A reader writes:
Speaking only for myself, L.A. "culture" is most strongly felt in movie reviews (and which movies get reviewed, awarded, etc.). There's a strong Leftist bias is how movies are reviewed, which movie star opinions are reported, etc. It definitely makes it feel like the popular culture of movies is in the enemy camp, and that there are no kindred souls in Hollywood. Counter-PC movies like Fat Head are always self financed and not released to movie theaters the way a Michael Moore flick is.
The "heart" of Los Angeles is the people. I absolutely do not mean this as a lets-hold-hands-because-we're-all-nice-folks way. Rather, I'm talking about a very specific cultural lineage of the settlers of Los Angeles that has shaped its urban landscape and built environment more than any Developer could have.
The wave of migration in the 1920s (that put the city over the 1 million person mark and beyond) was filled with midwesterners and northeasterners who were desperately trying the crawl out of their oppressive climates and also their chaotic dirty cities.
Los Angeles was envisioned and sold to the immigrants from back east as a garden city, which sounds a bit ridiculous now but can still be seen. Everyone would have their own little patch of earth in the city, and the car would liberate them to traverse the great distances required so that everyone.
Anyways, the whole ethos of the place is that it was settled internally by Americans who were trying to get out from under everything that was oppressive about America in the early 20th Century. So they came to the City with plentiful land and sunshine in an effort to set up a kinder and gentler and more free type of city (hence our Progressive Era style city government, a rejections of the political party boss style of Chicago and New York). But of course, if 17 million people get the same idea and everything spins out of control pretty quickly.
Anyways, I'd recommend checking out A Fragmented Metropolis and other such LA History books (I'm not suggesting you don't know your stuff, but I find these books to be very insightful on the deeper historical issues, not just the Hollywood-centered version of it).
I live in Philadelphia. I really do not think of LA as exporting much cultural identity( the entertainment industry being different than a city.
One thinks of Chicago pizza, Kansas City Jazz, New York Yiddith Theater, Albuqurque fashion or New Orleans gumbo. But to me, LA evokes less than Newark (which at least is very Portuguese).
LA being a repository of transients may be a factor; it just does not seem to have a 'there' there, other than the cardboard 2d images we are used to.
And one more:
I think there are two popular images of LA. One is the entertainment/glitterati center. The other is its seamier, deadlier, film noir side. Both are iconic American images, though how actually real they are is debatable.
If you want to weigh in on LA before I do this is your last chance -- e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org