PART 3 : THE EDUCATIONAL OPINIONS THAT DISTORT REALITY IN MY FIRST CLASS, 'LOS ANGELES: FILM AND CULTURE"
“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” ― George Orwell
So begins my evaluation of our educational system with some actual evidence. As I began my Master’s Degree back in 2019, I will admit to a certain amount of ignorance. I often dismissed the warnings by some of the more ‘radical’ elements of conservatism about how much the education system had changed. These neo-cons are the same idiots who lied us into Middle Eastern Wars and have done more to destroy individual freedom in this country than anyone else in our contemporary times. But they were absolutely correct about this one topic. It did not take long for me to be surrounded by educational articles that focus all the problems of our culture on racism and sexism.
My first class was going to be an easy one. Growing up in the Los Angeles suburbs of Torrance and Redondo Beach, I am familiar with Los Angeles culture having spent my first 21 years inside the city. I experienced some of the most chaotic events in the city’s history including the CIA funneling drugs into the inner city that created a gang war which made Los Angeles the most violent town in the United States, multiple tragic earthquakes, riots, occasional flooding, wildfires, and some of the most entitled people on the planet. Despite all of this, growing up on the ocean and the freedom this provided, the diverse culture, the amazing food, the great education, and the unbelievably perfect weather made so many of these issues like the incredible traffic problems worth all the effort. My first class was called LOS ANGELES: FILM AND CULTURE. Since my familiarity with this topic is superior due to my own personal experiences, I figured this would be a good introductory class to ease me into my Graduate degree.
In terms of my classes and how this relates to Critical Race Theory, this class was one of the better ones due to the content. Even though I had seen almost every movie that was recommended by the professor, some of the educational research and in-depth cultural articles were intriguing. The one problem I quickly noticed was an underlying negativity and cynicism revolving around the city of Los Angeles involving all the material. This surprised me. Los Angeles, while an incredibly flawed place, holds a special place in my mind especially revolving around the town’s historic diversity. I quickly realized that this cynicism would become the norm in my post-graduate education.
Some of the articles that were published about Los Angeles culture were superb. During the two-week study about Los Angeles youth and the city’s multiculturalism, the stories about African American Nerd Culture seen in the movie DOPE and the young college-aged criminals that robbed celebrities and the inspiration behind this crime spree which can be seen in the Sofia Coppola movie THE BLING RING were incredibly interesting. The famous NEW YORKER article on the corruption inside the LAPD which was published back in 2001 still holds up to this day during the week that we studied Law Enforcement inside the city. The best research articles evaluated aspects of thematic elements in films like the Chapter 3 section titled “Women in Film Noir” written by Janey Place from the 1978 book publication “Women in Film Noir”. It revolves around the specific roles that females were forced to play in 1940s/1950s noir films and how the different roles that they played fit into a specific formula. Another wonderful article was an evaluation of the film Chinatown (Quick note: This is one of my favorite movies of all-time) that did not portray Los Angeles in a utopian light but embraced the historically corrupted politics, grittiness and sleaze of the city, and the general cultural ‘darkness’ that exists behind the scenes in a city that wants you to focus on its beautiful beaches and evening sunsets over the Pacific. But besides these fantastic articles, there were some that seemed to want to prove a specific ideological point. The pattern you will quickly realize is that every topic that is written about in the educational system is based on some historical facts or will focus on an opinion that holds merit. What happens is that after listing these facts and doing a tremendous amount of research to prove their point of view, the author’s opinion descends into an ideology that strays from the purpose of the article. A few examples of this problem are listed below.
