****WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS!!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR SPOILER ALERT!!****
DISCLAIMER: This is an in depth analysis of the film La La Land, if you haven't seen the film, you probably shouldn't read this until you have. Also, I am aware that the overwhelming majority of people will find this to be at best a wonk-ish, if not foolish, exercise. I totally get it, but I wrote this piece for the maybe two or three other people in the universe besides me who might find it interesting. And finally, keep in mind that the political views in this analysis are what I believe to be the the film's, not mine. Now…sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!! Or not.
Estimated Reading Time : 11 minutes 11 seconds (that's the time on Seb's clock in his apartment too!)
La La Land is, on its surface, a "delightful" musical romp of pure entertainment, but when you peel back the joyous cover of the film, a political sub-text is revealed that makes for a fascinating lens through which to watch the film again.
The most important thing in watching La La Land is to pay attention to the color scheme. Director Damien Chazelle uses very vibrant colors to visually tell his story on multiple levels. The colors make for an interesting viewing experience, and they also reveal the political underpinnings of the story. The most apparent colors are yellow, green, blue and red. In the most basic way to look at the film, realize that Blue is Mia's core color (even when she wears Yellow…I'll explain later), and Red is Sebastien's core color.
To look even deeper at the color scheme, one must understand that Mia (blue), who drives her quiet, eco-friendly Prius, is symbolic of the left of the political spectrum, meaning she is liberalism and progressivism in all their shades, and the democratic party. Sebastien (red), who drives his red, gas-guzzling, noisy, American sedan, is symbolic of the right of the political spectrum, meaning he is conservatism and traditionalism in all their shades, and the republican party. The color scheme is also relevant to the "seasons" that the narrative goes through as well, but they are most relevant as a means to disclose the political sub-text.
Here is a (not-so) brief look at the film from the perspective of the movie's political sub-text and things I picked up on and noticed as I watched it again. Keep in mind that these are the film's politics, not necessarily mine. There is probably much more than this, but these are the things that stood out the most, and what i had time to explore.
Sebastien is conservatism in post-1960's sexual revolution, America. Sebastien symbolizes a mix of conservatism, traditionalism, right-wing ideology and republicanism. He yearns for a return to the halcyon days of, specifically, 1950's America and the nation's vision of itself back then. Here are some indicators this is the case.
1. When Seb first enters his apartment, he looks left and is startled because his sister is in his home. She is on his left because she symbolizes liberalism or the left side of the political spectrum. She also wears blue, the color of liberalism in the film. She brings him a blue (liberal) throw rug as a gift, which he doesn't want. In addition, she sits on a stool that Seb cherishes because Hoagy Carmichael sat on it. Hoagy Carmichael is a jazz composer from the 1950's (he won an Oscar in 1951). Jazz, the quintessential American art form, represents Seb's 1950's vision of America, so if people don't like jazz or respect it, that means they don't like or respect America. Seb's sister is disrespectful of America because she doesn't respect Jazz's (America's) history/tradition and belittles it, for example by sitting on Hoagy Carmichael's stool, or joking that Miles Davis pissed on the blue throw rug she bought Seb.
Speaking of history, the Jazz club that Seb is obsessed with is now a Samba and Tapas place. This club, the "Van Beek", used to be home to famous jazz bands (Count Basie) from back in the 50's, but that history is now being desecrated by immigrants and multiculturalism, in the form of samba and tapas. This is symbolic of what Seb would see as the changing of America through immigration and multiculturalism and the forgetting of what made America great in the 1950's, at least in his eyes.
In addition regarding that club, Seb indicates he was hustled out of a business deal by someone, and that is how he lost his jazz club. Symbolically, the person who stole Seb's jazz club dream (his American traditionalism and conservatism dream) was Richard Nixon. This is revealed when Seb describes his being robbed by this guy as being "Shanghai'd", a clue he speaks of Nixon who is so associated with his opening of relations with China. Seb's sister also says of this Nixon-esque "crook", that "everyone knew he was shady except you".
