This Musician Pointed Out The Glaring Problem With La La Land

Photo: Dale Robinette/REX/Shutterstock.
For a minute there, it looked like La La Land was going to be 2016's favourite film. It's vital! It's energising! David Edelstein of Vulture called it "the closest thing since Cherbourg to a unified-field theory of music and film." It was seemingly flawless — until musician Rostam pointed out La La Land's fatal flaw: It whitesplains jazz.

Ryan Gosling plays the whitesplainer in question, troubled jazz musician Seb. You know the type —furrowed brow, mustachioed, lives in Brooklyn? Refinery29's own Anne Cohen pointed out that Gosling's frantic Seb is a manic pixie dream boy, a reverse-gendered version of an already tired trope. Rostam argues that Seb is problematic in other ways. Namely, that he's a white "expert" on jazz music, an art form that emerged from the black community.

The former Vampire Weekend musician, now a record producer and songwriter, launched his critique on Twitter by pointing out that La La Land doesn't feature any LGBTQ characters.

"La La Land didn't have a single gay person in it #notmylosangeles," he tweeted. He continued his argument by pointing out the lack of diversity in the film. La La Land uses jazz as a focal point, but it doesn't pay homage to black culture or creators.

Another tweet reads: "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."

And sure, John Legend is in the a film, a lone black character. But he's not really there as a jazz expert, Rostam explains.

Rostam isn't the first to criticise the well-loved movie — The New Yorker published two reviews of the film, one adoring, the other scathing. Richard Brody, he of the scathing review, also doesn't care for director Damien Chazelle's portrayal of jazz culture. When Emma Stone's character Mia claims she hates jazz, Seb gives what Brody calls a "mansplanation in response."

Brody writes, "Seb launches into his elaborate mansplanation of the origins and merits of jazz, talking volubly and inexhaustibly over the music he loves as if it were nothing but the local background station."

Both Brody and Rostam have pointed out that the film seems to reduce jazz to a pop culture trinket, a fun fact for the characters to toy with. Brody also points out, "Chazelle doesn’t care enough about the life of musicians, or the life of art, to put that work into personal or historical context." So the movie pays homage to the past. But it ignores the history that matters.

Read all of Rostam's tweets, below.
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