s Criterion Collection DVD, the movie “gleefully satirizes The Great Communicator’s pet doctrines of free enterprise and privatization.” RoboCop is commissioned by OCP as part of a larger plan to bulldoze the crime-infested homes of Old Detroit and make way for Delta City, a “utopia” of glass high-rises “ideal for corporate growth.” Never mind the low-income families Delta City will displace, or that a conniving OCP executive is the one providing the criminals with the weapons that have made the area crime-infested—and in need of robo-policing—in the first place. Delta City is originally the brainchild of OCP’s idealist chief executive officer, and his intentions seem pure. But he is oblivious to the ways in which his subordinates exploit his project for their own gain. The CEO (referred to dismissively in the film only as “The Old Man”) represents the inherent risks of corruption in even the most well-intentioned efforts at urban renewal…

RoboCop may not represent Detroit’s happiest or proudest moments, and while Robocop himself is redeemed in the end, his city is still in rough shape. But he is a fundamentally good citizen trying to better his city while struggling against the larger forces of big business, corruption, and poverty―forces that he is sometimes helpless against, sometimes even an unwitting part of, but ultimately better than. (He’s like a character from The Wire, with titanium skin.) RoboCop is thus the perfect symbol for Detroit, reflecting both the city’s persistent will to revive itself and the dangers inherent in doing so.