Seb's sister says she has a woman she wants Seb to meet. Seb is resistant, he asks if this woman "likes jazz" (likes 1950's America)? Seb's sister says "does it matter?"…but to Seb it does, as the question really means is she a "traditional/conservative" American like Seb. She writes down the woman's number on an envelope and then leaves. Seb hollers out to her as she goes that he is "a phoenix, rising from the ashes", much like conservatism in the 70's rising from the ashes of Nixon's horrific presidency. He then looks at the number on the envelope, which happens to be written on a past due bill notice, a symbol of his view of liberalism as a bankrupt ideology, and then he tosses it out.
Sebastien then sits down at his piano and plays a "red" colored album, Monk's Dream by Thelonious Monk, where he tries to recreate the piano music on it. He plays it over and over trying to get it just right. Monk's Dream was released in 1963, before the sexual revolution and all that came with it for traditionalism and conservatism. That is also the year of JFK's assassination, which forever changed America. The psychological shock of Kennedy's murder sent America into a tailspin and shook the foundations and assumptions upon which the traditional and conservative order were based…thus the sexual revolution was born. Seb is trying to recreate and conjure up the time before that happened with his piano playing.
The next indicator of Seb as American traditionalism (and conservatism) is in the Spring section of the film where he sees Mia at a Hollywood pool party. Mia recognizes him from their "curt" encounter at the dinner club, but now he wears a cheesy red jacket and plays keyboards in an 80's cover band. In an act of vengeance and in order to embarrass Seb, Mia requests the song "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls, which is, oddly, not a very keyboard heavy song. But when she says the name of the song out loud, it sounds like "Iran", the country. This entire sequence, which is meant to humiliate Seb, is a metaphor for the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979-80.This is an excruciatingly embarrassing moment for Seb, a "serious musician", just as it was for Cold War Superpower America, a "serious nation". Mia is wearing a yellow dress when she requests the song, the same color as all of those yellow ribbons that were tied everywhere in remembrance of the hostages in 1980. (as an aside, in the film, the song "I Ran" is followed by "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, which has the lyric in it, "Once I-Ran…I-ran... to you, now I run from you"…)
After the song, Seb confronts Mia and she is still wearing the yellow dress but now holds a green soda can, no doubt "Canada" Dry Ginger Ale (Canada a symbol of a more European style Social Democracy). The equation of the yellow dress and green is only lacking one thing, blue (yellow + blue = green), but the blue in this picture is Mia, her liberalism being the blue. After this somewhat flirtatious confrontation and once the party ends, Mia asks Seb for help in getting her car keys from the valet. Seb asks her what kind of car she drives, Mia answers a "Prius", which doesn't help because there are dozens of Prius keys, so she clarifies and says "with the green ribbon". This again, indicates yellow (her dress) and green (the ribbon) equalling blue, her liberalism. Also, her saying the word "ribbon" ties back into the yellow ribbons for the Iranian hostages and makes that connection even more apparent.
As Seb and Mia walk looking for her car, she thanks him for "saving the day back there", which is symbolic of Seb being Reagan, the traditional/conservative who got the hostages released from Iran (the actual story of that situation is far less clear cut and is quite nefarious, but that is a discussion for another day). Then they come upon a glorious view of L.A. at sunset. But when they look at the sunset they are looking to their left, which is either an indicator of liberalism's decline in Reagan's America, or of the direction of east (since they are standing atop of the world, looking down, left would be east), where it wouldn't be a sunset, but a sunrise, symbolic of Reagan's "Morning in America".
Mia carries a red hand bag on her arm, and Seb a blue jacket on his arm. This is a metaphor for the two of them being open to the other's ideological arguments. Mia also wears blue shoes that are very uncomfortable. She even sings about how this view (of the sunset, or sunrise depending on perspective) would be appealing if she weren't in those heels, "maybe this appeals, to someone not in heels". The blue heels represent liberalism becoming too constricting as a political ideology at the time. Liberalism, and those heels, were ill suited for the time and place of the 1980's. Mia must change out of the blue shoes and liberal political views, in order to flirtatiously dance with Seb, who, curiously enough, has discarded his blue jacket on a nearby tree stump. For the dance number they wear matching black and white shoes which represent a Manichean worldview they can momentarily agree on.
