I'm not trotting out that old "people in Hollywood are plastic/materialistic" saw, either. (That's a subject for a different tirade...)
What I mean is, this is a profoundly car-centric culture. Everyone talks about them - most of the people I know here, even the hippies and surfers, are very conscious of cars. They'll talk endlessly about what makes and models they like, what cool cars they've seen on the road, what they'd like to drive, what they hate or love about what they do drive... cars cars cars! The East Coast had enthusiasts, too, of course - people who were just enthusiastic motorheads who like everything that goes vroom-- but here, it's much more prevalant. Street racing, cars as status symbols, and the lust for the shiniest, newest, vroomiest car are practically universal.
I could say that it's tiresome that people are judged by what they drive, and I could say that I don't "get" the whole car obsession thing - but the truth is, it's starting to make sense. See, it's all about the traffic.
I used to work three miles from my house. Traffic was just not a part of my life - but now I have to trek from the Valley to Santa Monica, every day. Without traffic, it's a 15 minute ride, tops. With traffic, that 12 miles takes about an hour - as I'm going over the intersection of the 101 and the 405, which is the most heavily travelled mile of road in the entire world. Everyone on the freeway is driving alone - there are very few carpoolers. As a result, when I get to the San Gabriel Mountains - the proverbial "hill" which is it is highly unfashionable to cross - I end up stuck and sitting in first gear a lot. Naturally, one looks around, and with six lanes in both directions one has plenty of other cars to look at. For two hours a day, I have nothing to look at but other cars.
I imagine a few years of that, and anyone would start to be far more car-conscious than otherwise.
It is my sincere hope that in the near future, I can become rocket-pack obsessed, rather than joining in with car-obsession.