NOTE TO MY READERS: This article is unlike my others. Today, I decided to speak my mind and transparently write the truth, without walls. This article is based upon my observation of L.A. culture and my run-ins with countless individuals who seem to have unhealed childhood wounds.
I teach Film History part-time at the International School of Motion Pictures, a small but passionate school geared towards Japanese students highly interested in a film career. Yesterday, we decided to revisit Buffalo 66 because one of my students is highly interested in editing. Buffalo 66 has some great edited scenes, but the story reminds me of the inner wounded child that tends to be in all of us. Vincent Gallo reflects on his own childhood living in Buffalo, N.Y., as he wrote the screenplay inspired or at least influenced by childhood reflections.
The movie is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. It’s a very transparent look into the heart of a wounded child existing in a grown man. The unhealed wounds from our childhood are often unconscious and buried somewhere deep inside of us. It’s not always the case that he or she gets triggered, though, we are lucky if we have an opportunity to confront our inner wounded selves. And, yes, I do say lucky because as bad as it may hurt; we can only grow by discovering that there might be parts of our childhood that we still need to confront and heal.
Firstly, on a purely cinematic level, Buffalo 66 was shot on the now discontinued, 35mm reversal stock film, which is an extremely unpredictable and highly difficult film to shoot on. Gallo then opted to put the footage through bleach bypass to give the film the gritty look with high contrast and an increase in highlights and shadows. It gave the film a grainy quality but without noise because the bleach bypass was done on color film. The reason Gallo did this was a stylized choice to mimic the look and the feel of Buffalo. Having lived in Upstate New York myself, I didn’t quite get where he was going with his post production choices until living in the area. We’re now spoiled by digital movie production, so it’s nice to look back and appreciate artists that chose to shoot on film. Also, the difficulty and unpredictability of shooting on 35mm reverse stock film paralleled the unpredictable nature in Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo).
I highly respect this character driven story that boldly dares to expose family dysfunction in such peculiar and yet subtle ways. Billy’s mother is so preoccupied with her obsession with the Buffalo Bills that she hardly knows her son at all. Meanwhile Billy’s father is equally difficult to please as he’s temperamental and takes out his frustrations on his son. There is very little communication in the family and the parents are mostly self-centered. Billy Brown grows up in cold, snowy Buffalo with equally cold parents that show little to no affection or love. As a direct result, he shuns affection, acts rude and snobby, and lashes out towards people if they try and get too close. At first we’re introduced to Brown’s snappy, standoffish nature not knowing why he is the way he is and throughout the film we find out that he’s never quite felt accepted anywhere. We see acceptance as a theme throughout our own nation’s history with advent of gang activity mostly in the 80s-90s and it still continues today, though not so much. There were periods in time when gang violence was at an all time high.
Take a look at American History X and Malcolm X. Both films are about human rights, acceptance, racism, and a gang mentality where individuals find sanctuary with a group of like-minded that make the wayward or rejected finally feel accepted. American History X exposes white supremacy and Malcolm X sheds light on the Black Panther movement. Both groups have one thing in common as they deal with the need for acceptance from within one’s own ethnicity. The need for acceptance is seen in social media today. Social media currently banks off of the human need to feel accepted. The more likes you get the more you demonstrate to the world how popular you are and how many friends you have. Likes feed our egos. I am guilty for enjoying ego-boosting likes on various social media platforms.
In my own personal life I have experienced the lack of acceptance and racism by my own kind, as I am half Korean and half Puerto Rican. I used to attend an all-Korean church in Las Vegas, where my sisters and I were treated like outcasts and as if we were diseased because we weren’t 100 percent Korean. I also recall having to also explain to Hispanics why I didn’t speak Spanish, and I never forgot their arrogant and snide looks. I often got a tongue lashing from Hispanics because I didn’t speak Spanish. It’s not that I didn’t want to. My mother who happens to be tri-lingual (speaks Spanish, Korean, and English) chose to not teach us. She wanted us only to speak English. She had her reasons.
I also recall attending five different high schools in Las Vegas and moving countless times before because of the military. My father, stepfather and ex-husband were in the military. Having moved so much, you tend to not make friends or at least not keep them for long because once you do or try, it’s time to move, again.
