The Geography of 'Love'
Why loving LA makes "Love" hard to...love.
My favorite thing about living in Los Angeles is recognizing the city in the movies and television I watch. I feel like a member of an elite club, like when I recognize the Highland Park Super A Foods I once puked outside of in the indie rom-com Timer. Imagine the feeling of complete understanding I get when I watch You’re The Worst’s Gretchen and Jimmy shopping at Stories bookstore on Sunset boulevard then grabbing lunch at Brite Spot just a few doors down. Or when Jay Duplass’ character in Transparent is confronted with the question of where Echo Park ends and Silver Lake begins, he frustratedly answers, “Rampart!”—mind-blown that everyone doesn’t already know that. Yes, Jay, it is Rampart*. I know, because I’ve been there. It makes me feel like I really do live here, among Jay Duplass himself. But with these heart-warming references also comes the misrepresentation of Los Angeles’ geography. As a proud over-analyzer of the content I consume, I naturally have a problem with this.
One person you can expect a lot of Los Angeles from is Judd Apatow. From Seth Rogen’s frattish ranch in the San Fernando Valley in Knocked Up to Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s ritzy Brentwood home in This Is 40, locations we recognize have a huge part in his productions, and I love it. Having an established environment adds an important layer to the narrative for me.
that’s not the Rally’s at the intersection of Glendale and San Fernando
In his new Netflix series Love, starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust, Apatow & Co. are tackling the Eastside for the first time. There’s been a large, youthful population there for well over a decade now, and the industry at large has caught on. Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), lives in Echo Park. She’s 31 and has her own place, which she would probably be able to afford as a Program Manager at a satellite radio station. I can get real up-in-arms about characters living in completely unaffordable and gorgeously curated apartments (looking at you, Aziz), but I think Love got that part right—plenty of cheap IKEA buys and zero Eames in sight.
Paul Rust’s character Gus, an on-set teacher for child actors on a CW-esque show called “Witchita,” hilariously lives in The Oakwood Apartments, or fictitiously called The Springwood Apartments. The actual Oakwood is famous in L.A. for being the stomping grounds of our favorite kid stars, having housed Hilary Duff, Shia LaBeouf, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Neil Patrick Harris. There’s even a special rental package for parents looking to be near major studios, so they can more easily pawn off their precious ones to the soul-sucking hell-machine of Hollywood. Given Gus’ career, it tracks for me that he lives at the “Springwood,” totally clueless as to where a cooler place to live might be, and opting instead to take real estate advice from his 12-year-old students.
You’re not gonna get away with this one, Apatow
It seems like the creators of Love made a concerted effort to put their characters in realistic surroundings, which makes it that much funnier when I catch them roaming across miles and miles of terrain in no time flat. In the second episode, Mickey and Gus hot-box her car and then decide to go to Rally’s for breakfast. Now, imagine me in my home, stoned as hell at noon on a Sunday, hungry as fuck, watching this unfold. I live like a half mile from that Rally’s. I am 100% in. She gets me. As Mickey and Gus roll up to the drive-thru window, I realize—that’s not the Rally’s at the intersection of Glendale and San Fernando in Atwater Village. Which one is that? Soon I’m googling nearby Rally’s and finding that the next closest one is in Crenshaw, 11 miles and one very traumatic commute away. Did they really drive that far? Do they know about the one in Atwater? Now I’m totally taken out of the story and have to rewind two entire scenes and start again.
Earlier in the same episode, Mickey and Gus walk down Echo Park avenue as Mickey says “I live just a couple of blocks away,” and the next moment they’re climbing the Micheltorena steps in Silver Lake nearly two miles away and a 30 minute walk. Two blocks? No way. Any Eastsider worth their weight in Tacos Arizas can spot the inconsistency in a second.
In the episode “Andy,” Mickey accidentally gets on the wrong subway with Andy Dick who wants to go to Downtown L.A.. Then they realize they’re actually on a train to the Valley. She texts Gus that she’s going to be out of service for an hour, then we watch Andy and Mickey suffer through the boring hours long Red Line ride through a time-lapsed montage. They finally get off at the North Hollywood station. This would have been a more enjoyable scene for me if I wasn’t so keenly aware that a subway ride from anywhere in central LA to North Hollywood is at most a 20 minute ride with many stops in which to turn around. It feels more like they hopped on an Amtrak to San Luis Obispo.
But what’s perhaps the most egregious of these weird geographical paradoxes is Gus’ arduous journey, worthy of its own Lord Of The Rings trilogy, from his apartment at the Springwood in Burbank all the way to the damn “We Got It!” convenience store sandwiched between popular bars Little Joy and The Short Stop in Echo Park. You’re not gonna get away with this one, Apatow. There are perhaps one trillion better stops for young Gus to have made in the 8.5 mile span between his house and this specific convenience store. But I’m lead to believe Gus has hiked across all of piss-soaked Hollywood for some Breyer’s french vanilla and a bag of Ruffles, an estimated three hour walk according to Google Maps.
Maybe this is actually an intentional choice by the writers. Maybe Gus wanted enough time to contemplate his trashcan of a love life and plummeting career on a nice evening stroll. Maybe he wanted to go to that particular “We Got It!” as it was the very same “We Got It!” where he met his lady-love Mickey, so he could run into her there. But if that’s the case, I’m kind of like, just drive there, man. This is L.A. Everyone knows we love driving almost as much as we love a 10-day juice cleanse. Am I right y’all?
This is the unfortunate dark side to my Lyft driver caliber knowledge of the streets of Los Angeles. It hurts as much as it helps, and often leads to me being taken out of the actual content of a thing. That being said, I think anyone watching this show who doesn’t live here would still get an accurate representation of life in LA. Love has done a better job at illustrating the lifestyle of their characters than a lot of other shows I’ve seen, from the horrendous pre-styled decor in Gus’ apartment to the olive vintage Mercedes that Mickey drives. It’s details like that which add up to an authentic feeling when I’m watching. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to sit at home alone and yell “NUH UH!” very obnoxiously at the screen when Mickey gets from Mar Vista to Echo Park in like fifteen minutes. Someone’s got to.
*Editor's Note: A more accurate divider, and one recognized by the LA Times' "Mapping L.A." project, is Benton Way. I know that may be splitting hairs, as they're right next to each other, but Rampart is only a street in both neighborhoods for 4 blocks. Sorry, Jay.