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The Liturgies of Hipster Hollywood

This post is a series taken from a DMin project I put together looking at the Eucharist as a paradigm for ministry in northern Los Angeles, with the idea being that while the Eucharist is a simple and common practice of the church, it can provide a pivotal and profound paradigm for ministry in a particular place and time.

Part 1 – A Eucharistic Imagination for Los Angeles: A Bibliography

Part 2 – Bread and Wine as a Paradigm for Ministry

Part 3 – Liturgical Imaginations: Torture, Culture, and Eucharist

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Sitting in a recently-opened coffee shop at the intersection of two of the most iconic boulevards in Los Angeles – Hollywood and Sunset – I overheard a barista describe Los Angeles to her co-worker, a recent transplant from Seattle. “It’s a city built on a fantasy,” she said. “I call it the City of Lost Boys – they are everywhere.”

Philosopher Jean Baudrillard describes Disneyland as hyperreality, an imaginary world that tricks people into believing a fiction designed to appear more true than reality itself.[1] Architectural critic Reyner Banham, in his survey of Los Angeles, describes Disneyland as an “institutionalized fantasy,” a place where “pedestrian piazzas, seas, jungles, castles, outer space, Main Street, the old West, mountains…can be experienced in a single day’s visit.”[2] Banham writes these words as he narrates the role physical structures play in shaping the  ethos of Los Angeles; the buildings and landscapes of Disney’s Fantasyland are but an extension of the myth and fantasy of Hollywood which has shaped and formed Los Angeles since the first decades of the twentieth century.

Building off of Baudrillard’s work, philosopher Albert Borgman describes hyperreality as experientially similar to one’s everyday experience but overly saturated and “glamorous,” Borgman’s shorthand for hyperreality’s overdeveloped brilliance, richness, and pliability.[3] As the barista noted, Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, is a city built on fantasy, steeped in hyperreality. Journalist John Leland’s assessment of Los Angeles concurs with Baudrillard’s analysis. He notes that while the first building constructed in Los Angeles was a jail, a chamber of commerce quickly followed promoting “the city’s chief product [of] fantasy;” Leland describes this as “a sales pitch offered as local history.”[4] Still, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce boasts that from its inception it had “the vision to see, the faith to believe and the courage to do.”[5] The endless possibilities, the beautiful celebrities, and the always-sunny weather all mythically describe a city where there can be no room for discontent or sadness.

However, as with any urban center as massive and densely populated as Los Angeles, there is no shortage of problems. While Hollywood portrays a culture of lavish wealth, East Hollywood’s median household income is $29,927 with a higher than average rate of single-parent households.[6] Due to its strict ordinances regarding the homeless population of, on average, 82,000 persons each night, Los Angeles has been named “American’s meanest city.”[7] Duke Law professor Jedediah Purdy writes that “our idea of success is an almost unworldly prosperity and security, our idea of failure the unextraordinary existence most of us actually lead.[8] Despite the unrelenting issues and failures of the city, the hyperreal myth of “unworldly prosperity” persists in northern Los Angeles.

Hipster Hollywood. Mythic and beautiful yet tragically broken.

Next up: A Day in the Life of a Hollywood Hipster


[1] Fitch, David. TM716: Missional Ecclesiology course lecture. January 8, 2013.

[2] Banham, Reyner. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 109.

[3] Borgman, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 88.

[4] Leland, John. Hip: The History. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2005), 99.

[5] Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “A Bold Beginning.” http://www.lachamber.com/webpage-

directory/about/aboutchamber-125thanniversary-past/

[6] Los Angeles Times. “Mapping L.A.” http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods

[7] Pollak, Richard. “Homeless in Hollywood.” http://www.thenation.com/article/158838/homeless-hollywood

[8] Purdy, Jedidiah. For Common Things. (New York: Vintage, 2000), 5.

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3 thoughts on “The Liturgies of Hipster Hollywood

  1. Great thoughts…I rail on Disneyland and the homogenization of adventure and reality in one of my American history classes…you would think I said “the Constitution should be used as toilet paper”.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Inside the Mind of a Hollywood Hipster | can't catch my breath

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