In 1999 an episode of a popular science fiction show “The X-Files” was made as a reference to the idyllic gated community. In this episode the two main characters, who went undercover as “Rob and Laura Petrie”, were investigating a series of disappearances in a rich gated community development named “The Falls of Arcadia”, which appeared to be racially equal. In ancient Greece Arcadia was a rustic, secluded area, and its inhabitants became proverbial as primitive herdsmen leading simple pastoral unsophisticated yet happy lives, to the point that Arcadia may refer to some imaginary idyllic paradise, immortalized by Vergil’s Eclogues, set in Arcadia(Apollodorus).
As a resident came to the front gate to enter their pass code, they were greeted by soothing music, and a soft spoken voice that kindly requested them to enter their code, and when the code was entered correctly, the voice would welcome the resident specifically by name, therefore inebriating the resident with a false sense of security. Every house in the development has to be ‘up to code’ in accordance with the official “CCandR’s” which stand for ‘Contracts, Covenants, and Rules’.
As the story unfolds you find out that the disappearances are linked to the original home owners who came together and decided to conjure up an “Übermensch” to take care of the people who do not want to follow the contracts, covenants and rules of the community. As a result, this community was named as one of the top ranked planned communities in all of California.
When looking in on a high-class gated community where nature may play an important role in the appellation of the settlement, on might see the perfect homestead: big luxurious housing, rich amenities (including spas, pools, golf courses and playgrounds) and most importantly, safety.
Striving to live the American Dream, high-class residents of gated communities often overlook the real nature of their situation. Raising children in a consumer driven atmosphere can often promote incorrect ideals and the social setting between children in these communities sometimes influence children in a negative way such with a more direct line to consumerism and even worse: drugs and violence. This type of community can be found mainly in highly consumer driven areas(such as California and Florida), but some do escape to more desolate areas.
However, no matter where they were born, these communities often share one common aspect, soothing names derived from aspects of nature; such as Lakes of Mount Dora, Riverside Garden and Cramer Mountain which are all gated communities inside the United States.
Security is a main staple-point in the idea of a “gated community” whether advertised in the brochures or not; gated communities were brought to life through the idea of crime and wanting to be protected from it. In high class communities the rich are segregated from the poor, white from black and the residents are often prisoners inside the isolation of their own suburban utopia. Safety in these communities is not always a guarantee, whether it be for the family or from an outside social force.
The idyllic representation that “The Falls of Arcadia” made in reference to gated communities was somewhat of a common uniform that many of these communities(at least in the United States) strive to maintain in the present day. They want to commune with each other to form a protective trust between each other, which is why neighborhood watch has become so popular among these communities(Blakely). Instead of calling a manifestation of something from the environment, they themselves form the “Übermensch” as a collective group taking advantage of the security guards at the front gate as a fast medium between law enforcement and their homes.
Gated communities have been around since 300 B.C., although the walls themselves were not so much built as defense during times of war, but were built as a structure to keep local villagers out of the confines of the manor in case a villager wanted to exact his revenge upon the owner(Blakely).
However, gated communities have been scarce among the general population until the 20th century. In the late 1800’s, gated communities were generally for upper-class families whom wanted to escape from the endeavoring growth of large cities. This type of community remained uncommon until master-planned communities came about during the 1960’s and 70’s making homes in these communities more affordable to the lower classes(Blakely). By the year 2000, over eight million United States residents lived in these types of communities(Nasser).
The “$17 Million Loomis Fargo Heist” was a semi famous theft that happened in Charlotte North Carolina. Two of the three people involved in the heist lived in a trailer park with almost no common source of income, in later news stories they were referred to as ‘Hillbillies’ as to reference their history and view them as a lower class. A short time after they stole the money, they ended up buying a $635,000 house in the Cramer Mountain gated community, along with other superbly expensive amenities.
Perhaps they wanted to live large for a while with their newly found millionaire status, or maybe the prospect of high walls, security guards and house alarms brought them to believe that they were safe, even from their own government. Or maybe, in this case, the fact that the development was named after a mountain made them feel safer, as if they were being protected by the mountain itself. Unfortunately for them, the mountain could not keep the government away, especially after all of the shopping sprees they went on just a short time after the heist was completed.
In 2001 the Census Bureau ran a survey on 62,000 households nationwide. And of those households it was concluded that seven million Americas households(6% of the national total) are in developments behind walls and fences. According to this survey, normally homeowners in gated communities live in up scale and mostly white developments.