The problem with these articles is not the historical aspect. The entire history of the West Coast is based on a displaced utopianism that has existed since the first miners started hauling gold and silver out of the region in the early 1800s. No three cities in this country have a more utopian identity than Los Angeles (The home of Hollywood and until the 1990s, the defense contracting industry), Silicon Valley (The home of technology), and Las Vegas (The home of vice and dreams) that was built by the mafia. Because the West is such a massive place with cities scattered between hundreds of miles of desert, mountains, and large prairies, there are crazy stories of reinvention that exist everywhere in the state. The first problem in my class relates to the well-researched novel THE CITY OF QUARTZ by Mike Davis. It dives into all these fake ideals that surround the city of Los Angeles. The reason why the book qualifies as an element of critical race theory is because of the language used. Is Los Angeles a sleazy place despite the media portraying it otherwise? This is true for many parts of it. Was Los Angeles glorified by property developers and media entities as a place to settle in the middle 20th Century? Yes. Has the city always been politically controlled by powerfully rich individuals? There is truth to this argument. Due to “voluntary” segregation, Los Angeles also has more ethnic areas in the city than any other place in the country (Off the top of my head, there is Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Little Tokyo, Little Persia, Historical Chinatown, Little Saigon in Orange County, Cambodia Town in Long Beach, Koreatown, Olvera Street (El Pueblo) which celebrates Mexican culture, Historic Filipinotown, and Thai Town). Mike Davis’s book came up with the term “White Flight” to explain a cultural phenomenon that occurred in Los Angeles between the 1950s and 1970s. This term is misleading due to the nature of Los Angeles. Is it true that there were ‘white people’ that fled the inner city to live the American Dream in the suburbs? Absolutely. My own grandfather moved from New Jersey to Inglewood in the late 1940s to pursue his own California dreams. While racism was a cultural problem, couldn’t more blame be placed on the corporations and individuals who sold the idea of the American dream to these people in the suburban communities? In my own hometown of Torrance (A suburb), this whole ideal is ‘whitewashed’ (Pun intended). Torrance had the largest Japanese population in the United States during my childhood (Due to Toyota and Honda being based there at one time). So were suburbs created as a result of normal capitalistic tendencies or was it because of white racism that has existed inside the city dating back to the Spanish “Mission” era? According to Mike Davis, the latter is the REAL REASON.
The article from BRIGHT LIGHT FILM JOURNAL on LA LA LAND is another case in point. While criticizing the perception of the city through Damien Chazelle’s eyes as too utopian which is a valid argument, the article goes onto prove that Los Angeles is perceived in the media as a perfect locale for dreamers. Right after this, he contradicts this argument by listing the DOZENS OF FILMS that show another more realistic perspective of the town. The biased hatred that the author has for the city can not be overlooked inside of his writing. For every movie or television show that glorifies Los Angeles like 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, VALLEY GIRL and BEVERLY HILLS 90210, there is a BOYZ N THE HOOD, CHINATOWN, BARTON FINK, and SNOWFALL that shows the other side of the city. From this aspect, I believe the treatment of Los Angeles in the media has been quite fair. It just depends on how much you look into cultural entertainment. LA LA LAND is about dreamers and trying to achieve success in a town that seems like it came from a fictional reality. SPOILERS: But despite this theme, the movie also has a humbling ending where the success that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone achieve with their careers occurs outside of their failed relationship. In a town like Los Angeles, to achieve success, you often have to leave behind the people you care about to reach your goal. There is absolutely nothing utopian about the finale to this film. But the article than starts diving into a problem that exists with all journalistic writing. It starts creating false outrage about social topics that have nothing to do with this type of film. The writer starts talking about cultural appropriation of black music by Ryan Gosling’s character. Could it be possible that the main character just has an appreciation for this historical music and wants to put his own imprint on the sound? Instead, the writer says this,
“The racial issues go beyond cultural appropriation in a movie that systematically erases and marginalizes blackness not only through its narrative but also its formal film elements. During Seb’s jazzsplaining, Seb and Mia are foregrounded in close-ups while the musicians are out of focus behind them. Seb and Mia’s whiteness is further emphasized by their white shirts, which gleam under the bright lights, while the musicians’ blackness is emphasized by their black suits.”
Who notices these things? Is this an important aspect of the narrative? The lack of representation in the movie is followed by this bizarre observation.
