Article | Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research | "Quit stalling…!": Destiny and Destination on L.A.’s Inner City Roads 

Title:
"Quit stalling…!": Destiny and Destination on L.A.’s Inner City Roads 
Author:
Martin Zeilinger: Victoria College’s Literary Studies Program in Toronto, Canada
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.09122367
Read article:
Full article (pdf)
Year:
2009
Volume:
1
Theme:
Theme: City of Signs/Signs of the City
Pages:
367-384
No. of pages:
18
Publication type:
Article
Published:
2009-12-21


If driving has today really become a Western “metaphor for being” (Hutchinson), then common roadside signs proclaiming “Right lane must exit” or “Through traffic merge left”, inventions such as the automatic transmission, and the agreeable straightness of freeways can all be understood as symptoms of an ongoing socio-political struggle between the driver as democratic agent, and the state as institu-tionalized regulatory force. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the context of urban traffic, where private motorized transportation represents both the supreme (if illusory) expression of personal freedom, and official efforts to channel individualism by obliterating its sense of direction and ideological divergence. On the concrete proving grounds of the clogged inner-city freeway, “nomad science” and “state science” (Deleuze & Guattari) thus oscillate between the pseudo-liberatory expressivity of mainstream car culture and the self-effacing dromoscopic “amnesia of driving” (Baudrillard). Are a city’s multitudes of cars resistant “projectiles” (Virilio) or, rather, hegemonic “sites of containment” (Jane Jacobs)? This essay approaches the complex tensions between “untamable” democratic mobility and state-regulated transit by way of two Hollywood-produced films that focus on traffic in Los Angeles: in Collateral (2004), a cab driver comes to recognize and transcend the hopelessly directionless circularity dictated by his job; in Falling Down (1993), a frustrated civil service employee abandons his car on a rush-hour freeway and decides to walk home, forced to traverse the supposedly unwalkable city without the “masking screen of the windshield” (Virilio). As they “quit stalling”, both protagonists become dangerous variants of the defiant nomad – one a driver who remains on the road but goes “under the radar”, the other a transient pedestrian whose movement becomes viral and unpredictable. My analysis of the films’ metropolitan setting and of the incessant movement that marks both narratives links political and philosophical economies of motion, speed, and transit to a discussion of the various bandes vagabondage (Deleuze & Guattari) that are formed between city and driver, driver and car, and car and pedestrian. In this discussion, the inner-city road emerges as a primary site of conflict between civic rule and individual subject, and the flow of urban traffic comes to represent the tensions generated in spaces where movement is understood as both liberating and as a form of control.

Keywords: Traffic; Urbanism; Los Angeles; Falling Down; Collateral

Volume 1, Theme: Theme: City of Signs/Signs of the City, Article 22, 2009

Author:
Martin Zeilinger
Title:
"Quit stalling…!": Destiny and Destination on L.A.’s Inner City Roads :
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.09122367
References:
  • Baudrillard, Jean (1988): America, Verso, London.
  • Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (1987): A Thousand Plateus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  • Gonzalez, Rita, Ramon Garcia & Ondine C. Chavoya (1998): “A.L.A.R.M.A.’s Manifest(o) Destiny”, Wide Angle, 20, 79–83.
  • Hutchinson, Sikivu (2003): Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Peter Lang, New York.
  • Jacobs, Jane (1961): The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House, New York.
  • Mann, Michael (2004): Collateral.
  • Schumacher, Joel (1993): Falling Down.
  • Scott, James C. (1998): Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes To Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.
  • Virilio, Paul (1998): “Dromoscopy, or The Ecstasy of Enormities”, Wide Angle, 20, 11–22.
  • Virilio, Paul (2006): Speed and Politics, Semiotext€, New York.
  • Volume 1, Theme:: Theme: City of Signs/Signs of the City, Article 22, 2009

    Author:
    Martin Zeilinger
    Title:
    "Quit stalling…!": Destiny and Destination on L.A.’s Inner City Roads :
    DOI:
    10.3384/cu.2000.1525.09122367
    Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
    Citations:
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