My Failed Romance With La La Land
I’m just going to put it out there. I’m tired of watching white people as the only leads in film. After seeing La La Land, I’ve decided that I’m done watching movies where people of color are relegated to the background. To be clear, I thought La La Land was an excellent film. The movie won big at the Golden Globes, and is expected to do the same at the Oscars, but I didn’t love it like others did. The movie isn’t all bad; the plot was good and I thought Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone played their parts beautifully, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice how the film included people of color but stopped short of giving any of them significant roles. If you don’t know what this film is, La La Land is a musical but also a love story between an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and jazz musician (Ryan Gosling). Emma Stone’s character wants to star in movies while Ryan Gosling’s character dreams of opening a jazz club that plays real jazz. The majority of the film revolves around these two white characters but surrounds them with people of color as background. We see John Legend flutter in and out of the movie, but that’s it. The movie is based in L.A. so I’d hoped I’d see a lot of diversity. And I was thrilled when the opening scene alone is dedicated to almost all people of color. But then we quickly get jolted back to the Hollywood version of L.A., where the majority of the movie revolves around two white characters.
Hollywood’s whitewashing of characters of color is nothing new (see Doctor Strange, Ghost in the Shell, and Gods of Egypt, just to name a few recent movies). But I’m not only tired of seeing characters who were meant to be people of color suddenly turn white; I’m tired of characters that could be played by a person of color played by only white actors. In the case of La La Land, why have a white actor be the expert on jazz, a historically black art form? Is Ryan Gosling really believable as the ultimate savior of jazz? If he can pull off being a white jazz pianist who wants to “save jazz,” why is it so outrageous to have an Asian/Black/Latinx person (basically any other non-white) person play the part? I have trouble loving a film that completely ignores the culture and history behind what it is trying to portray.
People of color shouldn’t just be included in film, they should be playing lead roles – it should be a regular and normal occurrence. After watching Rogue One, a movie with not only one but TWO Asian actors and a cast full of diversity in not just supporting roles but leading roles, I’m ready to see more movies that actually represent people of color. Hidden Figures had amazing success at the box office. These films prove that women AND people of color can lead films.
It’s 2017. Beautiful and charming, which La La Land is, only wins me over so much. Let’s see real representation. It shouldn’t be novel to have leading roles played by people of color and hopefully it won’t be in the future. In the meantime…
And we all know how much we need a movie like this to exist. I know I’d want to see this film. Wouldn’t you?