In Hollywood, Living Car-Free Means You're a Loser
As seen at "World of Color" at Disney Hall (more info here) | Photo by calvinfleming via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
Hollywood is often accused of stereotyping a culture, but it's usually a race thing. A cyclist, however, would argue that no matter the color or their skin or how thick their wallet is, riding the streets of Los Angeles means you will be treated like a second-class citizen and be discriminated against.
In analysis published last week on Slate, writer Tom Vanderbilt -- you may know him from his book Traffic:Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) -- explores Hollywood's attitude towards the car-free, including cyclists. "Once we all buy into the idea that the car is freedom, not having a car reads as a form of clingy, needy dependency," he wrote, channeling the industry.
Vanderbilt puts cyclists portrayed in movies into two categories: nerds and sexual deviants. For example, nerds include Napoleon Dynamite, Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, man-children Pee-Wee and Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old-Virgin. Sexual deviants include pedophile Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman, Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children.
So why does Hollywood give the car-free such a hard time? "We could attribute it to the simple fact of the film industry's base in Los Angeles, a place whose residents—film directors and otherwise—can hardly imagine life without a car," says Vanderbilt.
Hollywood also builds in excuses like carlessness and abstinence (if you don't have a car, you probably don't get laid) or being a criminal. As Ludacris says in Crash, "only one reason buses have such big, wide windows" is to "to humiliate the poor brothers reduced to riding in them."
But all this is not to say there has been progress, Vanderbilt notes. In fact, despite the mocking in The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, it actually portrays a truly dedicated bicycle commuter. And in 500 Days of Summer, which was originally intended to be set in San Francisco, characters successfully lived a car-free downtown life, even traveling to San Diego on the Amtrak Surfliner to a wedding.