It’s a film review, sort of, therefore spoiler alert.
I’m a massive film fan.
I usually try to watch the films that get big buzz at the awards.
I, like most of the human population with good vision, quite like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
I love the Golden Age of Hollywood style, and I think jazz music is pretty good.
So why am I not going to see La La Land?
Put very simply, the underlying racism of Hollywood. However, just to say this and not follow it up with a well argued point, would be exceptionally shallow and anyone who felt like it would be able to poke a hole through my argument immediately.
So, to elaborate I’m not going to see La La Land, because it is a fundamentally problematic film. A white man, Seb (Ryan Gosling), is or rather wants to be a jazz musician, and a white woman, Mia (Emma Stone) who isn’t quite an actor. They live in a hazy-dazy version of LA where nothing is quite what it seems (according to the reviews I have read), nor is there a set time period, as the film has a mishmash of 50’s dance numbers contrasted with mobile phones which is supposedly unsettling, the colours are all bright, the skyline is apparently pink and the dances and songs are reportedly incredible.
So it sounds brilliant, if maybe a bit corny as it is a musical and a drama rolled into 1 Golden Globe winning machine. What’s the problem you may be thinking?
Well, despite it’s timelessness, it’s being dragged back by the racial politics that it wrapped itself up when it made the unusual decision to make a musical about saving/preserving jazz, a genre of music pioneered by African Americans, starring white American characters. According to various reviews, the audience is subjected to Gosling repeatedly explaining how he will save jazz, while behind him African Americans play the music that they created. Twitter user Rostam Batmanglij puts it best when he said:
black people invented jazz but now we need a white man to come save/preserve it? sorry this narrative doesn’t work for me in 2016
— Rostam Batmanglij (@matsoR) December 21, 2016
To put it very bluntly, La La Land is an award winning cultural appropriation machine. Apparently it’s fun, Emma Stone is supposed to be brilliant and the music and sets are reported to be mind blowing. However, I cannot get past the problematic nature of having a film this blatantly whitewashed, in 2017. It will and has won a lot of awards, but that doesn’t give it a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card for its problems, because Hollywood does not have a good reputation for cultural sensitivity (think Laurence Olivier’s Othello, complete for some reason with ‘blackface’ makeup or Mickey Rooney’s Mr Yunoshi, complete with ‘yellowface’ make up and fake mouth piece?!) and Hollywood also loves a movie about itself. La La Land has given Hollywood exactly what it wants, “bankable stars” aka white stars (another topic which deserves its own passive aggressive rant, though I may save that one for the lucky few who catch me after watching the next film on my list, whatever that may be), in a film about Hollywood’s Golden Era.
Belated disclaimer: I have not seen and will not be seeing the film.