Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Little Boxes

Heard this song for the first time while sampling Peter Seeger's CD's on rhapsody.com.

This really struck a chord with me. Does this describe the culture you find yourself surrounded in? It certainly does describe Orange County, California which prides itself as the epicenter of Suburbia USA and the hotbed of conservative Evangelicalism, which was the main factor behind my "no-brainer" decision to flee the urban decay and poverty of Los Angeles in exchange for suburban paradise just over 10 years ago.

Now the prevailing cookie cutter mentality drives me out of my mind....

By Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their Martini dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.


14 Comments:

At February 08, 2006 9:02 AM, Blogger Gretchen said...

Whew, David that is quite a commentary! That is the thing that makes me shudder about the "OC". It has always creeped me out a little to see all the houses the same (with no back yards), to hear the assosiation rules that limit creativity, and most of all to see the pressure on everyone to just be like everyone else. Play the sports, drive the SUV, carry the Coach purse, and by all means don't rock the boat!
Good post. =)

 
At February 08, 2006 10:13 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

What I find disheartening is that this is the type of culture in which conservative Evangelical churches absolutely thrive. They should thrive everywhere, but OC is home to many of the country's prominent mega-churches.

Is it just a pure coincidence as some of my friends suggest? I think not, because the pattern is a bit to striking to ignore.

 
At February 08, 2006 9:10 PM, Blogger Gretchen said...

O.K. the only thing about those lyrics that doesn't describe the cookie cutter "OC" is all the different colors of "ticky tacky" houses in a row. If it was about Orange County they would all be beige stucco and tan trim decorated with splashes of terra cotta but not much because that would be too.... crazy.

 
At February 09, 2006 2:57 PM, Blogger furyouhin said...

The thing I see in common is the value placed upon "safety in numbers, comfort in conformity." To varying degrees, I also see a tendency toward "my personal accountability is enhanced/enforced by external expectations."

I don't think placing a priority these things is necessarily bad unless they are used to foster a mindset which limits curiosity and the honest willingness to learn about others who are not part of the group.

 
At February 10, 2006 8:34 AM, Blogger Elevated said...

Suburbia pods are taking over

 
At February 11, 2006 2:46 AM, Blogger The Humanity Critic said...

That pretty much breaks down that monotony of suburban life. Great post..

 
At February 12, 2006 8:52 AM, Blogger music.angel said...

Great post david. The east coast isn't much different...just out of DC suberbia is little cookie cutter houses all in a row. I think about the kids who grow up in these houses. You can reach out the window and touch the house next to you. What happened to the days of playing in the back yard and basketball hoops outside houses. Now it's about how decked out the inside of the (cookie cutter) house are...XBOXs, big screen TV's, etc.
I'm snowed in with a bunch of friends right now and I just read the lyrics to them...they agree. It's all about the tikcy-tacky little boxes here too.
I'm an artist so it really drives me nuts. I won't conform...where did our creativity go?

 
At February 12, 2006 8:54 AM, Blogger music.angel said...

sorry about the multiple posts...my computer boinked out.

 
At February 12, 2006 2:39 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

I can relate.

We used to sing "Little Boxes" in summer camp. Two heirs to that song are John Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses" and Talking Heads "The Big Country", with the chorus "I wouldn't live there if you paid me to...".

To think that used to be my theme song.

I was terrified of moving to suburbia, here outside Toronto. It's worked out so far, because our area isn't really cookie-cutter, and because it's very multicultural. But I still have that fear of ticky-tacky little boxes.

Hey, I saw Korea win a short track speed skate today, and thought of you. :)

 
At February 12, 2006 2:41 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

unless they are used to foster a mindset which limits curiosity and the honest willingness to learn about others who are not part of the group.

I think they do this by definition. Urban life demands people rub shoulders with their neighbours every day. Suburban life fosters isolation.

 
At February 12, 2006 7:13 PM, Blogger van.diesel said...

nice. interesting thoughts here...

 
At February 14, 2006 9:18 AM, Blogger Granny said...

I feel so old. Pete Seeger is my contemporary almost. He's older. In the fifties one of my favorite groups (still is) was The Weavers who were blacklisted during the McCarth reign of terror. Pete was the lead singer.

Malvina sings it as well but I like Pete's version better. I have a large collection of Weavers stuff as well as old vinyl Seeger and some which has been released on cd.

I used to drive by the "boxes" in the song fairly often. They're still there. Just south of San Francisco.

 
At February 19, 2006 11:51 PM, Blogger Friar Tuck said...

My sis lives in the OC and I really stuggle with it every time I am there. Part of it is because I hate suburbia in general. Part of it is because I feel I have entered into some stepford world that I will never be able to relate to.

Everything around there is "just so". And I miss the wild places of Oregon, Alaska, and Montana that I have lived in during the past. Then i tell myself I need to shut up and stop being so judgemental.

As for the mega chruches, they thrive in suburbia because they are missionally oriented toward suburbia. Group think. Consumer driven. All that. Having said that...I wouldn't mind trying my hand at serving at a church in the OC.

 
At October 05, 2006 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy the lyrics for a number of reasons. Among them they express uniformity, a trait that I keep looking for in vain. Gunther from Austria

 

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