At the beginning of the dance number, as they sit on a bench, Seb puts his head and shoulders down and scratches his foot on the ground, sending dirt flying onto Mia's feet. This act, where Seb looks like a bull, is done three times, and is symbolic of Reagan's bull market and economic growth in the 80's. Mia is at first irritated by this, but then they begin their dance flirtation. At the end of the dance, Mia's blue shoes are on the ground in front of the bench, and the red bag is on the bench above the shoes, this is symbolic of traditional conservatism being on top during the 1980's Reagan era time period.
As Seb walks Mia to her car, he hands her blues shoes back once she sits inside her eco-friendly Prius. He then walks back to his big, red, gas guzzling, American car, which is parked right across from the valet stand.
3. Rebel Without a Cause
When Mia gets a call back for a tv show, she describes the show as like "Rebel Without a Cause". Seb says a James Dean line from the film back to her, "I got the bullets!". This line is interesting as it symbolizes the right wing's militarism and willingness to spend money on the military. Mia has no idea what Seb is saying as she has never seen the film, which is interesting since she was raised on classic Hollywood films. But Rebel Without a Cause is an iconic 1950's film, and Mia's background is in 1940's cinema, which is symbolic of FDR's New Deal America and not Eisenhauer's conservative America of the 1950's. Seb then invites Mia to go see Rebel at the Rialto and she agrees, "for research". James Dean wears a red jacket in Rebel Without a Cause, again a symbol of the conservatism of the time. It is at the showing of the film where Mia and Seb fall for each other. Seb has successfully seduced Mia with his vision of 1950's America, and the two kiss while having a fantasy sequence at the Hollywood observatory.
The summer section is interesting because of the use of colors. When Mia is beckoned outside by Seb's loud American made car horn, she exits her apartment and all of the garbage bins lined up in the alley, which in real life here in L.A. are black, green or blue, are now all purple. Purple is red and blue combined…Sebastien and Mia and conservatism and liberalism blended together. Mia's handbag is now purple as well. Throughout the "dating montage" of the summer section, Mia wears some purple, light-red, or a red top with blue skirt or vice versa. Seb even wears blue, as he is wearing a Dodger baseball cap when he learns of his sisters engagement to a black man (more on this later). During the montage, Seb and Mia also work together to destroy the "Samba and Tapas" sign outside his old jazz club, with Mia holding the door closed while Seb smashes the sign. This, of course, is symbolic of immigration and traditional/conservative America's discomfort with it and lashing out at it with cover from democrats.
When Seb plays piano and Mia dances in the crowd at the Lighthouse, she wears a red top and blue skirt. After the song is over they sit down and she drinks her red beverage and Seb drinks his green bottle of beer, conservatism is still ascendant at this point, but Seb has softened, as has conservatism (maybe this is compassionate conservatism?). Then Keith shows up….
Keith shows up at the Lighthouse and Seb is instantly uncomfortable. He introduces Keith to Mia and says they "went to school together", but he is obviously not happy about that fact. This is symbolic of school desegregation (1954) and forced busing (1970's). Seb and Keith have an undisclosed issue, something in their past that is never clearly enunciated. This is symbolic of traditional/conservative America's unease with racial issues, and reluctance to be more open on issues like civil rights, school integration etc.
Keith offers Seb a job but he turns him down, even though Keith tells him it pays. Seb doesn't trust Keith, that much is clear. Keith is Obama…and Seb feels about him the same way traditional/conservative Americans felt about Obama.
When Seb takes a job with Keith, his first day in the studio, Seb is wearing blue. Traditional/Conservative Seb is on Obama's liberal turf now. And Keith/Obama talks to Seb about how in order to save Jazz(America), you have to be progressive, and not traditional. Traditional is killing jazz (America). Here is Keith's entire speech. Replace the word "jazz" with "America" and the speech takes on a deeper significance.
