Magazine April 19, 2021, Issue

The Folk Song That Slandered California’s Suburbs

Homes in Orange County (Visions of America/Joe Sohm)
‘Little houses,’ pleasant houses

My suburban-born-and-bred Millennial kids recognize the 1962 hit song “Little Boxes” only because it’s the theme for Weeds, the 2005–12 Showtime series about a widowed, hypersexual suburban California mom who deals weed to pay the bills. The plot was invariable — street drugs and traffickers meet school bake sales, lawn maintenance, and sex, sex, sex (can’t you just eat up the comic juxtapositions?) — and each episode opened with “Little Boxes,” a song that reveals the contempt of Californians for suburbs, the place where most of us (Californians) live.

The song’s origin story has it that Berkeley folk-singer Malvina Reynolds was

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This article appears as “Pleasant Houses” in the April 19, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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Will Swaim is the president of the California Policy Center and a cohost, with David Bahnsen, of National Review’s Radio Free California podcast.

In This Issue

I. What Made California Great

II. California's Self-Destruction

III. Can California Be Saved?

Books, Arts & Manners

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