“In another scene, Gosling plays piano with a black band in a club. The spotlight is literally on him, and the camera cuts and whip pans between close-ups and medium shots of him and Mia, who is dancing alone, and for whom the club’s black patrons have cleared a space so that she can do her clumsy self-conscious moves to their deferential encouragement. The lighting and the pans between the two leads emphasizes them while literally blurring out the black dancers.”
The writer than gripes about the lack of Asian and Latino/a American actors in the film especially the latter since they do make up the ethnic majority inside of the Los Angeles city area now. This is perfectly fine but since the writer of the movie is a ‘white’ man, will he not be accused of cultural appropriation if he decides to write a musical about a Hispanic couple? Is there anyway this issue can be broached by a Caucasian director without begin attacked by the media?
Finally, the author criticizes the lack of LAPD corruption which again is not the focus of the movie, Then, they proceed to list a good number of films that show this exact corruption. Again, is the movie about police corruption? Apparently, this movie fails because it did not show a police beating.
“For people of those communities, getting out of your car on the freeway is a good way to find yourself on the receiving end of some police brutality. Movies such as Boyz n the Hood, Crash (2005), The Glass Shield (1994), L.A. Confidential, Training Day (2001), Rampart (2011), and Straight Outta Compton (2015) dramatize the regular occurrence of LAPD excessive force and racial profiling. La La Land is unacquainted with even a passing idea of it.”
Why is this even discussed as a problem when this musical has nothing to do with the above topic? This is just terribly divisive writing getting published as an expert’s opinion.
I will leave this quote from Eric Avila’s article: Dark City: White Flight and Urban Science Fiction Film in Postwar America to explain my basic issues with his research.
“Typically, white flight refers to political practices and economic processes that enforce the racial divide between the suburbs and the city. However, there is a cultural dimension to this process that has been overlooked. As an ideology rooted both in a historical preference for private rather than public life and in contemporary anxieties about subversion and deviance, white flight penetrated the sphere of American popular culture and affirmed whiteness often at the expense of racialized minorities. The rise of Hollywood science fiction paralleled the acceleration of white flight in postwar America and not only recorded popular anxieties about political and sexual deviants, but also captured white preoccupations with the increasing visibility of the alien Other.”
This poor author does not acknowledge how far this country has come during my own lifetime towards addressing racism and confuses capitalistic and cultural practices of the past to a blank term called “whiteness” that has no other purpose than to demonize a race of people as racists. Something that only ‘racists’ actually do. The whole article gets worse from there.
Another problem is the book ETHNIC LOS ANGELES. Written during the time of the failed government legislation passed in California known as Proposition 187 (Which was overturned in court as Unconstitutional in the late 1990s), it is a novel that tries to understand the ethnic communities of Los Angeles. While the book does have many positive things to say about multiculturalism in the city, it also is tainted with the stink of a collectivist mindset by grouping all minorities into a specific economic group to explain the circumstances of each minority. While many of the facts can be proven true, the problem is that it is looking at racial statistics from a collectivist viewpoint. Just because the Vietnamese are not as well off as the Japanese in Los Angeles does not mean that the community can not thrive in its own way (It has) or certain individuals of the community can not succeed above the levels that are listed inside of the book? When it comes to many ‘leftist’ type novels, why do liberals that defend the ideology of individualism like to label “individuals” into groups for economic analysis? Is this proper analysis or just a collectivist summary? But again, even though the author explains that Anglo-Americans supported Proposition 187 the most in 1994, he also explains that the measure had a large amount of support among ethnic populations,
“Though 187 did best among Anglo voters, the proposition had broad appeal. Half the Black and Asian voters and more than one quarter of Latino votes voted yes.”
So even though Anglo Americans did vote for the law in a larger percentage than the rest of the races, how do you explain this behavior from a “collectivist” mindset? Then, there is the broad belief that “Most” White people want to hold the black community down. Again, it is a difficult fact to prove.