"I know…it's different. But you say you wanna save jazz? How you gonna save jazz if no one's listening? Jazz is dying because of people like you. You're playing to 90 yr. olds at the Lighthouse, where are the kids? Where are the young people? You're so obsessed with Kenny Clarke and Theolnious Monk, these guys were revolutionaries,…how are you gonna be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist? You're holding onto the past, but jazz is about the future. I know, the other guy, he wasn't as good as you, but you're a pain in the ass."
Keith is making Obama's progressive argument about how to save America in the 21st century. Monk and Clarke are musicians that represent the 1950's, which is Sebastien's dream world. Keith/Obama, wants to transform America in order to save it. Seb is reluctant but gets on board because he needs the money and wants to be able to support Mia, and in the political sense, he does want America to flourish, so he gives Obama a try.
A closer examination shows that Keith is Seb's biggest problem. Keith takes him away from Mia with touring. Keith convinces Seb to compromise his principles for money, which reduces his attractiveness to Mia. And finally, Keith is the reason Seb misses Mia's one woman show because he needs Seb to do a PR photo-shoot.
Keith/Obama/Race are Seb's/traditional/conservative America's kryptonite, and he is never able to fully get control of his Keith issues. Even though Seb prospers while working with Keith, he is never happy or fulfilled working with him.
This brings up a bunch of race issues that appear just under the surface of the film which I'll touch upon briefly later in this piece.
Mia is the color blue, and represents liberalism, progressivism, left-wing ideology and the democratic party. She yearns for an FDR New Deal type of politics or a European social democracy. Here are the indicators of that.
1. Ingrid Bergman
Mia has a giant poster of Ingrid Bergman on her bedroom wall in her apartment. There are dozens and dozens of actresses Mia could have on her wall, but she has Bergman, which means a great deal. Bergman, a Swedish actress, with Sweden being home to a renowned social democracy with stellar social programs that are greatly admired by American leftists, was a star in the 1940's…which was the height of FDR's New Deal America.
Bergman also was much more progressive for her time in her sexual politics as she became scandalized when she cheated on her husband with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Bergman divorced her husband and married Rossellini, which was shocking for the time. So Bergman was not only a symbol of New Deal politics, but a pre-cursor to the sexual revolution.
In addition, Bergman did win a Best Actress Oscar (her second), in 1956, which is in the heart of Seb's conservative American dream, but she won it for playing an amnesiac living in Paris who looked like the Russian Czar's daughter Anastasia. Russia, of course, being a symbol of socialism and Paris being a center of bohemian social democracy.
Ingrid Bergman also starred in "Casablanca", a film which Mia mentions by name. Mia says that a window right outside the coffee shop where she works, is the window Bogart and Bergman looked out of in Casablanca. In fact, the camera shot for the opening of this scene between Mia and Seb is from that exact window. This is followed by Seb asking who Mia's "Bogart" is? Meaning her boyfriend. This shows that Mia is, in fact, symbolically Ingrid Bergman. Another thing to keep in mind is that Casablanca came out in 1942 and won the Best Picture Oscar, during FDR's presidency.
The Bergman poster in Mia's room takes up a whole wall, and there is a striking dash of blue on the lower left hand side of that wall, indicative of Bergman's symbolic connection to Mia's liberalism.
When Mia moves out of her apartment and in with Seb, she brings her Bergman poster with her. There is a shot of it rolled up on the floor as she packs, but is never shown in Seb's apartment, meaning that Mia carries it with her, but wouldn't unveil it in Seb's "American" home.
Paris is a recurring theme for Mia. There is the obvious Ingrid Bergman connection with Paris, as both Casablanca and Anastasia are either set in, or revolve around Paris. But there is also Mia's aunt, who went to Paris and jumped in the Seine, as she sings about in her audition song. There is also Mia's one-woman show which is set in Paris. And there is the Warner Brothers studio lot where Mia works, which looks remarkably like Paris, including the little european car parked on the street. Mia even has a poster of Paris in her childhood bedroom at her parent's house in Boulder City, Nevada.
