Roger L. Simon

It's not my LA either...

Cathy Seipp has another of her fine columns in NRO today – Segregated Screenwriters – in which she is again on the money about the entertainment industry and the City of Angels. [Is that because she cites you?-ed. Why else?] But seeereeuzly folks, Cathy cited me for predicting something that is very conventional wisdom (VCW) these days – that screenwriter Paul Haggis is headed for his second Oscar for writing a movie that is fundamentally meretricious – Crash. And here’s an admission: I voted for him. Why? Well, despite the author’s fake values and absurd vision of Los Angeles, he didn’t have much competition and I had to vote for something. (I had omitted too many categories on my Oscar ballot already.) Besides, the dude writes extremely well – excellent dialogue and well-wrought, often moving, characters.

But let me add my voice to Cathy’s and Matt Welch’s that I am offended by the film’s (self-regarding and convenient) view of LA as a maelstrom of racism. Yes, sure, there are plenty of racists here like everywhere else on the planet, but actually, compared to most places I’ve visited (and since travel is my drug of choice, I’ve been to over 60 countries) LA is a virtual paragon of multi-culturalism. Compared to Paris, it’s paradise. But screenwriters like Haggis persist in a Westside vision of their city that is essentially a fantasy built on their needs (to feel superior and good while being rich and famous). They should get out more. Koreatown is a lot more fun and interesting than Brentwood or Beverly Hills (and the food’s better).

Haggis gives away his own LA-myopia in one telling detail of Crash. Much of the plot revolves around an Iranian family being mistaken for Arab because there are no Iranians hereabouts. Wrong way around, fella. This is Tehrangeles with the second greatest Iranian population on Earth (after the capital city of Iran). There are over a half million Persians in LA county. The Arab population is miniscule by comparison. But from Brentwood, I guess it’s all the same.