I've recently been relocated to Los Angeles, and I thought that I was ready for it. I thought I'd been prepared for the worst, most surreal aspects of Tinseltown, because I've seen more movies about L.A. than I have Two Heads Share the Same Body Odd Couple Comedies (and I fucking love 2HSSBOCCs! Thing With Two Heads, represent). That's not arrogance unique to Los Angeles: Every city has their special little traits that we associate with them. I know that in New York I'll get bitchin' pizzas and fat cabbies spitting into my mouth; I know that in New Orleans I'll get jazz funerals and see some drugged titties; and I know that in Baltimore I'll get raped by a longshoreman. So I figured that in L.A., I'd be annoyed by the enthusiastic cokeheads, phonies and traffic. And I am, but I wasn't at all prepared for ...
#5. The Dystopian Advertising
Combine rabid capitalism, a booming industry that doesn't just breed, but actually requires superficiality, and the kind of criminal apathy usually only seen in science fiction dystopias, and you get something like the advertising in Los Angeles. I'm not talking about the staggering size, number and complexity of billboards (though that does start to feel a bit like the sunglasses scene in They Live); it's the actual subjects of the advertisements themselves that are so unsettling. I was signed up for Groupon up in Portland, where I moved from, and I would routinely get coupons for shit I could use, like 2-for-1 go-kart racing or discounted midnight admission to the grilled cheese and whiskey buffet. I updated my address when I got down here to L.A., and now my inbox is cluttered with coupons for hyper-acid skin melts and probiotic shark stem cell facials. I actually clicked on them at first, thinking they'd finally added a supervillainy box to the "check your interests" section.
But no: Instead of shady lawyers and the U.S. Army, every bus down here is covered in ads for the hottest new plastic surgery procedure. Major operations have product launches and advertising campaigns, like slicing your own face open is somehow on par with the new Call of Duty game or the return of the McRib. You'll see ads for Lap-Band surgery slapped up right next to Subway billboards, and advertisers don't spend money on this shit because it's not working. That means there's a market for it -- there's an entire demographic of consumers in this town who are willing to buy surgical operations on impulse. There's a guy sitting next to you on the highway, and he's looking at that same billboard for eyelid reversals that you're staring at in abject horror. But while you're thinking, "Truly, these are the end times spoken of in Revelations," all he's thinking is, "Fuck yes, I'll take a Turkey Chipotle Blast foot long and stomach-clamp combo."
#4. Retroactive Entitlement
Everybody in this town thinks that they're destined to be a star. That's the one true thing everyone already knows about LA: People only live here because they're in the midst of pursuing that beautiful, hopeful, occasionally sad and misguided dream of super-stardom. But hey, if you want to chase that Golden Ticket, strong-jawed extroverts, you go for it: That's nobody's business but yours and the food service industry's, five years from now.
But for every modest, grounded, talented aspiring actor, writer, singer, or director -- just paying their dues until (or if) they hit it big -- there are ten that are so confident in their inevitable uber-fame that they've already adopted the lifestyle. That's not just annoying, it's potentially disastrous: See, A-List celebrities are able to walk around all aloof and pampered like that because they have the money to hire an entourage that takes care of all the shit every human being has to do, but doesn't want to. People like Scarlett Johansson have dudes named T-Bro that pick up after their dogs, or throw things away in trash cans, or wipe down their toilet for them. And that's fine. Nobody's begrudging them that. We can all spend our money on whatever we want.
"... so I just hook up some brake lights on its ass, and this is street legal, right?" -- What I'm saving up for.
It only becomes a problem when you start living that lifestyle and you don't actually have the entourage of mercenary garbage men and professional poop-handlers, because you work at a fucking Jamba Juice. No matter how grand and culturally impactful your inevitable rise to stardom will be, you probably won't ever be able to hire a team of time-traveling yes-men to form your chrono-skipping retroactive entourage. So I'm truly sorry, but until your sex tape hits big, you're just going to have handle Chihuahua shit on occasion; it is science that's failing you here.
#3. The Teeth
Everybody on film has nice teeth, and that seem like one of the more benign pre-requisites of a film career. Actors have to look their best at all times, because that's what we, the audiences, demand of them. We don't question why the crack-addicted hobo in Action Aryan 2: Jawline of Justice has a perfect set of shining white choppers. He's an actor, and it's Hollywood.
But while you expect to encounter a celebrity or two with 10,000 dollar teeth out here, you forget that every aspiring actor has to share that same priority if they ever expect to make it. Perfect teeth are cosmetically attractive and physically healthy, sure, but that takes absolutely none of the terror out of the situation when you walk into a bar and everybody turns to smile at you with the same mouth.
Like this, but replace all the dialogue with the words "Facebook" and "Executive Producer."
The first time that happens, you're forced to conclude one of three things: Either the hallucinogens have finally turned on you, you've inadvertently opened the door to the Employee Replacement Room at Disneyland, or you've just walked into the spring cotillion for The Thousand Avatars of The Undying God.
The scars, imperfections, chips, breaks and asymmetry in our faces help to cement our visual identity. It might seem like a minor detail now, but giving a presentation to a roomful of people with perfectly identical cubes of gleaming enamel all up in their grills is like having dinner with identical quintuplets. You know, objectively, that it's not their fault you're so creeped out, but that doesn't mean they're not planning on eating you.