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9 Stereotypes in Movies About California That May or May Not Be True

9 Stereotypes in Movies About California That May or May Not Be True

When it comes to common California stereotypes, no one does Hollywood better than Hollywood.


4 min read

August 11, 2021

Rumor has it that every Californian is running around, constantly dodging questions like “Do you have a celebrity neighbor” or “Do you know how to surf?” or “Which TV pilot did you audition for this week?” Are these rumors true? Well, to answer that, we’re going to have to turn to the silver screen. 

When it comes to common California stereotypes, no one does Hollywood better than Hollywood. There are so many movies in, around, and about the Golden State—way too many for us to list—that a few traits are bound to get pigeonholed. So join us on an exploration of these stereotypes in Hollywood movies and let’s dissect the good, the bad, and the outdated (ugh, as if).

La La Land is a typical example of a common California movie stereotype, where the leads are aspiring actors or musicians.

1. Everyone is an Aspiring Actor or Musician: La La Land 

While this stereotype is rampant in a lot of movies and TV shows, perhaps it’s La La Land’s choice of protagonists that makes this movie on our list. Emma Stone’s Mia and Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian can be seen unsuccessfully—and later on successfully—pursuing their respective passions of music and acting. And since Damien Chazelle’s 2016 movie is supposed to be an ode to the City of Angels, its titular characters are interpreted as representatives of said place.

This summer movie also features a lesser-known but pretty prevalent trope of significant and emotional moments always taking place at Griffith Observatory—think Rebel Without A Cause, Yes Man, and Gangster Squad, which is another film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. 

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2. Or, the Golden State is Full of Retired and Fading Actors: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

For each Mia and Sebastian—ambitious artists with a bright future ahead—there is a Rick Dalton, played by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s seen driving around Los Angeles, his heyday and an impressive string of western/action movies behind him, fading away as others (Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate and Rafał Zawierucha’s Roman Polanski) rise to the top. 

Even Rick’s line to his stuntman-best-friend Cliff Booth (portrayed by Brad Pitt)—“It’s official old buddy, I’m a has-been”—shows that this L.A. stereotype plagues many of its residents. But if we choose to stay true to Tarantino’s narrative, then Rick and a lot of his contemporaries shouldn’t worry too much; their life might just turn upside down.

The most common stereotype of vegans is that they are obsessed with the diet, conserving the environment, and are aggressive to meat-eaters.

3. Californians LOVE vegan food: Legally Blonde 

Meatless, cruelty-free, and glowing—this is the image most people have about those who hail from the Golden State. And the flaxen-haired Californian Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) is a prime example. She introduces herself to her coursemates by saying “Hi, I’m Elle Woods and this is Bruiser Woods. We’re both Gemini vegetarians.” And while this line will forever be immortalized in the iconic line hall of fame, it also highlights California’s herbivorous stereotypes in film.

4. California is Nothing but Surfer Dudes: Point Break

The film Point Break might contribute to the stereotype of Californians being surf-obsessed to extreme lengths. In the movie, a group of Southern California big wave surfers turns to bank robbery to fund their surfing equipment and travel expenses, suggesting an all-consuming passion for the sport. The inclusion of professional surfer Matt “Archy” Archbold in the cast lends an air of authenticity to the surfing scenes, reinforcing this image. Such portrayals can amplify the stereotype that Californians will go to great lengths, even risking jail, for their love of surfing.

"I'm a firm believer in Karma," says Emma Watson in The Bling Ring, her voice dripping with Southern California vocal fry.

5. Every Californian has a Vocal Fry: The Bling Ring 

In Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, Emma Watson plays a spoiled teenager from Calabasas who, with the help of her adolescent pals, robs the empty houses of Hollywood celebrities. While all of this happened in real life, many Angelenos watching this movie decided to focus on something else—the character’s upspeak. You know, that speech pattern that makes every statement sound as if it's ending in a question. Since an overwhelming amount of characters spoke like that in the movie, we can see where this affluent L.A. neighborhood stereotype stems from.

 6. Everyone in Silicon Valley is a Tech Genius: Silicon Valley

When traveling from Southern California to NorCal, one of the most popular switches (except for the change in slang) is how different the stereotypes become. You leave the sunny, surf-loving, celebrity-filled SoCal and suddenly enter the world of techy masterminds. This San Francisco stereotype is explored in the whip-smart satire Silicon Valley, which shows just how ridiculous and over-the-top the tech industry can be at times.

In-N-Out Burger’s casual presentation of the drive-thru burger joint perfectly embodies the difference between California and the other 49.

7. Californians are obsessed with In-N-Out: The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges as 'The Dude'—the iconic, stereotypical, and ever-so-surprising Venice Beach hippie—proves time and time again that he doesn't care about much at all; except for bowling and In-N-Out. The latter is not unique to him, however, as this stereotype plagues Californians wherever they go. And honestly, we don't mind this one much, because In-N-Out is delicious. But, it’s not the only eatery California is famous for, so half-truth on this one.

8. California is the Best Place to Fall In Love: 500 Days of Summer

We might actually agree with this one—although we wouldn’t be so exclusive, there’s plenty of places to fall in love in the world. But 500 Days of Summer makes the Golden State specifically a romance epicenter; except for, you know, we won’t spoil the ending. The whole scene where Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Tom is prancing along the sidewalk while Hall and Oates’ You Make My Dreams blasts makes us swoon; it also makes us want a flash mob every time we reach a romantic milestone. 

When you think of a barista, characteristics like a hipster wearing a beanie or a part-time college student come to mind.

9. All Baristas in California are Having a Bad Day: Promising Young Woman

If you’ve seen Promising Young Woman—and if you haven’t, then what are you doing with your life—then you know what we’re referring to. Carrey Mulligan’s Cassie can be seen on multiple occasions displaying disdain for her job, being dismissive to customers, and even spitting in a cup of coffee. Cassie, as you come to find out, has her reasons for acting like this; but you should know that this stereotypical character only exists in movies.

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