Seattle Is Suddenly a City of Winners


The Seattle I grew up in is not the type of city that wins Super Bowls. I mean that literally (it has never happened before), but also figuratively. Our last great success, grunge, was essentially the monetization of marginalization, of being a miserable white loser. Microsoft is a bunch of nerds proving their worth (or, at least, that’s how their narrative reads), but even a rich nerd is still a nerd. Last night, though, the Seattle Seahawks didn’t just win the Super Bowl—they fucking destroyed it, along with a lot of Coloradan hopes, the attention spans of half the nation, the concept of bowls altogether, Pioneer Square’s historic pergola, and our perfect hiding place. We’re not just some harmless, damp dorks up in the corner anymore. We’re winners now.


Second of all, does this feel like a bit of an identity crisis to anyone else?

A few weeks ago, Macklemore swept the Grammys. Before The Heist took off, Macklemore was seen as such a provincial, sentimental, Seattle-centric rapper that the city’s blogs and weeklies sizzled with think-pieces about how he’d never be a viable national crossover (strangely enough, that Dave Niehaus tribute still hasn’t quite blown up). And, if he did manage to make the leap, was his brand of relentless, almost contrived positivity (a less charitable critic might call it smarm) really an accurate representation of our dark, grumpy den of outsiders? Positivity is for winners, not for us.

But, of course, he did make the leap—he won everything—which means that in my professional capacity as a pop culture blogger, I got to spy people I know personally photobombing Katy Perry in Grammy red carpet photos. That might be NBD if I lived in L.A. or New York, like most of my national media colleagues, but YOU GUYS DON’T UNDERSTAND. I’M FROM SEATTLE. WE ARE LITTLE AND SECRET. EVEN IN OUR MOMENTS OF GREATEST TRIUMPH, WE ARE STILL THESE PEOPLE.

Seattle is a small enough town that Macklemore’s success feels personal. And personally conflicting. Seattle’s not-insignificant social justice community (you know, the people concerned with things like appropriation and representation) overlaps tremendously with its personal-friends-of-Macklemore community. And our music community, it turns out, overlaps quite a bit with our clueless-white-insularity community. Everyone is tearfully happy for their friends and angry at the “haters” and defensive about their politics and wounded by guilt-by-association.

Winning is never simple. There’s a vulnerability in it. When you never really win, you never really lose either. And I’m feeling protective right now of…something.

It’s not just Macklemore and the Super Bowl. Jinkx Monsoon won Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The Seahawks are one of the youngest teams in the league, which means this isn’t an anomaly—they’re going to keep on winning. (By the way, guys, the Seattle Storm also won national championships in 2004 and 2010. So. Just pointing that out.) We elected a socialist woman of color to the city council. Has it even RAINED this winter? What is this shit in January!!??!? At a certain point, if it’s not raining and we’re not losing and everyone is looking our way and taking us seriously, then who are we? Are we the popular kids now?

It’s the third act of She’s All That, and Seattle is Rachel Leigh Cook. I guess I’m just waiting for Freddie Prinze Jr. to break our heart.

Right now we feel like winners, but I hope we don’t give up on negativity. We spent so many years getting so good at it. People live in Seattle because it’s not sunny all the time. Because the rain makes the sunshine brighter. And ugh, I fucking hate corny Garrison Keillor generalizations like that. I hate reducing Seattle to grunge and software and coffee and dumb metaphors about rain. Because it’s not accurate. It’s not real life. A city is more than that. We have huge, vibrant immigrant communities. We are a young city, but our history is big. Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones didn’t come out of the land of the grumpy white dork. Seattle has been something else before, and it’ll be something else again.

But I love my city, and there is a character here, even if I can’t quite get my hands around it. I guess I just hope that “winning” isn’t the end for us. I hope it doesn’t become the achievement in itself. I believe in Seattle more than that. I think we can be a city that reflects real life—in our art, in our sports, in our politics. Brightness is flat. Darkness is flat too. A person can’t just be hard bone or soft flesh. I want the world to see the Seattle that’s all of it.

Image via Getty.

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