- Despite its relative youth, suburbia is already a thoroughly mythologized landscape with its own set of clichÈs and conventions. The word brings to mind a number of images and associations, many of them negative. The suburb is a land of white-picket fences and well-trimmed lawns, of teenage angst and mindless materialism.
As historian Margaret Marsh has written, "The idea of suburbia transcends space and civic boundaries and becomes a means to conceptualize a way of life."
You don't have to look far to find depictions of suburbia as well worn as the most clichÈd images of the South. In Fun with Dick and Jane â€“ the recent remake of a 1977 comedy â€“ Jim Carrey and TÈa Leoni enjoy an ideal life in a fully loaded suburban house complete with barbecue, swimming pool, and white-picket fence. When Carrey loses his job, the couple begins a life of crime in order to hang on to their version of the "American dream."
The latest single from pop-punk band Green Day is a nine-minute rock opera called "Jesus of Suburbia" that tells the story of a kid brought up on a "steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin," who just doesn't fit into the conformist "land of make believe."
The publicity blurb for Weeds, last fall's television series about a suburban mother who deals drugs, promised to expose the "dirty little secrets that lie behind the pristine lawns and shiny closed doors" of suburbia.
The point is, there's nothing new about attacking the suburbs. A quick look at their history shows us that their image as a conformist prison is as old as the suburbs themselves.
Perhaps the only dirty little secret left to tell about life in suburbia is that, despite what you've heard from books, movies and television, it isn't really all that bad.
Sneering at suburbia
Is it warranted? Green Day says yes, but Nicholas Hune-Brown has another view: