Celebrating White Mediocrity in the Age of Neo-Fascism

[A petition for La La Land to offer its Golden Globe wins (read: steals) as reparations to the cast and crew of Moonlight.]

No, there are no spoilers to La La Land or Moonlight in this post- because I have not seen either film. So how will anything I say be relevant? What's my point? Why read this?

What I'm about to say has nothing to do with even the slightest objectivity of the quality of these films. Because what I'm about to say, has nothing to do whether they are "good" or not. It doesn't matter.

The idea and concept of La La Land (reliving the 1940's and 1950's when being a black person in the United States wasn't glitter and rainbows) being produced and acclaimed during a time where white people voted for the yester-years of their glory...is f*cked up. You've heard it before and I'll say it again: America was never great. Black people are still being discriminated against in the most elitist and systemic ways, murdered in cold blood by protectors, deemed unworthy in the eyes of our white contemporaries... And if it sucks now, when we are in this supposed "post-race" society, why would we want to go back in time?

Another point I will make, which I believe to be my biggest concern, is that success of La La Land is inappropriate and undeserving. Out of its 7 nominations, La La Land won over Moonlight in (only) 3: Best Director [...], Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. I inserted "only" because I am peeved about all 7 awards, even though Moonlight was not a contender in those other categories. Remember I have not seen either movie*.

Seeing Emma Stone in a trailer for a movie does not encourage me to spend $14-$16 for a ticket. She is average at best. I couldn't even name the movies she's in without taking a while to think, because that's how little impact they had on me. Most of them were comedies, rom-coms, light-hearted, etc. And La La Land is no exception to a story that has been told before: boy meets girl, they fall in love, inspire each other, yadda yadda. And even with the argument that there is no such thing as an "original story", that is why it is the responsibility of the storyteller to find a new and inventive way to tell the story. What makes this movie different? Why are we watching it? Well the casting doesn't make it unique because we have already seen Emma Stone in many movies -whether she met the character description or not. We have also seen Ryan Gosling in what feels like every movie ever. And this pairing, we have definitely seen before.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

The most vital information I will share with you, is that if La La Land was released in as recently as 2014, I would love it. I would adore it. I would rush to see it. I love(d) Ryan Gosling movies, I love(d) anything indie-esqe, and couldn't stand to watch movies without a romantic plot line for the longest while. And I was a big lover of new musical theatre and the contemporary styling of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, and of course, Pasek and Paul -who 2017 me didn't even realize or recognize were behind La La Land (rofl). Pre-college me would have eaten this sh*t up. When Crazy, Stupid, Love and Easy A came out, I thought they were Grade A movies.

That being said, it has been personal growth, learning, and a multitude of epiphanies that have shifted my perspective to think twice about (films like) La La Land.

Some of you may have gotten really excited or felt indifferent about La La Land pre-release. Reviews and film critics may have added to your hype, deterred it, or changed your initial impression completely. You saw it. You loved it, hated it, fell asleep. Maybe it takes forever for you to get over your movie hangover. Maybe you're still listening and crying to the soundtrack. Maybe you cringe every time you see or hear or notice anything that has to do with the film. You watch(ed) the Golden Globes and you scream with joy every time it wins. You lose bets. You live tweet. You think it (doesn't) deserve(s) 7 awards- all nominations snagged. You're a muscial theatre kid/major/artist and you're thrilled that Pasek and Paul are finally moving beyond 54 Below concerts. You: Good for them. Or you: Who?? And then you start to see your black friend(s) complain about the wins. They didn't even see it! How can they have opinions! LLL (I'm tired) won in 4 comedy/musical categories that Moonlight wasn't even nominated in! And little by little you see film critics and publicationscelebrities who(m?) you respect, point out some problématique stuff. 

Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life

Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life

I was enraptured with Dallas Buyers Club when I saw it. As a closeted teen who was exceptionally curious and obsessed with all things LGBTQ+ and (of course) a worshiper of Jared Leto, it was the best movie I had ever seen. And who knew Matthew M(whatever) could act in drama! (Though I'm a strong believer in the theory that "drama is easy, comedy is hard".)  Jared Leto's speech was beautiful because he thanked his mom and did a shout out to trans women! 

But then I realized that was the least he could do. And after my movie hangover I realized he never should have been cast in that role in the first place and refused the offer. Sure the movie was good (considering*****) but that was beside the point. And why must we settle for the most disrespectful representation that literally screams transphobia and cissexism at its finest: a cis man cast as a trans woman blatantly invalidates trans womxn as men in dresses -disgusting and gross beyond belief. And this has happened before in movies before my years, so no, I will not accept this as just representation because who wants representation like that. 

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IF A WHITE ACTOR IS IN BLACK FACE AS A BLACK CHARACTER, AM I SUPPOSE TO DEEM THAT AS REPRESENTATION?

Race is far complex and rooted in much more pain to be directly paralleled, but you see my point, I hope. 

And what representation does La La Land give us?...??

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And this might be what you're experiencing now, as well. 

We must all apply constructive criticism in all facets of our lives and media/entertainment is no exception. You do not need to take a course in critical analysis or theory of knowledge to do this. That said, it is not the most natural or feasible to grasp quickly. We must step outside of ourselves, disregard our own privileges, perspectives, and opinions and weigh the effects that the culture and products we consume have on those marginalized in the U.S., and those outside of the U.S. that consume our pop culture. The United States has a huge impact on what is deemed universally marketable, acceptable, cool, and trendy (eurocentric standards and conditions considered). And what does it say about us if we continue to allow whitewashing, white domination and supremacy and mediocrity as "the norm"?

For the record, I hold white entertainment to a high standard. They create everything, are in charge of everything, and if they want to do it, they have to impress me. I do not have access to the movie theater, currently, however, I also did not boycott La La Land because because I hate white people. I simply do not fiscally or morally have that kind of money to waste on consumer-based capitalism that only furthers my oppression.

White media has been fed to be marketable to me and many others and sometimes, it is the only thing marketed to us. Yes, white people are boring and unoriginal and appropriative, but they have such a responsibility to move past that and give us more. What if La La Land took place in Harlem during the Renaissance when white people were sneaking away to watch and learn how to dance (Swing, Lindy, Charleston...)? Even with high engrossing white actors as the leads, it would be inevitable to cast many people of color and to have prevalent characters of color who affect the climax and central conflict. It would be timely, and you could still have your white leads.

Now. I prefer as much black and brown representation as possible, but I wouldn't mind a movie like that because of the alternative -La La Land. I would spend the money, if I had it.

It is greatly disconcerting that white people are so greedy and fearful of losing/not having power, that they continue to highlight movies solely relatable to white people and elect a dumptruck as President.

You wanted your escapism, and boy golly gee did you get it.