Los Angeles, The Image Capital of the World – Part 2

Essential Question

How did the development of Los Angeles and its entertainment industry create an image culture that informed both the character of the city and the experiences of the young people living there?


In Part One of this lesson, students considered how geography affected and enabled the rapid development of urban Los Angeles and its entertainment industry in the first half of the 20th century. Part Two of this lesson picks up in the 1950s, as Rock and Roll begins a takeover of American popular culture through radios, jukeboxes, and, increasingly, televisions, and encourages students to consider how the image culture of Los Angeles might have also impacted the sound of the city’s music.

During this period the lure of Los Angeles seems only to have become stronger, and the city’s population continued to swell, growing from 4 million in 1950 to 6 million in 1960, and surpassing 7 million in the 1970s, the decade investigated in depth here. Building on the discussion of Rock and gender begun in the Homework Reading from Part One, students will view clips from Sonic Highways and explore how the celebrity “star” identity and visual culture that came to overlap in Los Angeles may have helped Joan Jett and The Runaways transition from local “Glitter Kids” to an internationally known all-female Rock band in the 1970s. The Extension Activity invites students to compare the language used to discuss The Runaways with a current female band of their choice.

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Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • The basic history of the formation of Los Angeles County including details about urban planning and population growth
    • About the rise of the Hollywood film industry
    • How ideas of “masculinity” and “femininity” are constructed through visual symbols and how the teenagers in the 1970s Los Angeles “Glitter Rock” scene experimented with those symbols
    • How Los Angeles’ Glitter Rock scene created a space in which an all-female Rock band could perform
    • How popular media outlets responded to males who experimented with symbols of “masculinity” and “femininity”
    • How popular media outlets both celebrated and objectified the all-female Rock and Roll band the Runaways
  2. Be able to (skills):
    • Assess visual images and analyze their cultural power
    • Recognize New York and Los Angeles on a map
    • Evaluate the effects of visual technology on history and culture
    • Draw connections among and between various print, audio and visual texts
    • Integrate and evaluate information presented in visual, oral and audio formats
    • Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text