Monday, October 15, 2012

My Paris Syndrome and Dreaming of Dixie

Dreaming of Dixie talks of the idealized South and how misconceptions of the South may populate. The author, Karen Cox, suggests that the nation as a whole, bought into these ideas of what the South was or possibly more accurately, what the antebellum South was. California expert, Norman Klein writes of the art of remembering, or as the title of his book suggests, The History of Forgetting. Klein’s book focuses on tear downs, urban planning and re-creation of neighborhoods in Los Angeles. With his theories and meanderings of the text, he also gives an ‘anti tour” of Los Angeles, focusing on movies and noir novels, discussing how a majority of the population, all over the world, have a convoluted idea of what Hollywood is- this perception of what they think the city and movie making is. Reinforcing his statement of these perceptions, a student documentary based on his book has a scene of a foreign tourist posing and looking into the camera as the film makers interview Klein on a street. The tourist has this eschew idea that he will be on film or tv and faces the camera and stares at it. Odd behavior and idea but became true by that footage making the cut into the documentary. Klein has gone on to state that all in the city of Los Angeles are guilty-like a nation buying into Southern stereotypes and ideas. Dreaming of Dixie also made me recall hearing of Paris syndrome, where many Japanese visitors to the city are over come with disappointment, stress, and breakdown when interacting with the reality of a long idealized romantic European city, a dream city where a tourist finds the character to be the complete opposite of their own. This very real and extreme culture shock comes with a twenty four hour hotline to the Japanese embassy. Karen Cox reinforces this with excerpts from diaries and accounts of tourists visiting the South and it not being Southern enough. In playing into the tourists ideas to make money, Southerners were just as guilty for the myth as all the tin pan alley songs that writers who had never been to the South were creating. There have been times I have experienced something similar to Paris syndrome although I’ve never been overwhelmed with culture shock like that. Most recently, it came more in the form of disappointment. Lucille’s Barbecue was coming into our suburban Los Angeles mall. When it finally opened up my friend and I went to check it out. The food was dry and the sauces weren’t tasty. The restaurant decor has self taught and primitive art on the walls and the waiting area looks like a living room. My friend stated that we had been spoiled by good food and some of the best-best barbecue in other areas. I related that when he came to visit, I would take him to the real thing-Ajax in Oxford. It didn’t have the Southern facade but the real thing- food, art, people, and all. So often the idea or recreation can not compare to something grounded in place, and not trying to be something of a themed destination. _______________________ _________________________________

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