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Celine Glasses, Salted Almonds, and a Regular Coke

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Joan Didion is often referred to as a fashion icon, a woman known for never leaving the house without her oversized sunglasses and a breakfast complete with salted almonds and a regular Coke. In primarily focusing on Didion’s iconic contributions to the fashion world with her silk scarves and neatly cut bob, we completely gloss over the powerful canon of her work and fail to recognize her unique talent in literature. Joan Didion paved the way for modern journalism as she managed to contrast the glorified depiction of California with the unsettling darkness surrounding various social-political movements. 

Didion’s delicate frame, quiet voice, and tendency to slip seamlessly amongst the shadows are not to be overlooked as her watchful gaze managed to catalog the events around her supplying fuel for the most cutting of prose. The Celine poster-girl born in Sacramento wrote on the true nature of California while revealing the dark duality of the famed Golden State. 

Many are familiar with her short essay published in Vogue, titled On Self Respect, in which Didion compares a lack of self respect with being locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. However, her more complex works track the various societal issues that are often buried under glittering Hollywood headlines. In writing on Los Angeles, Didion emphasizes the palpable charge in the air that comes with the Santa Ana Winds promising chaos, danger, and a state of anxiety. 

Didion is known for pulling apart the seams of society to uncover the depravity that comes with the illusion of the “Golden Dream”. In “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” Didion captures the darkness behind the “hippie” movement as she follows the uprising of various social movements within San Francisco. Didion remarks that the country was under a social siege in which the year of 1967 was not filled with the same hope that those in power had promised. The truth is that,  “people were missing, children were missing – and those who were left behind filed missing persons reports and moved on themselves” (Didion 1968). Didion managed to balance critique with journalism as she realized that while these dark times were viewed as a devastating pitfall of humanity, they were nonetheless a story to be written. 

For Didion, journalism was about contrasting the quaint, glamorous, and idealized life under the California sun with the dark, twisted, and dangerous edge blown in by the coastal winds. 

Didion’s legacy is so much more than Celine glasses, salted almonds, and a regular Coke; it is a clear message that journalism is about being enthralled with all aspects of one’s surroundings and not just the sensationalized headlines. Didion’s works serve as a reminder that authentic living comes from being able to engage with one’s surroundings as they truly are and most importantly, that real experience comes from being brave enough to pull the thread and analyze what comes apart at the seams.

Works Cited

Didion, J. (1968). Slouching towards Bethlehem. New York, Dell.