And it was said that affluent African-American homeowners are less likely to live in gated communities than whites and Hispanics, even in metro areas such as Atlanta and Washington, D.C., which have a large African American middle class. Experts theorize that after centuries of exclusion, African Americans may be reluctant to embrace such a lifestyle or to live in predominantly white developments(Nasser). Modernization(in this case diversity) does not seem to be a fair competitor to the half-of-a-decade old tradition of homogeneous community structures.
In “No Place Like Home”, David Guterson details a Master-Planned community in Nevada. The community detailed in his writing almost mirrors the one of the fictitious Falls of Arcadia and even has a name to match, Green Valley(extensively, there are thirty-five different developments located in Green Valley, one such being Parskside Village(Guterson 1). This gated community has many rich amenities such as a uniform golf course, swimming pools, recreational areas, movie theaters, shopping malls, and schools to name a few(Guterson 1).
This maniacally materialistic community has fallen victim to it’s own design. The residents rarely leave because they have many of the their necessities in town(many other amenities can be found in a catalog or on the Internet if need be). They have become prisoners behind their own stone walls and security guards.
It is often a common occurrence that when people move to Green Valley in search of a new homestead they are looking for a better place to raise a family or because their job forced them to move. In most cases, the protective structure of the community will often drive away criminals. Guterson compares Green Valley to the garden of eden, perfect in every way, except the serpent, “Last year a rapist ran loose in its neighborhoods; police suspected the man was a resident and responsible for three rapes and five robberies.
“(Guterson 6) is just one example used to help ascertain the real level of security. Inner-community munitions supply seemed to be a problem once also, “George Hennard, killer of twenty-three people in a Killeen, Texas, cafeteria in October 1991, was a resident of Green Valley only months before his rampage and bought two of his murder weapons here in a private transaction.”(Guterson 6).
Even the calm and soothing name of the development cannot keep a corrupted mind leveled with reality, “Joseph Weldon Smith, featured on the television series Unsolved Mysteries, strangled to death his wife and two stepdaughters in a posh Green Valley development called The Fountains.”(Guterson 6).
For some, the cloned housing, ‘contracts, covenants and rules’ and the repetitive daily lifestyle, have altogether turned this idyllic American Dream lifestyle into nothing more than a sequestered pseudo-imprisonment environment whose only means of quintessential escape are the names on the ‘Welcome to…’ boards for each development because when the day is over, the residents can exhale and tell themselves they live in Green Valley.
As Guterson explains in his article, there are also other serpents inside of the community other than precognitive convicted criminals. Growing up in a highly materialistic community, children can not help but to be materialistic themselves. In Green Valley there were kids riding expensive mountain bikes in recreation around town, and kids with well known logo’s more than visual on their clothes. While consumerism isn’t rooted in evil, some of it’s effects might as well be. Even after clothes are bought and worn, bikes are ridden, and games are played, thousands of dollars are spent on entertainment, there is one more facet to what these closed quarters community kids are pressured to do, drugs.
Trying to be average and fit in, the kids will often give hard drugs such as LSD and crystal meth(which happen to be the most widely used narcotics for Green Valley High School students)(Guterson 6). There is an endless cycle of a group who are pressured to do this because they feel they can not go anywhere else and be free from the pressure of this deeply rooted consumer based community.
When the end of the night comes and the residents of these guarded communities go to rest in their nice comfortable beds, with all the bills paid, food in the kitchen, and the reassurance that their safety is almost guaranteed, the stress of the day almost seems to fade away. The calming sounds of peace in the house are sometimes more relaxing than blanket or pillow, but is the price they have to pay really worth it?
They always run the risk of coming home from work and the neighbor repainted the house the same color as their’s and they end up coming to the wrong house because it mirrors their own. And the children’s safety in the schools and community with drugs and violence, even becoming mentally fabricated with the lies and rumors that flock around a community with no where else to go. Safety may be taken care of, but family is another facet that only gets worse with ignorance.
Apollodorus, and Robin Hard. The Library of Greek Mythology. New Edition ed. USA: Oxford UP, 1999. 1-336.
Blakely, Edward J. Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States. Brookings Institution P, 1999. 1-10.
Diamant, Jeff. Heist! The 17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft. USA: John F. Blair Publisher, 2002. 1-256.
“Gated Community.” Wikipedia. 1 Mar. 2006. 22 Feb. 2006
Guterson, David. No Place Like Home. USA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2002. 157-163.
Nasser, Haya L. “Gated communities more popular, and not just for the rich.” USA Today 15 Dec. 2002. 22 Feb. 2006 .