“The notion that ethnic change occurs through a natural process of generational adjustment shifts the burden of explanation away from whites and their resistance to black progress, and on the other hand, that African Americans should change by abandoning their group affiliations, appears inherently and unacceptably ethnocentric.”
As an example, my grandfather, when he immigrated from Croatia (Part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire) in 1914 put his culture behind him when he went to the United States to create a new life. Making a comment like this is just ignorant of the immigration history of this country. The United States has always had its own culture and over time, it has become more accepting of multi-culturalism because the demographics have changed.
Finally, the novel that disturbed me the most was this one about skater culture. Since many of my personal friends came out of this scene, the author of this research completely misses the point and purpose of this cultural movement. Despite the fact that the author does discuss the overwhelming number of males that participate in skater culture (Which is a provable fact), the author begins the book off with this statement which informs where the discussion is heading.
“Skate Life develops an analysis of the identity politics of skate culture and the media related to it.”
The author than discusses her outsider status being a female in the male-dominated skater culture. While not dismissing her experience, does this really speak for all females that participated in this alternative culture? Personally, I befriended many females who seemed quite comfortable being part of the late 20th Century skater, punk, and surfer cultures. Again, the author makes a lot of amazing points. She discusses the alternative lifestyle outside of the corporate norms that skaters naturally flocked to (Shared with the punk and surfer cultures also) which was later corporatized by the media. She discusses that the majority of skaters came from a diverse background of economic circumstances, and many came from broken homes. Many skaters are also looking to identify with a movement outside of the mainstream and find solace hanging out with others who think in a similar way that they do. These are all signs of Southern California culture. This is also why skaters blended well with punk rockers, surfers, and the gangster rap communities while having issues with mainstream cultures of the time like practitioners of heavy metal. Skaters are strong individualists with politically anarchist sensibilities. This individualism is what caused the culture to initially thrive in the late 1970s. Despite making these points, she then breaks off into a tangent that seems contradictory to the research that she is discussing.
“Masculinity was consistently the salient identity around which skateboarders were organized. As such, when skaters produced critiques of dominant society, they focused not on class and the capitalist system (Get used to this critique. “Capitalism” is something always under attack by the educational establishment) but on masculinity and patriarchal norms.”
So begins the decline of her argument into an opinion piece about how skater culture is just a re-definition of the existing patriarchal structure through their chosen alternative lifestyles that helps to reinforce the patriarchy. There are multiple chapters on this topic. Let me give you a few quotes.
On the chapter FREEDOM ON FOUR WHEELS: INDIVIDUALITY, SELF-EXPRESSION, AND AUTHENTIC MASCULINITY IN A SKATEBOARDING COMMUNITY, she starts her attack on individualism.
“Skaters’ alternative masculinities rely on the high value they place on individuality and freedom and that in this reliance, they produce a not necessarily anti-patriarchal critique of patriarchy.”
On the chapter NEVER-ENDING ADOLESCENCE AND THE (DE)STABILIZING OF WHITE MASCULINE POWER ON MTV, she attacks the portrayal of skater culture in the media as just another tool that maintains the power of white masculinity.
“Presenting alternative masculinities and mocking masculinity as a construct, these shows ensure their white male stars’ power by constantly making fun of non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual Others.”
She concludes her incredibly stupid analysis (And total lack of perception on the history of skater culture) with this chapter titled CORRESPONDING CULTURES AND (ANTI)PATRIARCHAL MASCULINITY. She opines that,
“I call for further theorization of identity and power relations, noting that changes in the construction of identity do not necessarily alter or eliminate the power tied up with masculinity, whiteness, middle-classness, and heterosexuality.”
I don’t know what to tell you other than that this analysis of the ever evolving and complicated skater culture can apparently be described as just another form of masculine oppression imposed on the Others. This is just another sample of how incredibly stupid educational analysis has gotten in our present day.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. This is just a taste of some of the garbage that our graduate instructors are hoisting onto our students. This is just one class. Wait till you see some of the research that was given to me in other classes. Enjoy!
EXPERT OF SOME