Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Horribly pretentious person seeks out horribly pretentious people so she can be horrified at their pretentions

There's a certain type of humorous writing (and you have no idea how badly I wanted to use quotation marks there) where an out-of-towner moves to a city/state/region, seeks out the most stereotypical aspects and complains about them ("The trouble with Houston is, if you don't like cowboy hats and line dancing..."). These pieces are also sometimes accompanied with impressive-sounding sociological terms, in which case they qualify as serious journalism.

The LA subgenre invariably focuses on a tiny sliver of the more than four thousand square miles of LA County (when people talk about LA, they generally mean the county). It's a tiny strip that runs through (but doesn't encompass) Silver Lake, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. When you read one of these pieces bitching about cliche LA, you can be reasonably sure the writer didn't make it to Watts or East LA (if you want to read someone who actually did explore the area, check out Dana Goldstein).

Perhaps the worst example inexplicably come recommended by Counterparties. In it the writer, with a couple of notable exceptions, picks things that are so close they are actually in walking distance of each other, largely in a neighborhood that most Angelenos tend to avoid, leaving it to the tourists. As a result, she spends most of her time complaining about things that are only of concern to people who live in a tiny neighborhood dominated by Scientology buildings, improv theatres and tourist attractions. The writer is the only resident of LA I have ever encountered who actually talks about the stars on the sidewalk.

The only non-Hollywood area she refers to is Venice, specifically the boardwalk (once again, more of a tourist spot than a place for locals) and the Tsunami warning signs. She goes on about these at length in a way that makes me wonder if she has actually seen any of the coast other than Venice and Santa Monica (Venice is exceptionally low lying. Most of LA's coast is not).

Finally, as for the writer's depiction of LA being a town full of waiters calling themselves actors and directors, my experience here has actually been the opposite. Most people I meet are sensitive to the cliche and tend to overcompensate. I've never had a conversation with an aspiring entertainment type who overstated his or her resume. I have, however, had acquaintances I've known for a while before I happened to look them up on IMDB or Wikipedia and discovered they had done something pretty impressive. If the writer of this piece keeps running into people trying to impress her with exaggerated accomplishments, perhaps it's because they think she's shallow enough to be impressed by them.


  1. I almost posted on this same piece. :-)

    Tsunami warning signs appear across the West Coast (into Canada and Mexico). The consequence of living on the shore of a large Ocean are the occasional weather issue (on the East Coast it appears to be Hurricanes, not really a vast improvement).

    To be fair, new people in an area share a lot of points in common with tourists. So they often see the stereotypical stuff first, and only discover the depth later. That was my experience in Washington, DC (for example) where it was a year or two before I got to really know the place.

  2. I think LA is supposed to be an exceptionally hard place to get to know because there aren't many areas that are obvious hotspots - where you can go, walk around, and chance upon something cool that tourists *and* locals enjoy. Because so many buildings are nondescript from the outside, and everything is so far apart, and the traffic is terrible you have to already know where you're going before you set out - meaning you have to clued into a network. A friend of mine said she'd move to LA if she was already employed in a creative industry (in other words already had those connections), but not otherwise,

    I dunno if it's true, but that's what I was told.