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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors

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Future Los Angeles-An Analysis of "Her" Trailer

In Sunshine or Noir? Mike Davis discusses how Los Angeles is a “stand-in for capitalism in general”and how it occupies the symbolic “double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced capitalism” (Davis, 18). Films such as Blade Runner (1982) or Escape from L.A. (1996) clearly represent the dystopian end of this spectrum. For my Los Angeles media object I’ve chosen a piece that, at least on the surface, seems to represent the utopian end.  This is the trailer to Spike Jonze’s recently released film Her (2013), which presents a vision of a near-future L.A. that is bright, urban, global, and filled with green public spaces, as well as ample public transportation. The residents of this world are well dressed, technologically savvy and creative, and the embodiment of the “Los Angeles intellectuals” that Davis mentions at the beginning of his piece (17). It is the “super-city of the future” that Reyner Banham mentions at the beginning of his documentary.

This futureLos Angeles is both recognizable and unrecognizable. For instance the general
city skyline is similar, but in this version the vertical portions of the city
extend in all directions, and in fact the filmmakers interposed footage from Shanghai to make it look more urbanely dense and futuristic. Unlike Blade Runner’s almost constant darkness,
much of the key parts of the film take place in daytime, with certain scenes
presented in an idealized nostalgia-laced, instagram filter, sunshine lens
effect. All the spatial environments are smooth and clean, a perfect fusion of
classic styles (the high-waist pants, the furniture) and
future-modernist-techno-utopian (the office buildings, the apartment, the
titular operating system). There is even a scene of the subway taking the main
character to the beach, something that would be impossible today!

What I think these scenes represent is a reflection of some of the new rhetoric that
is surrounding the city, embodied in the redevelopment of downtown over the
last decade. The trailer to Her shows
the type of city that has been imagined by politicians, developers, and other
residents (Davis, ix). This is a vision that has been represented in a number
of recent videos and articles, including those from the History ChannelCNN,
and The Huffington Post.

Of course we know from reading Davis that this is nothing new. Cycles of such ideology
have always existed in the landscape of L.A., both imaginative and real. And
what is also notable in the trailer is what is missing. There is seemingly no
population diversity, racially, culturally, and class, outside of those that
exist within the characters creative professional world sphere. It is as if
tech-people, academics, Silver Lake hipsters, and other representatives of the
global upper class now filled the entire city! Where have the rest of the
people gone? That is a further question that must be interrogated in such
utopian visions. 

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L.A. Songs: Sunshine, Santa Monica, and Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow’s song “All I Wanna Do” speaks to the easy,
laid-back vibe often attributed to Los Angeles and Southern California at
large. The omnipresent Los Angeles sun, the health-boosting rays of which drew the
first boosters to this coastal paradise in the late nineteenth century, here
indicates the limit of Crow’s fun-making. In the chorus, she repeats three
times the line “All I wanna do is have some fun, until the sun comes up over
Santa Monica Boulevard.” On a surface level, Crow’s desire to be entertained,
which the city characteristically satisfies, will fade when the sun rises, when
she must face the new day. On the other hand, in regulating the schedule for
Crow’s diversion, the sun itself wields a certain power. Its ascent over one of
the city’s main thoroughfares joins the fun-seeking Crow and the man William
she meets in the bar with the ordinary people washing cars in skirts and suits on
their lunch break.

By Samantha Ching

Posted on 17 March 2014, 11:32 am by Samantha Ching  |  Permalink

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