Developed by social psychologists, Minimal Group Paradigm is a methodology used to examine the conditions necessary for a person to identify as a member of one group over another. To put it less clinically, what are the minimum criteria for people to separate the world into two simple “Us versus Them” categories?
Human beings, as it turns out, need very little encouragement to create insulating boundaries around themselves. Something as trivial as eye colors or test scores, for instance, were enough for people to exhibit in-group favoritism.
So? What’s the point?
Great question, o hypothetical reader! The matchup featured in this column is a confrontation of Minneapolis’ two most iconic areas: Uptown and Downtown. And, despite each neighborhood’s unique character, they have more in common than that which separates them.
Both are in America. Both are in Minnesota. Both are in the Twin Cities. Both are even in Minneapolis. Thus, geographic distinctions, which oftentimes form the basis for antagonism, are almost completely moot. Both literal and figurative borders of demarcation are difficult to discern when they share so much pavement. (Does “Them” begin at Franklin Avenue or 15th Street?)
Each community has a vibrant theater, bar, and restaurant scene. They both have plenty of new, premium condos and apartments. Many young professionals live in each Uptown and Downtown. The residents, therefore, and the tastes of these residents, are also very analogous.
So, while habitants of the two mini-regions may take justifiable pride in their respective hoods, remember that 22nd & Hennepin and 12th & Hennepin are not that heterogeneous and that in most scenarios urbanites of each would neatly fit together in the same “Us” group.
Okay, enough civility. Which one do you like better, already?
Today’s hypothetical reader is impatient. But fair enough. By the slightest of margins, I prefer Uptown.
There was a time — in my early 20s, while living in a small Calhoun-side apartment — when I would’ve considered laughable the idea Downtown was superior to its southern brethren. In Uptown I was within walking distance of all my favorite watering holes and the fellow neighborhood bar-lovers fostered a comfortable and familiar environment that was both literally and metaphorically intoxicating. There is a younger vibe to the area which spoke to my immature twenty-two-year-old soul and beckoned me to remain in the area — which I did until 2013.
With age, however, the paralyzing chasm between my preference for either Uptown or Downtown has narrowed to an easily traversable crack in the sidewalk.
The same youthful energy that used to invigorate me can now be slightly exhausting. I somehow notice the overwhelming Hipster presence more than I ever did before. And, while it’s easy to blame whatever negative feelings you have toward the urban youth on “Hipster” culture, whatever that means — and believe me, as I’m writing this, I feel like an old man scowling and waving his fist while starting a “back in my day” rant — the unfashionably fashionable attitude does reveal itself as more and more absurd as one grows up.
Downtown, on the other hand, seems to have more a sophisticated ambiance. Adults. Stadiums. Arenas. Museums. It feels like more of an event spending an evening Downtown. Whenever my family and I have a celebratory dinner, it’s always Downtown — perhaps because they hoard all the best steaks: Manny’s, Murray’s, Ruth’s Chris.
And, as I lose hair and gain wisdom, the idea of living in the area sounds more and more appealing. In addition to being a huge sports fan — making a home near Target Field or the newly erected U.S. Bank Stadium very desirable — the modern housing options now available are stunning! Perhaps more enticing than either their amenities or location, however, is the maintenance-free lifestyle. No more lawn-mowing sounds pretty damn wonderful as my back gets achier and achier.
Also, very few hipsters.
There is just a classy elegance to Downtown residency. If the areas were films, Uptown would be Back to the Future and Downtown would be The Godfather.
Well, that’s pretty offensive.
Au contraire! It would only be offensive if I thought Back to the Future was a bad movie. But I adore Back to the Future. Sure, it doesn’t have the subtle, refined beauty of The Godfather; it was, however, one of my first cinematic loves. And, to bring the argument back to Uptown, there will always be a nostalgic connection between me and the film — or neighborhood, or whatever. I lost my metaphor there.
In the end, sophistication and sentimentality notwithstanding, the deciding factor that tips the scales toward Uptown? The lakes. In Uptown, you’re always within minutes of a majestic lake to calm your inner-city nerves — a feature unlike almost any major town in America. And, while Downtown is but another few blocks from these scenic urban wonders, Uptown’s immediate proximity clinches its ever-so-slight victory over its rival.
By: Jacob Westlin