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Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight

Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight
    Book Description:

    Los Angeles pulsed with economic vitality and demographic growth in the decades following World War II. This vividly detailed cultural history of L.A. from 1940 to 1970 traces the rise of a new suburban consciousness adopted by a generation of migrants who abandoned older American cities for Southern California's booming urban region. Eric Avila explores expressions of this new "white identity" in popular culture with provocative discussions of Hollywood and film noir, Dodger Stadium, Disneyland, and L.A.'s renowned freeways. These institutions not only mirrored this new culture of suburban whiteness and helped shape it, but also, as Avila argues, reveal the profound relationship between the increasingly fragmented urban landscape of Los Angeles and the rise of a new political outlook that rejected the tenets of New Deal liberalism and anticipated the emergence of the New Right. Avila examines disparate manifestations of popular culture in architecture, art, music, and more to illustrate the unfolding urban dynamics of postwar Los Angeles. He also synthesizes important currents of new research in urban history, cultural studies, and critical race theory, weaving a textured narrative about the interplay of space, cultural representation, and identity amid the westward shift of capital and culture in postwar America.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93971-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. 1 Chocolate Cities and Vanilla Suburbs: Race, Space, and the New “New Mass Culture” of Postwar America
    (pp. 1-19)

    In 1964, theNew York Timespublished an article titled “Coney Island Slump Grows Worse,” drawing attention to the plight of the long-standing amusement park. Amid empty roller coasters and deserted bingo parlors, an “air of desertion” permeated Coney Island, whose patronage had declined steadily since World War II. TheTimesidentified a number of factors that had facilitated the park’s decline, including “unsafe subways,” “young hoodlums,” and “bad weather.” One problem, however, stood out. “Concessionaire after concessionaire” reported that “the growing influx of Negro visitors to the area” was the most critical obstacle to Coney Island’s resuscitation. African Americans,...

  7. 2 The Nation’s “White Spot”: Racializing Postwar Los Angeles
    (pp. 20-64)

    Los Angeles is not what it was supposed to be. At the dawn of the twentyfirst century, Los Angeles ranks among the largest and most polyglot concentrations of humankind anywhere in the world. Sheltering the nation’s largest population of Mexicans, Koreans, Vietnamese, Salvadorans, and Thais, Los Angeles has become a cultural kaleidoscope of global proportions. Its Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Little India, Little Armenia, Koreatown, and Thai Town, as well as its urban and suburban Chinatowns, anchor immigrant newcomers to the region and bring the cosmopolitan flavor of London, New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong to Southern California. Any lingering...

  8. 3 The Spectacle of Urban Blight: Hollywood’s Rendition of a Black Los Angeles
    (pp. 65-105)

    “See Los Angeles crumble before your very eyes!” promised theLos Angeles Herald Expressin the headline of its review ofWar of the Worlds,a science fiction thriller about a Martian attack on Los Angeles. Movie audiences reveled in the film’s special effects, which dramatized the aliens’ annihilation of Los Angeles and the frenzied exodus of the city’s inhabitants.War of the Worlds,based on the 1898 H. G. Wells novel and a cinematic replay of Orson Welles’s infamous radio broadcast of 1939, was the nation’s highest-grossing film after its release by Paramount Pictures in 1953, and it inaugurated...

  9. 4 “A Rage for Order”: Disneyland and the Suburban Ideal
    (pp. 106-144)

    In its portrait of urban blight at midcentury, film noir favored the recurrent imagery of the amusement park. InT-Men,the two undercover agents wander through a decrepit amusement park in their search for the Schemer. In the climactic ending toStrangers on a Train,a murderous psychopath stalks an ominous fairground at night and a merry-go-round whirls violently out of control. A huge Ferris wheel is the setting for a climactic confrontation between Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten inThe Third Man,and inThe Lady from Shanghai,multiple images of a shooting by a femme fatale are refracted...

  10. 5 Suburbanizing the City Center: The Dodgers Move West
    (pp. 145-184)

    From the newfangled spaces of suburban Orange County, our attention now shifts to Southern California’s urban core, which accommodated a cultural transition similar to that effected by Walt Disney’s reinvention of the amusement park. The arrival of the Brooklyn Dodgers in Los Angeles in 1957 marked the incorporation of Los Angeles into the big league of American cities, and while that move signaled the public’s expanding and enduring fascination with the national pastime, it also illuminated the shifting paradigms of popular culture in the age of white flight. For it was not simply the negotiating skills of urban boosters or...

  11. 6 The Sutured City: Tales of Progress and Disaster in the Freeway Metropolis
    (pp. 185-223)

    In its mile-long narrative of Los Angeles history, Judith Baca’sGreat Wallrenders its surreal depiction of Dodger Stadium alongside a similar image of destruction in postwar Southern California. In the section of the mural titledDivision of the Barrios(see the cover of this book), a Chicano family is divided—mother and son on one side, father and daughter on the other. A writhing freeway enforces their separation, imposing a wide gulf between the family and crashing down on their barrio community. Not unlike its depiction of Dodger Stadium as an alien invader, Baca’s mural presents an ominous vision...

  12. Epilogue. The 1960s and Beyond
    (pp. 224-242)

    After all the fanfare and spectacle that accompanied the post–World War II production of movies, theme parks, ballparks, and freeways, it seems by some accounts that the effort to reinvent Los Angeles as a new White City resulted in abject failure. Writing in 1963, for example, Remi Nadeau declared the region a “society of strangers.” “In Los Angeles County,” he wrote, “where the family moves an average of every four years, the movement of population works against community attachments.” Nadeau predicted an ominous fate for the Southern Californian who, in spite of his best efforts to live out the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 243-280)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 281-298)
  15. Index
    (pp. 299-308)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-309)