Has there ever been a more misunderstood American city than Los Angeles? Despite being the nation's second most populous metropolitan area, despite being the entertainment capital of the world, and despite having near-perfect weather 300 days out of the year, L.A. is routinely reduced to the most banal of stereotypes.
Perhaps it's because of its sheer vastness — how else to sum up the Valley, the South Bay, the Westside, the Eastside, the mountains, beach and skyscrapers all in one? And let's be honest. Lots of stereotypes are true! But which ones?
Allow us to educate the rest of our country:
10. Nobody walks.
A stereotype so pervasive they wrote a song about it. Yet this is one of those that's becoming less and less true, as the sheer density of traffic threatens to form a star and go supernova on us. According to one study, 17.6 percent of all trips in Los Angeles County are by foot. Yet how often do you actually see a block full of pedestrians?
The fact is, we'd walk more if we all didn't have cars. And that might be changing — car ownership in Los Angeles seems to be dropping. The real myth is, “You need to own a car in L.A.” Plenty of people don't, and they profess to be doing just fine.
Verdict: Still kind of true, but getting less true every year
9. Everyone works in the film industry.
According to the UCLA Anderson School of Business, film and TV jobs make up only 3.5 percent of all jobs in L.A. That excludes freelance gigs, but even so, “the industry” accounts for only a tiny fraction of the city's economy (by the by, more TV pilots are actually shot in New York than in L.A.). Need further proof? Go down to Crenshaw and Adams and ask the first person you see what a gaffer is.
Verdict: No way
8. Everyone goes to the beach all the time.
Unless you live close enough to the beach to get shit on by a seagull, most of us make it out to the beach once or twice a summer. That's because (a) L.A. is pretty big; (b) traffic is awful; (c) the beach is actually kind of chilly unless the rest of the city is 90 degrees–plus; (d) the beach is nice but it really doesn't change much; and (e) you have to be Indiana Jones just to find parking there.
Verdict: Not true
7. The streets are paved with celebrities.
There are many stereotypes that are true only on the Westside, such as our supposed love of Rollerblading and plastic surgery. This is one of them. It's not everywhere but there are parts of this town (Malibu, Beverly Hills) where celebrities, while not exactly packed in shoulder-to-shoulder, do roam the streets with regularity, especially compared with whatever the hell city you're from.
Sidebar: Lots of longtime Angelenos pretend to be above the whole celebrity thing, don't freak out when they see one, don't try to take a selfie with them. But we collect celebrity stories — all of us. We save the best ones as our ace in the hole, parade them out at just the right time. It is our birthright!
6. It's full of smog.
Granted, L.A. is the nation's smoggiest city, but it's nowhere near as bad as it once was, when the San Gabriel Mountains were basically invisible. Much of the improvement is due to the passage, in 1970, of the Clean Air Act. There's still plenty of smog, but gone are the days where you couldn't see 100 feet in front of you.
Verdict: True, but not as true as it used to be
5. There's no culture.
Actually, Los Angeles has culture out the ying-yang. But like everything else in this city, it's decentralized. We've hundreds of tiny playhouses and art galleries, all spread out amongst a zillion different areas. Not to mention movies, which are sometimes made here.
4. We're flaky.
If your definition of flaky is always being 10 minutes late to everything, showing up to only half the things we say we're going to show up for, and saying, “Let's grab lunch sometime” when we mean, “While I don't find you entirely unpleasant, I will most likely never see you again” … if those things are flaky, then, well, we're a little bit flaky.
3. We're all vapid.
Well, we're not big readers. We can't seem to keep a bookstore open. We appear capable of supporting maybe half a newspaper at best. And we're not big on civic engagement, either – City Hall is actually considering a plan to pay us to vote (not kidding). If you wanted to put a positive spin on this, you could say that we're less pretentious than those in living in New York and Boston, who feel a kind of social pressure to have at least a passing acquaintance with literature. Here we just don't give a fuck.
Verdict: Pretty much
2. We love talking about what streets we just took.
Most people talk about the weather. We can't, because our weather is always perfect. Our traffic is our weather, a force of nature unto its own; she cannot be conquered, but that doesn't stop us from trying. Yes, Saturday Night Live got this one spot-on – and yeah, it's the 10. Although we're starting to move from incessantly talking about what streets we took to incessantly talking about what driving apps we just used.
Verdict: The truest of them all
1. We're all new-age health nuts.
There are large swaths of this city that don't even know what a paleo diet is, and even on the Westside, Marianne Williamson couldn't get elected to Congress. Yet compared to the rest of the country, which still subsists largely on a diet of fried lard on a stick and bacon with a side of bacon, and which worships Jesus and the automatic assault rifle with equal zeal, this one sort of feels true. For every Bodhi Tree (where this reporter saw Donovan perform!) that closes, another locally sourced vegan ice cream parlor will rise to take its place. And so it is.
Verdict: Print the legend.