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The Movie “Chinatown” Directed by Robert Towne Essay


In his movie, Chinatown, Robert Towne highlights a challenging aspect of planning, common in most urban areas in modern times. The policy makers or personnel, who are to implement or come up with strategies of implementing plans for the town, leave the town in a deplorable state than they found it.

In the movie, the first challenge faced by the town dwellers is the water crisis. Water, being an essential aspect of life, is controlled by politically connected individuals in the town. Only a small portion of the town residents is able to access clean water while the majority has to find an alternative.

Similarly, the personnel directly involved in the supply of this commodity have their own vested interests, hence, they direct the resource wherever they want, mostly in their farmlands. Efficient and effective urban planning call for transparency in the supply of essential services such as clean water. Every household is entitled to clean and safe drinking water to enhance quality of life. However, in the case of Chinatown, this is not the case.

It is apparent that the planners in Chinatown are not up to the task of balancing between their personal needs and the expansion needs of the town. This scenario reflects what happened in the US in 1930s. Wilson, in his work From Institutional to Jobless Ghettosshows, that during this time, the population of urban poor was high. This led to the creation of ghettos (8). Also, Wilson (9) illustrates the black communities were poor as a result of leadership and other social welfare related segregation.

Hence, common challenges such as race and unequal opportunities created by the leadership and the majority populace fixed inequality for some races in urban areas (9). In the case of Chinatown, the development, expansion and growth of the town are the residents sole responsibility. However, the political class has failed to give a clear line of direction in terms of community involvement. The suburb population leaves after investing heavily in their farmlands.

Moreover, the population which is left behind is engulfed in abject poverty whereas the town has more resources which go un-utilized. These assertions make the Chinatown remain stagnated without growth prospects. In his works, Wilson (124) illustrates that the extent in which the population of a given neighborhood maintains an effective social control and effects their common goal is by social organization.

Through this aspect, the community is able to achieve their collective objectives. In such endeavors, people develop interdependence of social networks, get strengthened, achieve some degree of personal responsibility and voluntarily participate in formal and informal organization of their choice (Wilson 130).

Through these participations, they are able to contribute to the growth and development of their place of residence. On the contrary, the planning of Chinatown did not involve the population. Besides, the idea of incorporating politics also contributed to the poor planning decisions the town made. The politicians influenced how the resources were to be used, and even controlled their use in order to gain a political mileage. The political decisions had a negative impact on the proper planning of Chinatown.

A feature of a poorly planned and developed urban center is poor transport infrastructure. Mees (504) shows that the basis for the existence of suburbs between 1850 and 1920 was the railroads. However, the electric trolley car or tramway coupled with underground facilitated rapid transit.

Similarly, the proper planning of the early towns such as proper spacing, limited population and openness favored low densities. These features, in a way, describe a well planned urban center. In Chinatown, for instance, most private vehicles are driven by few moguls.The majority of people use the public means of transports which are not well organized and rare.

Sometimes, people are forced to walk for long distances due to inadequate transportation means. The most ironical question about Chinatown is that it is not that the people who walk on foot are too poor to afford private cars, but, the leadership and town planning have not given them an equal opportunity to grow economically and socially to the level of achieving a decent living standard.

This aspect can be compared with Mees (507) assertions where he demonstrates that despite railroad supplementing public transportation in 1930s, private motors was largely a clumsy substitute only benefitting the few. Thus, this form of transportation made managing of transportation routes complex and contributed to urban sprawl.

In the movie, the level of growth being witnessed in this area can be equated to a short term growth which cannot be sustained. Because it focuses on the small segment of the population, any growth strategies initiated only benefit the elites already absorbed in the system. Hence, this is the reason as to why the town has been left in a deplorable state as most people make a choice to leave.

Mees (513) shows that proper planning of a town needs to be based on different factors such as space. For instance, during the early town growth, transportation along the railroad stops and walking distances were controlled. Also, they had better concentration in terms of parking and shopping facilities and this, in turn, led to the creation of new markets along the new transportation avenues (Mees 514).

Chinatown is endowed with various resources, such as land, which use has been underutilized. For instance, the planners intentionally severed the community by directing the main source of water to designated farmlands. Despite the farmland doing absolutely well, they are not supplying sufficient food to the town residents.

For the benefit of the community, farmland should be planned in a way that other resources such as water is distributed equally in the whole region. The planners should have also encouraged people to use water for agricultural purposes. This would be a good way of using farmland and encouraging preservation (Mumford 56). However, this was not the case, as we see farms being used in undesired ways

Chinatown is an emerging suburb. Among the features characterizing such emerging towns is overcrowding, with many people searching for inexpensive housing; this exerts pressure on the facilities already in place. In most instances, the growth of suburban ultimately affects the neighborhood as a result of bulging population.

Hence, there is a possibility that this population may make a spill over effect in the neighborhood. The spill over effect confirms the higher the likelihood that suburbs might swell and engulf the communities around it. This is a similar observation noted in developing nations where developers built cheap houses that attract a larger percentage of the population.

Works Cited

Mees, Paul. Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age, New York: Roudledge, 2012. Print

Mumford, Lewis. The urban prospect: essays. Florida, Harcourt: Brace & World, 1968. Print

Wilson, William Julius. When WorkDisappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, New York:Knopf, 1996. Print

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 7). The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinatown/

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"The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne." IvyPanda, 7 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/chinatown/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinatown/.


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IvyPanda. "The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinatown/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinatown/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Movie "Chinatown" Directed by Robert Towne'. 7 May.

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