Why Does Hollywood Hate the Suburbs?The Wall Street Journal had a recent in-depth piece on Hollywood's and the "liberal intelligentsia's" long abhorrence for the suburbs. The whole thing is an interesting read, but here are the excerpts that jumped out at me:
There were two overarching reasons for condemning the suburbs, during the '50s and early '60s, as the most rotten locale in civilized life: class and money. Most of the people leaving the cities for the suburbs in the 1950s were tradespeople, modest businessmen, teachers and the like. They were, in other words, members of the middle-class, the impassioned rejection of which has been the chief rite de passage of the modern American artist and intellectual. With the growth of suburban towns, the liberal American intellectual now had a concrete geography to house his acute sense of outrage.Me, I think the city/suburbs fight is simply another proxy for the old Democrat/Republican, Liberal/Conservative, Left/Right, Blue State/Red State divides - and we know which side Hollywood is on.
Yet if the suburbs were becoming the headquarters of the American middle-class, they were also becoming associated with the enviable characteristics of upward mobility: a decent salary, home ownership, access to superior public education and services.
One of the most glaring ironies of American life is that, a quarter-century later, the cities have metamorphosed into the suburbs -- sans trees and grass. The cities' fabled diversity has devolved into global chain stores and the electrolyte-enhanced water bottle and the branded baseball cap have become the accessories of a universal comfort and conformity. In a social and cultural sea change, the cities' rented apartments, once the guarantor of diversity and fluid, exciting movement, have been converted into exclusive co-ops and condominiums. Yet as the cities have become a new type of suburb, suburb-phobia has become an ever more acceptable cultural attitude. The suburban person is considered too meek, too asphalt-challenged to inherit the earth. In the urban centers, on the other hand, desperate ambition makes bad manners respectable, and the chic of perverse taste covers up Philistine cluelessness. The decent, suburban person is regarded as contemptible because he has not learned to reach beyond his talents and pick life's pockets.
Which only means that life's complexity and surprise follow you everywhere, even over the city-line, across the river and into the suburban trees. You wonder why the creators of the film "Revolutionary Road" are blind to such an obvious fact of human existence. But, then, Hollywood is the most illusion-soaked, soul-hardened and materialistic suburb in the world.
Thanks to everybody who sent this to me. If you're interested, HAIF has a very long debate thread on it here.
Update: Andrew Dansby's article on the same topic in the Houston Chronicle Zest section.