I tend to have ‘phases’. May that be a preference in a particular cuisine, very specific, deep interest in a topic or a specific phenomenon. Then location and travel craving, changing my lifestyle or moving to a country I want to experience.

It happened that in the last 2 months, my attention was steered towards USA in its 50′ and evolution of suburbs as a phenomenon.

It started off with a sudden craving in February. For no particular reason, I really wanted to re-watch American Beauty. Last time I saw it was probably in 2008. This time around, my perception of the movie was far more conceptual and sparked an existential crisis – in a good way. Being really aware and anxious about how I’m spending my days, my time and eventually my life is something that keeps popping up on a regular basis, every 2 or 3 months. It helps me maintain a helicopter view of everything that’s happening in my life.

There are a couple of questions I was asking myself and actually keep asking myself regularly:

  • How not to end up in a situation like Lester Burnham?
  • How can I stay excited for what I’m doing and eventually lead an interesting life?
  • How can I cultivate an interesting personality?
  • How not to lose freedom?
  • How to make sure I won’t lose meta-perception?
  • How can I make sure my life is not one big compilation of mundane routines?

As stated in my title, a huge aspect of this matter is the lifestyle uniformity of people living in the suburbs. Probably quite exaggerated concept full of stereotypical patterns, living in a suburb somehow automatically resembles an association of a homeowner, commuting to work by car, having a house filled with stuff only to wake up and do the same thing all over again.

Today, while isolating during the Chinese flu outbreak, I’m once again thinking about the setup in which I want to live. Naturally, I’d love to have my own ‘peace of land’ – but that comes with its own cost. I’m afraid I would end up being isolated, tied with mortgage in a place with not much happening. On the other hand, I know for sure living in 8 mil metropolis is not something I’d love to do long-term. (ok, maybe if I’d end up being billionaire…) Huge amount of people, high rents, lack of greenery… and probably 95 other reasons are making this experience uncomfortable. At the same time, I don’t want to give up living in a place where almost any of the industry is on its cutting edge. Because I want to be on a cutting edge with everything I’m trying to do.

This makes me bi-polar in this context. And I haven’t come up with a decision, nor conclusion.

As I’m navigating this, it came only naturally to look into how the suburban phenomenon actually started and evolved all over the US.

Apparently, it all started in the 50′, after WW2 when young veterans came back, got married and were looking for a place to live. After the war, around 2-3 million people got married and ‘starting out’ with their lives. That meant having babies (baby boom), getting into new job and eventually, owning their own piece of land.

At the beginning was Levittown – a suburban housing development by Levitt & Sons. Segregated housing communities with a competitive value proposition. You could buy a house for a fraction of rental costs. Think uniform houses with white picket fence and green lawn. A whole new, car-dependent lifestyle enabled a massive economic growth, building driveways, rise of consumerism, media and growing population. Golden times at its best. Or were they not?

I fell into a black hole of youtube, watching documents from 50s along with a couple of films that captured American life in the suburbs or high school. I love old American films (especially early 90s) and this time I’m on a roll covering 80′, 90’and early 00′.

One of my all-time favourites. Brilliant Kevin Spacey, cinematography (Sam Mendes) and storytelling leave you at least slightly disturbed. In my case, it comes with a certain amount of self-masochism.
Brilliant Mathew Broderick and (such a young and stellar!) Reese Witherspoon. A great introspection of a suburban (school) community.

I came across this film on Netflix and up until the end I couldn’t get my head around it. This was such a bad film it was good. I can’t believe this got 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and 76% audience score. This film could probably never be shot in 2020 when everyone is so ready to get offended. It’s full of humour. stereotypes and (in)appropriate jokes. Enjoy!
I thought I must’ve seen this one but I didn’t. A typical teen comedy.
Another teen movie – this one was definitely a ‘meh’ .
Now this one was a total surprise! Apart from being most certainly the film with the worst hairstyles, the cast was incredible!  Seeing young Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver was a true pleasure along with a nice storyline.
‘Meh’ romantic film but then again – I watch consider these as historical artefacts. I’ve never seen Alec Baldwin so young!
A modern take on suburbia by George Clooney inspired by a real-life incident.

And now on to my favourite youtube videos:

Short documentary to start off. This was Mid Century Home Life. Authentic storytelling about life back then. Living the American dream. Family life! These videos are indeed one big marketing lecture! New products and inventions back then.

And because California is indeed a heaven(?). This piece Promoting Southern California is just brilliant!

What do you think? Would you prefer to live in a suburb or in the city?