Mobile Home Park Fake News?

Many Americans have seen the movie “8-Mile” which is an autobiographical account of Eminem, the rap star. Much of the film takes place in the “8-Mile” mobile home park, which is depicted as a horrible dump that is infested with drugs, alcohol and hookers. The film performed well for the producers, grossing nearly $120 million worldwide. But it wasn’t exactly truthful. Here’s a photo of the real “8-Mile” mobile home park, also known as “A&L”.

If you want to go visit it at 20785 Schultes Avenue Warren, MI 48091, you’ll find that it’s a quiet enclave of older mobile homes, most in decent condition, with concrete sidewalks and paved streets. It even has a nice looking on-site office. So you might be saying “wait, are you saying that Hollywood lied to me?” Well, it wouldn’t be the first time concerning mobile home parks.

Not too long ago the media loved mobile home parks

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood had a love affair with the trailer park. Here’s a photo from the 1951 film “The Long, Long Trailer” starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. In the film, a Manhattan executive and his wife decide to trade in their pressured New York City existence for a mobile home in a mobile home park.

The film showed mobile home owners as well-educated and cultured, and mobile home parks as clean and upscale. In fact, back in the 1950s and 1960s they were. The demographics of trailer park residents during that period were higher than those of stick-built housing and apartments. They were mostly WWII vets on the GI Bill who found mobile homes to be kind of cool and edgy and parks a fun place to fraternize. In fact, Hollywood loved mobile home parks so much that they cast the King in two of them. Elvis lived in a mobile home park in two films: “It Happened at the World’s Fair” in 1963 and “Speedway” in 1968.

Clearly, you can’t love mobile home parks more than that!

So why did they start hating them?

So after showering mobile home parks with love and respect for two decades, Hollywood turned their back on the industry for the next four decades, depicting the industry negatively in film after film and television show after television show. There were the films “Pink Flamingos”, “Joe Dirt”, “8-Mile” and “Cop Car”. And the television shows “COPS”, “Myrtle Manor” and “Trailer Park Boys”.

What happened was that audience tastes changed and so did the number of Americans who would be offended by making fun of mobile home parks. With only 8% of Americans living in mobile home parks (vs. about 50% of Americans having lived in one during WWII) Hollywood decided that at least 90% of Americans would take no offense by the 1980s. And they made mobile home parks into a catch phrase for sex, violence and all that lures modern audiences. Basically they “invented” the mobile home park stereotype for their own gain, even though it was entirely false and unfair to the millions of Americans who reside in them.

But what’s the truth?

Here’s a photo of a typical mobile home park resident today. This was shot at our mobile home park in Wisconsin, but is representative of what you’ll find in at least 80% of the mobile home parks in the U.S.

While there are certainly some nasty mobile home parks in America it’s a fringe element – no different than showing depictions of single-family neighborhoods in Detroit and claiming that they are the norm. The truth is that the average mobile home park looks no different than it did in the days of Lucy and Elvis – nice people with pride of ownership and a great sense of community. If you think anything else, you are a victim of “fake news”.

Frank Rolfe
Frank Rolfe has been an investor in mobile home parks for almost 30 years, and has owned and operated hundreds of mobile home parks during that time. He is currently ranked, with his partner Dave Reynolds, as the 5th largest mobile home park owner in the U.S., with around 20,000 lots spread out over 25 states. Along the way, Frank began writing about the industry, and his books, coupled with those of his partner Dave Reynolds, evolved into a course and boot camp on mobile home park investing that has become the leader in this niche of commercial real estate.