"[T]he vast majority of charming old motel signs still standing across the U.S. and Canada demarcate outdated lodgings that, considering their one-star TripAdvisor ratings, shabby bathrooms and bad wifi, few fussy middle-class travelers would actually be willing to spend a night in. Instead, these liminal places are collected in snapshots and posted across social media by people eager to co-opt a little analog-era authenticity. Alas, places like the Crossroads Motel have no use for Instagram fans when that notoriety does not translate to more bookings. And we all know that most people worried about looking authentic on social media aren’t about to actually sleep somewhere with busted wifi, 3 fuzzy TV channels and terrible coffee.Read the whole piece, complete with selections of Christof's evocative photography, on Medium!
This recent fetishization of the motel as hip retro symbol also belies its widely misunderstood role as one powerful catalyst in the development of our disastrously car-centric urbanism, the homogenizing business of franchising and the dominance of mass marketing—all of which have been (rightly or wrongly) singled out by generations of social critics for ostensibly destroying America/dooming humanity in one way or another. Rather than being quaint time capsules from an era of innocence, motels were always products of ruthless capitalism, replete with cutthroat land speculation, countless failed upstarts, corporate profiteering, and lowest-common-denominator marketing.
Still, the motel was truly a democratizing force. Innovations such as those welcoming signs, free parking, and corporate protocols that at least in theory welcomed every paying guest regardless of class, education or race helped make highway travel safer, more accessible and more inclusive than the downtown hotels, tourist camps or family-owned guest houses that predated them.
Rec: "Motel 69" by Tag Christof
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