John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
These fearlessly biased maps point out areas of "religious wackadoodles," "white guilt," and "Kardashian watchers."
Where do the "super white people" live in Manhattan? Where are the "rednecks with no teeth" in Northern Virginia and the "hipster wannabes from Orange County" in L.A.?
The answers may or may not be found in "Judgmental Maps," a fearlessly opinionated project that seems designed to troll America's biggest cities. Curated by Austin comedian Trent Gillaspie, the maps provide alternative names for neighborhoods that reflect their makers' biased views. They are frequently hilarious, sometimes almost fully wrong, and more often than not gloriously profane.
The 28-year-old Gillaspie "most certainly" considers himself a judgmental person. "Most of us are," he emails, "whether we recognize it and put our labels on a map or not." That quick-to-generalize temperament was, in fact, what got this effort started: His habits of describing neighborhoods by their stereotypes instead of names inspired his first judgmental map, of Denver, where he's originally from. It's littered with place names like "Boring Wealth," "Drunk/Homeless/Drunk/Homeless/Drunk/Homeless," and "You Probably Haven't Heard of This Neighborhood Yet." His friends started making their own examples, so he started a blog to house the growing compendium of no-punches-pulled cartography.
New York is one of the more accurate maps and provides a good picture of how these things work. Subtitled "The Parts That Matter," it shows the East Village as "Aging Punks," Flatiron and Chelsea as "Expanding Gay Zone," and the southern Bronx as "Probably Won't Gentrify for a While." The Astoria Generating Station has been dubbed "Electricity for iPads" and Roosevelt Island, that mysterious residential landmass in the East River, is simply "?" New Jersey residents will either be upset or proud of their designation as a land of "Cheap Gas" and "Strange Smells."
Gillaspie recently took the time to answer a few questions about these unique, if pigheaded, maps. Try not to get upset about the slanted characterization of your favorite city:
How do you get these maps? Do you create many yourself?
I originally solicited a few other maps (e.g., Chicago and Albuquerque) from a few other comics I knew (Eric Oren and Curt Fletcher, respectively), and put up a submission page on the site for others to send their own, too. Suddenly, we started seeing them coming in from people I didn't reach out to and that number continued to increase. We still see a handful of maps submitted each week. I have only created the Denver map (so far).
Do you ever get emails from people upset over how their city or neighborhood is portrayed?
We have seen some angry comments from people, but 99 percent of things have been very positive. There are a couple things to keep in mind here: One, we encourage people to offend everyone. You can't be selective in your mockery; when you start exempting some things and lambasting others, that's when it turns into intolerance and bigotry.
Two, it's important for people to take this with a grain of salt, and for mapmakers ("snarchitects," as we call them) to not feel compelled to combat any negative responses that come to the map. Leave alone the negativity and focus on the positive response. It has gone south before, if you take a look at the battle that went on under the Minneapolis map.
Any trends in judgments you've noticed, like pointing out that this is where the snobs live or this is the "ethnic" neighborhood?
People tend to label significant divides in social class, economics, and race above all else. But even with those in mind, we try to encourage people to focus on the creativity behind the label. Just saying "black people" is not funny, creative, or judgmental even. That's one of the reasons a lot of the maps submitted don't get posted to the site. That, and the map creator misspelling "judgmental" on their map.
What's been your favorite one so far?
I am biased towards Denver, but I really like the Dallas map, which was just released this week, because of its clean design and great attention to detail. My favorite map in terms of making me laugh may have been San Francisco.