THE DAY OF THE LOCUST
This book by Nathanael West is a commentary on Hollywood/Los Angeles set in the late 1930s. The main character, Tod, comes to the West with a dream and the expectation that this is the land where success and inspiration abound. He quickly determines it to be a city of fraud, of inauthenticity, where dreams are dumped and where caricatures of performers seek fame and success but only find hardship. To West and to his protagonist, Los Angeles disappoints. Nothing is original; everything from the houses and buildings to the plot lines of movies are copies of something else.
I think the book takes the negative side when considering the two ways to represent Los Angeles and the Hollywood dream, and that’s an important perspective. It is in one sense more realistic, but also extremely pessimistic. Many people do come to Los Angeles and find themselves disappointed, not just in the 1930s but also today.
The end of the movie Pretty Woman also talks about Hollywood being the land of dreams – as Richard Gere and Julia Roberts kiss on the fire escape and everyone lives happily after, a man walks down the street saying, “this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.” The film takes a much more positive approach to LA as the place where there is eternal potential for dreams to come true, as they do for the two people in the movie. This is a more optimistic representation of Los Angeles where struggling people can find success and enjoy a happy ending.
I think that these first two representations depict two sides of the same Los Angeles. It is undoubtedly the land of dreams, but what happens to those dreams and the people who dream them? Is there the promise of success through hard work or is there only inevitable defeat and, as West says, death? I think that ambiguity is depicted perfectly in Randy Newman’s song “I Love LA.” “Everybody’s very happy/’Cause the sun is shining all the time/Looks like another perfect day…” But he also acknowledges that it’s not the greatest place in the world: “look at that bum over there; man, he’s down on his knees…”
Out of the thousands of songs written about Los Angeles (the wikipedia page for this is insanely long) I’d say that half speak of sunshine and beaches, palm trees and cruising, while the other half focus on the negatives: gangs, homelessness, disenchantment with fame and money.
This dichotomy of Los Angeles culture is extended into other places, like sports. While sports teams are marketed as bringing the city together, and when teams win championships it brings pride, sports rivalries have torn people apart, new stadiums have displaced ethnic neighborhoods, and team colors have become synonymous with gangs. Moreover, almost all of Los Angeles’ teams have come from other places, which contributes (though not often thought of)to the idea of LA as a place of forgery and inauthenticity. While there exist, as I’ve outlined, many representations of Los Angeles as both a great and horrible place, I think that I can contribute to that conversation through examining the city and its people’s relationships with sports teams that, though foreign, have come to be central to the identity of LA.
The following representations start to outline how this dichotomy works specifically in the city of Los Angeles’ sports teams, starting with the Dodgers.
Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story
This documentary tells the story of how neighborhoods of Los Angeles were destroyed to build a new stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The government used the power of eminent domain to expel people from their homes. This piece tells the stories of some of the people who lived there and how they feel about the Dodgers.
- an invasion into the neighborhoods of Los Angeles that led to the displacement of many people – changed the entire landscape of the city, physically and metaphorically
- destroyed an entire community and their way of life
- according to some the move and construction of the stadium is beneficial to the city – brings in money, brings in celebrities, unites people, but this actually tore people apart
- this is sort of a representation of the minority in Los Angeles – while the representation exists, it is little known and not mass produced; not distributed very well, so while it is part of the city’s identity, I don’t think people consider it when thinking about the representation of the Dodgers in LA
Dodger Stadium: Opening Day 1962
This news piece covers the other side of the building Dodger Stadium – the wealthy, celebrity side, the prestige and celebration.
- this is a more popular representation of Los Angeles as a sports city: money, fame, celebrity, fun
- how people, esp. those associated with Los Angeles culture, came to quickly be associated with the Dodgers
- this representation makes me think of LA as a place where branding and marketing really matters, more so than the people of the city
- there’s a huge monetary aspect to it – O’Malley, the owner, wanted to move the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles because he saw a market in the “newer” wide open West, where people went to explore and see their dreams fulfilled. The theme fits in nicely with sports and the seeking glory in victory – but it also conveniently fits in with the team as being first and foremost a business.
- represents LA as a place to come make money
http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12181391 (public cost) “almost nothing is original to the community” (in theme of above)