The biggest Paris connection for Mia is that her big break is a role in a film that shoots in Paris and she must go live there for 7 months. Seb tells her to go, but that he will stay in America even though Paris "has good jazz". Seb is America through and through, he can't leave, but Mia is liberalism and for her to flourish and become all that she can become, she must go to Paris, the preeminent European capital.
As previously mentioned, Mia's color is blue, for liberalism. But early in the film she is rushing to an audition and someone spills coffee on her white shirt. She ends up auditioning with a blue jacket covering her stained white shirt. This stain imagery appears later in the film when Mia talks on the phone with her mother and Seb overhears the conversation. Seb looks up and sees a similar brown stain that had been on Mia's white audition shirt, on the white ceiling. It is at this moment that Seb decides to take Keith up on his offer of a job. The stain on the pure white is a sign of decay. The decay for both Mia and Seb (and America) at those moments in the film are about their imperfections(and America's) and trying to cover them with ideology, in both cases liberalism.
Mia has other auditions that reveal the meaning of color throughout the film. When she plays a caring physician in one she wears blue (liberal) scrubs with a green background. When she plays a tough cop in one and says the line "damn Miranda rights!", she is wearing a cop uniform with a striking red (conservative) backdrop. And finally when she auditions as a white teacher in a Black school, and says the line, "why you be trippin' Jamal, why you be trippin'?'", she wears a red jacket. The color red shows a rather conservative outlook on law and order and racial issues, where the blue shows a liberal outlook on caring for people.
After the "Someone in the Crowd" party, Mia walks through a very blue downtown L.A. The entire city is lit in blue and the only place that isn't, is the dinner club where Seb is playing that night. There is a red light that is like a beacon, beckoning Mia to enter. Seb is the lone sign of traditionalism in the blue sea of L.A. That encounter does not go well for Mia as Seb is "curt" with her. Other red encounters end just as badly, like when she wears a red jacket to her callback audition and they stop her after just a few lines. The director, dressed in blue, instantly dismisses her. Mia leaves the audition and tears her red jacket off like it is poisoned. But as she drives home she drives past the Rialto where Rebel Without a Cause is playing and she smiles, reminded that traditionalism and conservatism (Seb) and a red jacket, might no be that bad after all.
As Mia becomes more and more enamored by Seb, she wears more and more red or variations of red. Mia needs an injection of traditionalism and conservatism in order to succeed in the world, even though at her core she is a blue liberal.
The ending sequence of the movie is very interesting and reveals a great deal about the sub-text of the entire narrative. A closer look reveals the political underpinnings of the story.
Mia is now a successful actress and her face is plastered on a giant poster right outside Seb's club. The poster is very reminiscent of the Bergman poster Mia had on her bedroom wall. Mia has become Ingrid Bergman by going to Paris and making her movie that catapults her to stardom.
Mia is also married to another man. He seems nice enough, but is extraordinarily dull. He does wear blue though, and has a blue tie on for their night out. An interesting little piece of information is that Mia's daughter wears a red bow in her hair. Mia has learned traditionalism from Seb, and she has passed it on to her daughter.
As Mia and her blue-tied husband are stuck in traffic, Mia is illuminated by red light from the car stopped in front of them, and she suddenly says they should get off the highway and go get dinner. After dinner, Mia and her husband walk to the car in a very blue L.A., and then the husband hears some music and they walk toward the red light. This is Mia's original meeting with Seb all over again. They enter the club and walk down into a sea of red. Mia then realizes this is Seb's place, and even sees the sign she designed, which is all in blue.
As she sits next to her husband, Seb comes on stage in his red suit. He spots Mia and freezes.
Seb's club is ready to go and has a giant picture of John Coltrane on the wall right as you enter, just like Seb's apartment had a smaller picture of Coltrane. Coltrane died in 1967…right before Nixon took office and the sexual revolution truly took off, and traditionalism got steamrolled.
