Why Los Angeles Hates Hollywood
Sure, we all get starstruck sometimes. And some of you moved here from frigid climes partly to be that much closer to George Clooney. Whatever floats your boat.
But the unspoken truth about Los Angeles, which, with 10 million people, is America's largest county, is that it exists largely apart from the industry known as Hollywood.
Is entertainment a job creator and economic engine for the region? A little. Look at it this way:
Even if data from the boosterish Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation are exaggerated, 95 percent of the private-sector (non-government) jobs in the county have nothing to do with Hollywood.
Every morning, as those freeways clog, as our percolators perk, and as office computers from Long Beach to Sylmar power on, a vast majority of us live to work in jobs that have no connection to the entertainment business.
The notion that we should be thankful for the trickle-down economics of this white citadel of an industry is just b.s. The industry should be thankful to be here.
Los Angeles is a brown city. Nearly three-fourths of us belong to at least one minority group, according to the U.S. Census. The per-capita individual income here is $27,749.
Yet the cost of living in Los Angeles is among the worst in the United States. UCLA researchers have said that local renters on average are paying nearly half their income for rent and that Los Angeles is the least affordable rental market in the nation.
The median home price on the Westside is now north of $1 million. L.A. has become nearly impossible for the 95 percent.
Maybe it's because of people like Dax Shepard and wife Kristen Bell. I have nothing against either of them, personally. I loved Shepard in Idiocracy.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the pair bought an $800,000 duplex in once downtrodden and perpetually black and brown Mid-City in order to lease the units within for $2,400 each. You would need a near six-figure income to be able to afford such a place. In Mid-City. In a Los Angeles where the median individual income is nearly one-fourth that amount.
And here's the thing:
Shepard is from Michigan. He was likely drawn here by this luminous, job-generating industry that only seems to generate jobs for out-of-town white people.
And we give the industry money to generate those jobs. Yes, the people of California, where Latinos are now the largest ethnic group, have pledged $1.6 billion in tax cuts to some of the biggest media corporations on the planet in exchange for keeping production at home.
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But what are we paying for? For the likes of Shepard to move here, grab the best work, buy property in the 'hood and take the spoils while working Angelenos struggle just to pay rent and buy groceries?
And, yes, here's where it really gets interesting:
Hollywood is an overwhelmingly white and terribly stubborn business. Since before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights addressed Hollywood diversity in 1977, the industry has been vowing to diversify.
But as Los Angeles, California and the United States, the latter of which is now 38 percent minority, have changed, the business has virtually stayed the same, making its racial and ethnic representation worse over the years.
Last year's UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found that 94 percent of studio CEOs and chairs were white (100 percent were men). About 92 percent of senior studio managers were white. The previous year's report said that 88 percent of directors, 92 percent of writers and 90 percent of major-agency talent agents were white.
We'd love to know how many of them are actually from Southern California, too.
So this economic engine that we're pump-priming with our hard-earned cash doesn't exactly feed us back now, does it? In fact, as the example of Dax Shepard, above, shows, it could very well be hurting us by raising the cost of living.
Sure, Shepard's is an anecdote. Then again, who can afford an $800,000 home in Mid-City as an investment property? Certainly not the 95 percent.
This gets to why people rioted in 1992 — because of the fallacy of upward mobility. Yes, people were angry about the verdicts in the case of the cops who beat Rodney King. But rioters were also just plain pissed off that the promise of Los Angeles as a golden ticket to wealth and fame is a cruel lie. It was a class war, too.
The mirage of Hollywood had a lot to do with that.
We're not suggesting L.A. is on the verge of another uprising. We're just pointing out that few should be surprised by the upwelling of anger in response to the 93 percent white film academy's lockout of Oscar-worthy minority actors for the second year in a row.
Los Angeles has had a mi casa, tu casa attitude toward the industry for decades. But from big-screen roles to six-figure grip jobs handed down through nepotism, the relationship has rarely been reciprocated.
In everyday Los Angeles, admiration has turned to envy and then hatred when it comes to Hollywood. As John Lydon sang on Leftfield's "Open Up," "You lied, you faked, you cheated, you changed the stakes/ ... Burn Hollywood burn, taking down Tinseltown/Burn Hollywood burn, burn down into the ground."
I'd pay $12 to see that on the big screen.
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