Here are the places I have lived, by state/country:
- Canoga Park
- Costa Mesa
- Fountain Valley
- Garden Grove
- Huntington Beach
- Lake Forest
- Los, Angeles
- Redondo Beach
- Santa Ana
- Colorado Springs
- Las Vegas (various areas)
- San Antonio
I cannot boast that I’ve traveled the world or throughout Europe. I am probably the only person left on the planet that has yet to see Europe. I sometimes feel that way. But, I will say this: I have traveled throughout the United States a few times and have probably visited or have passed through roughly 35 to 40 states. And after barely being back in Southern, California for a year now, I have never experienced such snobbery in my life.
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, here’s the precise definition for a snob
: someone who tends to criticize, reject, or ignore people who come from a lower social class, have less education, etc.
British : cobbler
: one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors
a : one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior
b : one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste
No other state in the country (trust me when I say this from experience) has people who behave so entitled, snobby, arrogant, and egotistical as in California. Visit any other state in the country and there seems to be less bourgeoisie behavior that I seemed to be surrounded by in Southern California. I believe snobby people are nothing more than wounded people with unresolved issues from childhood. Look at Billy Brown’s character in Buffalo 66. Billy came across arrogant, selfish, and snobby. But deep inside he was a wounded child who was constantly trying to gain his father and mother’s approval.
Our society, and human nature, is built upon the ideal of acceptance. You look at any group there is some form of acceptance and that if you go against the grain then you are an outcast. My own dog, Abigail, is a very pretty little Japanese Chin. She doesn’t have a human conscious or thought process, but she only responds nicely towards other pretty little dogs. If the dog is ugly or weird looking, she literally turns away. This is animal instinct.
So, too, do humans have the same subconscious prejudice. We screen out the weirdos or people that are not up to our standard, whatever that standard might be, whatever that standard looks like to us. Internally, whether we admit it or not or come to the realization, we have a checklist for those we accept and those we do not. This is human nature, and some of us have actually fought to erase that internal checklist. But it takes time and it takes exposure to a variety of other cultures in order to erase our natural inclination to discriminate. We discriminate all the time. We discriminate as to who will be our close friends or just our acquaintance.
And I have noticed that the more one gains in education, the more one gains in social status. The more one earns, the more one equally gains in social status. You put those together and you get entitled behavior. I have seen this in my own relatives after they’ve earned their PhD degrees. Suddenly, it’s a license to act like a complete arrogant snob. People try and feign innocence and they claim that they are down to Earth and that money would never change them. But, that’s just not true. In most cases money does change people. Personally, I have almost 2,000 professional contacts and 16,838,352 individuals in my Linkedin extended network alone. This number is constantly growing daily. And this is not even including Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Fan page, Google+, Storify, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts, which the collective numbers are actually higher. Regardless, I can count who my real friends are on one hand or better yet on 3 fingers.
The people that are my real friends are people that do not act like they are somehow better than me. And the hardest and most painful for me is being around people that behave entitled. I have no tolerance for snobs. I might be direct, have adult A.D.D., a little O.C.D., act brash at times, and yeah, I tend to be a little quirky and I am definitely flawed. But, the one thing that everyone will always say about me and the one thing that I pride myself in is that I am real. I am very real and down to Earth. But social cliques exist everywhere.
I even recall when I was married, my ex-husband was an Army officer, and yes, he was high in the ranks. I recall the snobbery that went on with all the other “officer’s wives.” Geeze, they acted so snooty and rude. They all behaved like everyone was “Betty Crocker,” and they disapproved when you went against the grain or went against the Army way. You had to go above 100 percent in your dedication or you were dishonoring your marriage and dishonoring the military and our country. If you did not conform to the way an “officer’s wife” ought to behave, and if you didn’t make the military life your entire world by showing complete dedication, then you were not a true patriot and instead you were a troublemaker. If you were a troublemaker, higher-ranking officers, your spouse’s bosses, would place the entire family under a microscope. In other words, conform or they will make your lives a living hell. This is the way of military life. This is the social order and the way of things. Cultural anthropologists examine social cliques and behavior on a regular basis.
In the same way, people are naturally inclined to form groups and cliques. It’s our natural inclination to do so, as if we need to categorize people. Look at when you apply for a job. It is so frustrating for me when most applications phrase “two or more races (not Latino).” Why not just put “two or more races?” Why does “not Latino” have to be in there? So, if I am half Latino I have to mark that I am 100 percent Hispanic? But, I am not. I am also half Korean! Essentially, I am being forced to decide whether or not I am Asian or Hispanic. I am not allowed to state that I am both. There is no box for this.
