This post was originally published on October 21, 2009. However, some of my best posts were written within the first few months of blogging when I had only a handful of readers. Enjoy a blast from the past… (can you tell I’m swamped this week!)
My husband and I love watching movies at night, thanks in part to Netflix, it’s really easy for us to download a new or older flick. However, we have noticed a disturbing trend in movies, even those that are 20 years old or more. The characters in films, whether they are broke, middle-class, or wealthy, have beautiful homes. It doesn’t matter if the character in the film has a high paying job, or a minimum-wage salary, or is out of work, they somehow own a substantially-sized home. How can this be? Basically, as my husband so eloquently put it, the film industry is selling us the lie of the American Dream.
Let me begin by saying that I know a few years ago, with the whole mortgage fiasco, many people were able to purchase a home well above their financial means. So, perhaps 20 years ago, it was a similar situation, which is why we also see this trend in older films as well as newer ones. I know films also exaggerate life, and films only want to show us what we want to see. According to tinsel-town, the American public wants to see all families living in large, beautiful houses. So, the lie perpetuates because we want it to.
Yet, it got me thinking, is this American Dream something that is a reality for most people? Does the film industry take the majority of the population’s living situation and just expand it for all it’s characters? I did a little homework on BestPlaces.net to check the percentages of home ownership across the nation in a few different cities and this is what I found:
- First, I took a look at Los Angeles, CA, since this is the county I live in. The home ownership rate here is 37%, compared to the national average in the United States of 64%. Okay, so this makes sense considering the high cost of property. What doesn’t make sense is the recently released movie, Smother, (a really bad movie, by the way) showing a young couple owning a beautiful Craftsman-Style home in Los Angeles on a beautiful tree-lined street. In this movie, the character’s include a wife, that is a teacher (we all know that teacher’s aren’t wealthy by most standards), and a recently laid-off husband, who goes back to selling carpet. My take: Selling the American Dream by Lying. (Two other movies off the top of my head with similar scenarios that take place in LA: I Love You, Man and Big Trouble : outrageous homes on a small income).
- I then compared Fargo, ND, whose home ownership rate is 45%, to the national average of 64%. One of my favorite, slightly older, movies is Fargo. According to BestPlaces.net, less than half of the people in this city are homeowners, so again the reality of all the movie’s character’s living in a terrific home is off. My take: Selling the American Dream, though the freezing cold winter’s may keep some people from settling down permanently.
- A more realistic view from a film that I like would be Singles, a movie about single people living in Seattle (again a film from the early 1990′s). The characters in this film all rent apartments and struggle to meet a life partner and pay the rent. According to Bestplaces.net, this is a more realistic view with the home ownership percentage at 45%. My take: A realistic perspective of young 20-somethings and early 30-somethings trying to keep their heads above water and get their life figured out.
- Another city I compared is Albuquerque, NM, with a home ownership rate of 56%. You could almost call it Americas Home Place since more than half the residents own homes. I recently watched Sunshine Cleaning, set in Albuquerque, NM. The film stars the lovely Amy Adams (from Enchanted). The house the main character owned was quite a fixer upper, but it made sense considering she was a single mom who cleaned houses for a living. My Take: a much more realistic version of life, which is refreshing in a film.
Of course, I’m not quite sure where Bestplaces.net came up with the national average figure of 64%. Each city I researched, and there were quite a few others that I didn’t list, kept coming up around the 50% range. There must be one state in which the majority of the population owns homes, but I didn’t find it.
Do any of you notice this in films you like? Do you ever find yourself sneering at the characters saying, “How did you afford that lifestyle and that house on your meager income?” Do you think the film industry is purposely selling the American Dream or just trying to lift our spirits and give hope to those that haven’t achieved it yet? I’m I being too cynical, or obessing over this topic?