Seb lives alone, and has a seemingly monastic life, much like he did at the start of the film. He does have his club though, which acts as a Benedict Option or monastery to traditional values and conservatism amidst the all encompassing blue liberalism of L.A.
When Seb sees Mia and then plays their song on the piano at the club, they have a fantasy sequence. In the fantasy sequence, everything turns out perfectly for Mia, and it is predominantly colored in blue. The Paris she goes to is overwhelmingly blue, except for the red light of a jazz club sign, and smatterings of red along the Seine, like a little boys red balloon and a red flower. But Paris is really blue. And Seb can only visit there in a fantasy.
When we see "home movies" of Seb and Mia's relationship and her pregnancy and child, it is all done in the style of 1950's home movies. The family is the symbol of tradition and that would be Seb's success in this fantasy. His dream is to perpetuate his traditional values and in his dream with Mia he does that with their marriage and child.
When Seb and Mia go out to dinner, Seb wears a blue suit and tie, just like Mia's real life husband. They sneak out past their son, who wears red, white and blue striped pajamas, and the babysitter, who wears purple. They have made the perfect American family, a blend of liberalism and conservatism wrapped in traditionalism. The second half of the dream leans far to Seb's side just as the first half leaned toward Mia's side. As Seb has his perfect 1950's, pre-sexual revolution family, he also has a Latina nanny.
As Seb and Mia sit and listen to the piano player at the dream jazz club, Mia sits curled toward Seb, and he toward her. She has her left hand over his heart, and he has his left hand on her lap. They are connected through the left. In contrast, when Mia sits in the same club with her real life husband, they sit not touching at all. They aren't even should to shoulder, but have a table between them. This shows that Mia has compromised love to be with her real husband.
3. The Actual Ending
The ending where Mia leaves the club and stops to look at Seb can be seen as bittersweet. Mia doesn't love her husband like she loved or loves Seb. When she looks to Seb she is worried about how Seb will react. He pauses and then smiles, and she returns the smile. Seb smiles because Mia has been taught his traditional values, and she proves that by sacrificing her happiness in order to maintain her family and raise her child. She doesn't leave her husband and child to be with Seb, which is what a child of the sexual revolution would do, or Ingrid Bergman. Instead she acknowledges the lessons Seb taught her and which she integrated into her liberal value system, and has made a new system that is partially traditional and conservative, and partially liberal and progressive. With the lessons from Seb, Mia has overcome the criticism Seb has of liberalism, that it "worships everything and values nothing."
Interestingly though, in both the fantasy and real life jazz club scenarios, Mia does not wear blue, but wears black…which is the first time she has done that in the entire film. I believe this is symbolic of her becoming a void where no color can enter and where no stains can appear.
Seb smiles at Mia because he realizes that he has passed his traditionalism on to her. Seb will gladly sacrifice his happiness to know that traditionalism and conservatism live on beyond him. He has carved out a small corner of the world where his Jazz and traditionalism can thrive in the blue sea of L.A. When he realizes that Mia has learned this "valuable" lesson and is not going to leave her husband, he smiles…his job is done. And then he gets back to the music…one, two, three, four...
As previously mentioned, the main Black character, Keith, is a symbol of Obama, and of Seb's discomfort with racial issues. Keith is not the only Black character that reveals things of note though. Here are some of the others.
1. Seb's Sister
Seb's sister gets engaged and then married to a Black man. We never hear him speak and never know his name. Seb plays at their wedding. As Seb's sister and her Black husband dance and kiss at the reception, the camera pans over the wedding party and the mix of races and then settles on Seb playing the piano. In the context of the film's narrative, Seb is melancholy over his break up with Mia, but I believe this sequence is meant to reveal Seb's melancholy over his sister marrying a Black man. This is another sign of Seb's dream of a 1950's America dying before his eyes. I also think this is why Seb is so reluctant when his sister says she has a woman she wants him to meet at the beginning of the film. Seb knows his sister is not a "traditional" American like him, and therefore the woman could be Black or of another ethnicity, so Seb wants nothing to do with it.
