Debunking Yet Another Tone Deaf Article On Los Angeles

Dockweiler Beach at sunset — not too shabby.EXPAND
Dockweiler Beach at sunset — not too shabby.

L.A. has once again caught the attention of those who once mocked the place. This time, the culprit is a British newspaper, The Guardian, where writer Rory Carroll documented a recent exodus of people from San Francisco towards the Southland. It reads like every trend piece you've seen about New Yorkers settling here. The gist: People from a city that openly derides L.A. bravely head into enemy territory because the rent is cheaper. They quickly learn that there's a lot to love about L.A. As the writer tries to explain why L.A. doesn't suck anymore (did it ever?), it's always with the backhanded compliments and cutesy hostility that you would expect from your high school's resident meanie. In fact, this genre of trend piece is starting to read a lot like a teenager's diary.

It's like L.A. is the dork who returned from summer vacation as the cool kid. Now, people want to be her friend, even though they spent all of middle school tormenting her. But, L.A., like any reluctantly hip chick with half a brain is having none of that two-faced popular crowd shit.

So here are five of the most egregious errors featured in that article:

1. It praises L.A.'s artistic eye and wonders: "How the hell did that happen?"

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"A community of San Francisco transplants – musicians, writers, designers, comedians – appears to be burgeoning, injecting fresh talent into a city which thrums with new museums, galleries, events and artistic experimentation, giving it plausible claim as the US’s cultural capital."

The article seems to say "L.A., you were such an unsophisticated loser before we met!" 

Yet it forgets that the so-called lowbrow art movement is largely ours, propelled to popularity by artists like Robert Williams and championed by galleries like La Luz de Jesus. It ignores that L.A. is the predecessor for the "new contemporary" movement that involves so many of its artists and galleries. The article forgets the city's mural culture, with works by people like Kent Twitchell and the Los Four artists made decades ago. The article ignores whole neighborhoods that have become virtual museums attracting a global roster of street art stars and the scrawled names of locals whose names you will know soon.   

Debunking Yet Another Tone Deaf Article On Los Angeles
Mark Hanauer

2. It acts as though San Francisco lays claim to a literary history.

"The descendants of Jack London, Armistead Maupin, the Grateful Dead and Maya Angelou are fleeing a city they say has become unaffordable, imperilling its artistic identity."

The article mentions San Francisco's literary heroes as though L.A. doesn't read or write. But names like Ray Bradbury, Charles Bukowski and Raymond Chandler have long been dear to her. As for those hippies, well, some left their mark on L.A. as well. But L.A. isn't the kind of city that would base its reputation on long-gone subcultures. Probably because our decades of homegrown music trump the Grateful Dead any day. 

3. It relies on outdated, never-actually-accurate stereotypes to describe L.A.

"How else to survive the concrete landscape and endless traffic, the airheads and flakes, the tinsel and hustle and sheer vapidity of a metropolis which considered la-la-land a compliment?"

The article strings together a slew of words that were never reflective of L.A. It talks about our "airheads" and "flakes" as if they were more than fictional characters created by writers who were only here for a job. And, what the hell does "la la land" mean anyhow? That's just ignorant.

It picks on our traffic like it's the weight you think we need to lose. We've tried everything from bike lanes to new Metro routes, but nothing can alleviate that gridlock except for maybe fewer people. 

4. It acts like San Franciscans never deigned to converse with L.A. before high rents forced them south.

“'San Francisco turned into this billionaire playground. Everything I identified with was being pushed out. The community that I loved was crumbling and disappearing,' said Andrew Schoultz, a painter. 'I just didn’t want to be in that city anymore. So I moved to L.A.'”

Anyone who attended an L.A. university can tell you that Bay Area students are not rare. Sometimes, they even stop saying "hella" and stick around after graduation. And let's not forget the best-known San Francisco transplant of all: Phillip K. Dick's tome, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? That moved to L.A., was renamed Blade Runner and became a sci-fi film classic.

5. You diss Hollywood as though you would never participate in pop culture. 

"It remains a film industry town in thrall to celebrity, beauty and the siren call of fame. The Kardashians are aristocrats, unemployed actors wait tables and would-be screenwriters hog tables in Starbucks."

Which brings us to your biggest — and dare we say, most obnoxious — diss. You point to Hollywood and celebrity culture as if this is all that exists in L.A. It is but a small segment of what you'll find in a town so much larger than tiny San Francisco. That's not quite the point, though. The Hollywood machine churns because you buy what L.A. creates, good and bad. You pay no mind to the cinematic wins. Rebel Without a Cause, Chinatown, The Big Lebowski, the barrage of movies that could still bring crowds to revival screenings don't matter to you. Lazy writers focus on the reality television stars whose misadventures are consumed by the rest of the country. The article also makes light of the actor/waiters. Hey, L.A. will tell you, at least they're working and that guy you stiffed on a tip may be a film star in a few years time. As for the girl behind the laptop at Starbucks, well, she might have already sold something. Let's stop making snap judgements about people, especially working class people.


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