Under the Influence

California’s Intoxicating Spiritual and Cultural Impact on America

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California culture wields an enormous influence on the rest of the United States and indeed the world. In this fascinating book Monica Ganas, a lifelong Californian and veteran of the stage and screen, explores the hypnotic effect of the Golden State. With a witty style and loads of interesting stories, she offers an insider's critique of California culture and shows how Christians can respond to its pervasive influence.

According to Ganas, we are intoxicated by a belief system that she calls "California-ism." This belief system drives our worldview and our choices in every area of life. After considering California's religious background and state history, Ganas addresses various aspects of its culture that impact the culture at large, such as television, celebrity, politics, funerals, weddings, cars, and food. She concludes by encouraging readers to escape the intoxicating effects of California-ism by aligning themselves with the truth, beauty, and goodness that surpass understanding.


"As a California native, Monica Ganas skillfully charts the paradoxical terrain of the bellwether state: its mediated myths and trendsetting realities. Under the Influence reads like a ride on Disneyland's Soarin' Over California, a sweeping collage of the cultural landscape with personal anecdotes and textual analysis probing the meanings of American popular culture."--William D. Romanowski, author, Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture

"Monica Ganas skillfully weaves biography and cultural analysis into a brilliant book. She demonstrates how California's values have overtaken our notions of marriage, funerals, and meals. We're all California dreamin'. Under the Influence is a smart and sobering wake-up call."--Craig Detweiler, director, Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture, Pepperdine University

"Displaying her keen intellect, Ganas weaves history, popular culture, and personal story into the tapestry of belief systems and thought patterns that make up the California experience and influence. In prose that's both hard hitting and redemptive, Ganas explores the intoxicating effect of what she calls 'California-ism.' Be warned: this book will touch you."--Thomas F. Andrews, former executive director, Historical Society of Southern California

The Author

  1. Monica Ganas

    Monica Ganas

    Monica Ganas (PhD, University of Kentucky), a native Californian, is professor of theater, film, television, and communication studies at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. She created the Azusa Renaissance Project, which brings theater to local...

    Continue reading about Monica Ganas


"[Ganas] has the unique perspective of an insider who is also spiritually grounded. The author knows the California culture, both popular and societal, and she provides the intellectual means for digging beneath its superficial glamour and finding something of spiritual substance. When appropriate, the author integrates movie, television, and literature references, but she also leans heavily on scripture scholar Walter Brueggeman and author Evelyn Waugh. Ganas utilizes all these sources to raise important queries regarding community, criticizing California culture for promoting disconnection among people. She also turns her sights on the California approach to weddings and funerals and its almost religious worship of the automobile, using those subjects as stepping stones for fascinating inquiries into religious and spiritual truths connected to these practices. Helpful insights, indeed, especially for those who believe that as goes California, so goes the U.S."--Publishers Weekly

"A lifelong and proud resident of California, Dr. Monica Ganas proclaims and analyzes the loss of 'grace' in our society, selecting California and 'the Cal-type' as a symbol of moral deterioration. . . . Researched historical and personal anecdotes emphasize the relationship between past, present, and future. . . . Although she encourages Christians to locate spirituality beyond the physical world, she is, in general, expressing hope for the reintroduction of humanity; therefore, anyone interested in sociology, theology, or history may be intrigued by Ganas' insight."--Lydia Belanger, ForeWord Reviews