The one thing that I walked away with based upon my experience having family in the military and moving around so much is learning that in every city and state people develop social cliques or groups in order to function or cope with life in general. There are cliques associated and broken up by religion, class, culture, ethnicity, nationality, interests, hobbies, age, economic status, education, experience, social status, popularity, and etc. It is sad, but people have to feel the need to be popular. If one is popular then they desire to be better than everyone else around them. And I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to play in that sandbox anymore. I don’t want to be apart of the childish behavior. I believe in transparency and honesty. I especially believe that a writer should always write with honesty and integrity. Stephen King and other famous writers have said the same thing.
So, for those who do require participation in some sorority or fraternity to make yourself feel better, or to network after college, or form friendships when they are a lonely freshman, then do what you need to do. We are all free to make our own decisions. I choose to not be apart of anything that requires people to be forced into a category or a box. I grew up with a Korean mother who didn’t even graduate from high school and an alcoholic father who was never around. This forced me to take on two or three jobs to pay for college by myself and to eat. I worked the graveyard shift with troubled youth. I would literally walk in to these kids totally acting out, some of which were the worst behaved in the state of California (level 14 which means the most difficult children to deal with).
I was spit at, punched in the face, hair pulled, you name it. So were other staff members, the violence came with the job and no, we were not allowed to strike back. It was our job to restrain these kids from further harming themselves and others. This was my job while I attempted to pay for college. And right after work, I had to go straight to school. This meant there were days I didn’t even have time to sleep. I eventually got my master’s degree at one of the top communication schools in the country. I say this not to boast but to point out that it is an absolute miracle that I have come this far despite the kind of parenting and childhood I had. I won’t go into the details, but I have written about it in one of my yet to be published novels. To be honest I started to write it and 100 pages in the memories were too much; I had to stop. My hope is that I can eventually finish that book. I have finished another novel about my challenging experiences as an Army wife and it’s currently being edited. Even now, I cannot watch military movies because they are too much for me. They are really painful. I sincerely dealt with real trauma growing up and lots of it. But, there are many of us that have dealt with some form of childhood trauma. I am not even sure Jerry Springer would allow me to tell my story on his show, because it would be so crazy people would assume it’s all fiction.
When I worked with women who were recovering from drugs and alcohol I recall stories from some who had it rough but nowhere close to the kind of stuff I had to endure. They couldn’t handle it and ended up on the streets. One lady showed me the track marks on her arms because she was a heroin addict. I recall being blown away by the sheer reality that I could have easily ended up like one of these women. But, I didn’t. I could have easily allowed myself to cave in to the pain, depression, trauma, and essentially give up on life. But I didn’t. At one point I wasn’t even sure that life was worth living at all. But something inside me pushed and essentially propelled me forward.
When you hit rock bottom, you question life itself, and you become humble rather quickly. And the one thing that having served as a family member in the armed forces for the better part of 25 years or more (including childhood and my marriage), the military also has a way of humbling you. It’s humbling when you are not sure if someone will even come home alive from war. It’s humbling when you have dinner with a friend, and the next thing you know you are reading that the person has been killed in combat. This is not to mention that you had to move everywhere and, as a result, formed few if any friendships because you never were able to unpack your bags.
And having been back to Southern California, the city of Angels, the place I absolutely love, I am so disappointed by the people I have met. No wonder some Europeans and other countries around the world think Americans are snobby. Well, that’s because we are. Americans are snobby, arrogant, entitled and very prideful. It makes me want to vomit. I am so disappointed and beside myself with the arrogance and entitled behavior in SoCal, specifically in the Los Angeles area. It’s a culture shock for me, having lived in other states where people don’t act like this. In my observation these egoists are individuals who are sheltered and haven’t experienced anything other than cushy lives where parents essentially buy them everything. And no, taking luxury trips around the world doesn’t count as being cultured because if you were, you’d be a hell of a lot more down to Earth, especially if you’ve experienced some third-world countries.
To the snobby acquaintances in my life: Keep up your bourgeoisie attitude and continue to treat everyone around you as if they are inferior and do not meet your social criteria to be your “friend.” And I’ll gladly step aside, because I will not be around to feed your ego.
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This entry was posted in Culture & Tech and tagged American History X, Arrogant People, Billy Brown, Buffalo, Buffalo '66, Buffalo Bills, California, Cliques, Cultural Anthropology, Fraternity, Gang Mentality, Gangs, Group mentality, Inner Wounded Child, Malcolm X, New York, Relationships, Snobbery, Social Class, Social Cliques, Social Groups, Social Science, Soical Status, Sorority, Stuck Up people, Vincent Gallo.