A confession: I have a subscription to New York Magazine. I feel like this is a minor coming out for me, as I cheat weekly on Los Angeles to dream of going to opulent fashion shows, slightly over-hyped restaurants, and see the art establishment’s contributions to the contemporary art field–all by subway. The magazine is perfectly designed and has one of those light, sardonic personalities that keeps you reading it regardless of where you live. Sometimes they can be obnoxious; then again, so can any establishment that is super niche and championing one’s city.
Last Friday, as I was polishing off the magazine, I approached their always hilarious culture barometer: The Approval Matrix, a one page graph of what’s in, what’s out, what’s sophisticated, and what’s gauche. To my surprise and delight, the upper right corner–the “highbrow” and “brilliant” quadrant–had something I was all too familiar with: a mentioning of Ice Cube’s Pacific Standard Time Eames-loving video. However, it did not say that. Instead, it said, “Architecture geek Ice Cube analyzes L.A.’s Eames House in a video for an arts group.”
Okay. So, I understand this is super great and positive–but, this instantly struck a sour note. First off, they throw all the hard work the guys at Pacific Standard Time have been doing away, into a pile entitled “arts group” (which it is a very, very far cry from). Secondly, there is no real tie to Los Angeles besides the house: the only thing that is claimed as Angeleno is the Eames House–not Ice Cube, not the video, not the “arts group.” It kind of felt like a slap in the face, a large, respected, admired (by many Angelenos) magazine stole something we made to place as “one of the best things happening,” yet removes all traces of whence it came. I was offended.
Yeah, yeah, yeah: you can only use so many words in the bites of The Approval Matrix and they often feature online and international items and, sure, the video is online and therefore universal. The way it is positioned in the Matrix erases the work and history being shared in the video, chalking it all up to Ice Cube and “some arts group,” extremely subtly alluding that there aren’t really any ties to people with innovative minds in Los Angeles.
This is so incensing because it is yet another casual middle finger to Los Angeles, that we’ve all learned to accept and get comfortable with from New York publications. Countless, countless times these New York mouthpieces bad mouth our city for what reason? To seem cooler? To seem better? To make us look like fools? Well, yes. That’s exactly it. Case in point: the hotly debated New Yorker article on AEG’s owner Philip Anschutz and Tim Leiweke. It is written by Angeleno Connie Bruck who, obviously, is a fantastic writer (and will be on The Madeline Brand Show tomorrow). The problem, though, is that she makes Los Angeles look literally braindead, ruled by mega-conglomerates intent on fucking over the city for the sake of NFL greed.
When I read murmuring about the article, I ran out and purchased a copy of the magazine because I had to know what people were saying about the city that I work day in and day out to champion. The story is long and, really, is pretty boring, composed of lots of shop talk and cock sizing, volleying around Downtown as if it is some sort of crack baby. Of course, these two men and A.E.G. have spawned an area Downtown that is now a wonderful (“wonderful”) zone for entertainment (“entertainment”); however, their dent on the city besides that is incredibly small. No one *actually* wants to go to L.A. Live or the Staples Center, save for those going to concerts or sports games a few times a year (many of those people not even residing in Los Angeles proper). It’s a mess down there, a commercialized wasteland, knee deep in inflated prices and a separation from Los Angeles. The article purposefully proves that but paints the two men and their creations as emblems of Los Angeles: some greed driven entrepreneurs, very similar to the vapid, thoughtless, dumb people who inhabit the city, all inferior to New York.
Sure, it’s nice that Anshutz is explicitly painted as an insane interloper, coming from Denver to “check in on his goods” and share his conservative ways. It plays off more of like a stereotype, though: the displaced, awash in money West Coaster, drifting in and out of La-La Land set in their far out agenda. The article is almost absurdist, which of course is the point since it places these aloof kingpins brainwashing our city into “what it needs” (and it is definitely not an NFL team). Again, the problem with that is that our city, our neighborhoods (specifically Downtown), and people all look like jackasses, painted to be this way by a New York establishment. The article does not do LA any favors.
It’s a shame that when Los Angeles comes up in New York publications, it is to bad mouth it. Other recent examples? The entirely rude New York Times article by Adam Nagourney on Pacific Standard Time that came out in October, chalking the movement up to being “corny” and “’50s boosterish” (of course, quotes from Dave Hickey). The article was so rude that the New York Times had to follow up with a slightly apologetic, “well, PST is OK” article a few months later.
Yes, that’s a hyper-specific, few-month-old example–but LA badmouthing happens all the time and in any way it can!! Even just last week, an article on parking lots and cars in the New York Times seemed to claim that our city is hopeless in its reliance on cars. The month before, New York Magazine’s masturbatory Reasons To Love New York seemed to over-confidently knife other cities for not starting the Occupy Movement, for not having ballet to share, for not having gay marriage, for not having fashion art exhibits, and for not having Alec Baldwin. This list can go on forever because New York constantly loves to take shits on us. Why are we standing for this again? Why aren’t we being equally as cocky?
I know a handful of writers and personalities in this city–and New York, too–who are tired of this petty shit. I never wanted to write an article like this, as it’s somewhat tacky and juvenile. I don’t feel “hurt” by New York treating us like immature children and am well aware that there are just as many articles speaking favorably about us. I feel empowered because this is exactly why we started Los Angeles, I’m Yours and why others have started similar pursuits (like I Am Los Angeles, The STudio For Southern California History, KPCC’s KPSeeSee, Pacific Standard Time, and many, many others).
It’s time for us to stop accepting it, refusing to chalk it up to something understood and innate to the Los Angeles/New York relationship. New York is like an old, dated, has-been who is fighting through the slime of overpopulation and over-saturation to stay relevant–and it does that by shit talking. We need to show them that Los Angeles is in fact the younger, sexier, more progressive and powerful city that, yes, is home to Hollywood, that, yes, can sometimes be vapid, and that, yes, needs cars to function: so what?
If New York wants to throw shade, we’re going to throw it right back. Let’s all have some pride in our town and stop allowing New York to be a dick to Los Angeles.