Laguna Beach has declared war on Laguna Beach. It seems lots of folks in our favorite oceanfront reality soap city long for the good old days, when their community was known as the home of Timothy Leary, LSD, bad art galleries, nude beaches, gay cruising and weird statues. Or the place where the ultra-rich barged in, pushed aside the mom & pop buisnesses and built multimillion-dollar mansions on the hillsides, only to watch them come crashing down in deadly mudslides. Anything but see their town portrayed in a glamorous MTV reality series. (All together now: “Like OMG!”). The anti-MTV campaign hit its stride, surprisingly enough, around Election Day, when school board candidates blamed the series for just about every teenage problem except the outbreak of acne: for presenting Laguna teens as rich brats, making the city a potential target for sex predators and– despite the fact the MTV is banned from shooting there– as the #1 reason that Laguna Beach High, attended by many students on the series, ranked #1 for alcohol and drug abuse in Orange County.
A New York Times story on the fight got international play last week (a couple of days after the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau sent us a release promoting the place as “the perfect destination for girls who just want to have fun”). Today, the L.A. Times plays catch-up and weighs in with a front page story that digs up some of the real trouble the series has brought Laguna: people showing up at the high school looking for Laguna Beach characters, out-of-town teens trying to enroll, hoping to be “discovered,” a few minor traffic accidents as motorists gawk at the filming, and all the girls who show up Laguna Surf & Sport to meet former employee Stephen Colletti, who starred in the first two seasons.
The paper splashes cold water on the most shocking claim: a local attorney said he attended a PTA meeting where a detective warned that the increased visibility of Laguna Beach could make it a target to Internet sex predators.
An MTV flak called the claim “completely preposterous. A police spokesman said, “Bullshit!” But in nicer words. “Is it a problem? Have we made any arrests? Not once. We have no criminal statistics that would draw a nexus between MTV and sexual predators.”