2. Black Couple on the Pier
After Seb goes to Mia's work and has a great day with her, he ends up alone on the pier and sings a little song. The sun is setting and there is an older Black couple a little further out on the pier. Seb whistles and then sings "City of Stars". He sees an old style hat lying on the ground and picks it up. He brushes it off and does a little dance move with it but never puts it on.
He walks over to the Black couple, who both wear blue, and hands the hat (which looks strikingly similar to the hat worn by Thelonious Monk on the Monk's Dream album cover!) to the man who thanks him with a gesture. Seb then takes the Black woman and dances slowly with her. As he takes her hand to initiate the dance he sings the line, "Who knows, is this the start of something wonderful and new.." and he then spins the woman. After the spin he sings, "or one more dream..". Right after saying "dream", the Black man slaps Seb's arm to get him to let go of his wife. Seb does and then walks off singing, "that I cannot make true". The Black couple dance together in the background as Seb exits the shot.
This entire sequence reveals Seb's and America's struggle with racial issues as he tries to reach out to people of color, but is rebuffed. The Black man, is pleased to have his hat returned, which could symbolize the civil rights act of 1964, but doesn't appreciate Seb getting to comfy with his wife. It is intriguing that Seb sings of "one more dream" and then the man slaps him. "Dream" conjures images of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which to many feels still unfulfilled. Seb (traditional/conservative America) may have thought that everything was cool after the hat return (civil rights act), but that is proven not to be the case.
3. Opening Sequence Dancers
There are two Black dancers in the opening fantasy dance number on the highway that I think are important to notice. The first Black dancer, is a young woman in a green shirt. She gets out of a red car when a white man in a red shirt opens the door for her, and he then helps her up onto the hood of the car. Once on the hood she dances and then does a flip off the hood. The person driving that car wears a red and white baseball hat with a large "X" on the front.
This sequence reveals a certain perspective on America's racial history. The white man freeing the Black woman from her imprisonment in the red car of America. He then gives her a helping hand up and she dances in joy. Then the X-capped character (Malcolm X and his version of Black Conservatism?) comes out and dances with a woman in red. The Black woman then flips, the world turned upside down momentarily, until she is right side up again and off to the side.
The second Black woman of note is a featured singer who wears a blue denim outfit and a pink bandana on her head. The striking thing about this woman is that she wears her bandana in an Aunt Jemima style, which conjures memories of a much bleaker time in America for people of color. She also sings the lyrics, "and even when the answer's no, and when my money is running low" as she dances with a White man in a red tie. This White man, another featured singer, is the one who unleashes the burst of glorious music from the big blue truck that brings everyone, people of all colors and backgrounds, together for a dance party. The shot right before he opens the truck to reveal the modern day revolutionary pipers, there is the red of a nearby Black man's outfit, the White man's white shirt, and the blue of the truck. This is America at its finest, but it is born out of the Black woman with the bandana and the White man with the red tie, singing together.
The racial underbelly of La La Land is pretty interesting. It is striking how people react to the Black characters in the film who aren't background jazz musicians. What this says about America and its history I will leave to the reader.
On its surface, La La Land is a musical love story, but the deeper you dive into the picture, the more layers of narrative intrigue are revealed. The symbolic use of color and the sub-text of political ideology tell a far deeper and more meaningful story than the surface entertainment alone that many believe La La Land to be.
I encourage you to go watch the film again, or many times over again, and see if you think I am crazy or if there is something to what I am saying. If nothing else, it will make you watch the film in a different way, which is always a good exercise for a cinephile.
The opening dance number alone is worthy of an article all to itself, as are each of the musical numbers, but frankly, I don't have the time to get into it at the moment. Hopefully this overview of the film is good enough to satiate any other people out there like me who love this sort of stuff. I don't think there are very many of us…so if you do exist…let me know.
And finally, to answer your questions before you ask them…Yes, I have way too much time on my hands (even though I really don't). No, I don't have a life or any friends. And yes…this article is pure insanity…no scratch that…this is pure lunacy…pure lunacy. (If you watch the film closely enough you'll get that reference!!)