Have you seen the movie La La Land? I had not yet seen it, as musicals really are not my type of thing usually. However, it was suggested to me and, to my surprise, it did not feel like a musical. I would highly recommend it.
But two themes from the movie got stuck in my head. One was the idea of hopeless artists, and the other was of love and success being unobtainable together.
Let's start with the first theme or, as the King tells Alice, "Begin at the beginning, and go on until you come to the end: then stop."
One major message within La La Land is that artists live in, well, La La Land. A place of make believe where art solves all problems and everything is beautiful. To this, I cannot argue.
I consider myself an artist to a certain degree. Am I the best artist? Surely not. Will my art be in art history books for decades to come? Well, probably not, but one can hope. In any case, I do still consider myself to be among those who create, and think, in the fanciful and whimsical values of art. So I think I have some kind of soap box upon which I can stand and preach to you about this stuff.
In the movie, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's characters are struggling artists trying to make their dreams come true. He is a Jazz musician and she is an actress and playwright. But of course Jazz is a dying art and people are not coming to see small plays. Yet, these two characters care deeply for their art and cannot see a world without their medium. When they are thrust into reality, they realize that they must compromise in order to succeed and they ultimately do.
That is part of what bugs me, and I am sure bugs a lot of artists. Artists do live in a fanciful world. From this world we pull inspiration and sip the nectar that allows us to keep living in this real world. We know that this La La Land is only a dream, and the fact that we know this makes us all the more bitter. The real world is cruel, cold, and unimaginative compared to our La La Land, and we would love nothing more than to live within the latter. But we can't. And we know that, and we are all the more bitter for it. At least, many of us are, I suppose I am speaking with a large dose of generalizations here.
Recently I recorded a video (which I have yet to post) about how I develop black and white film at home. I was thinking to myself that people may want to know how to do this because it is a skill that is quickly fading away. But then I thought a bit more and considered why it was fading away. I generally think of the usefulness of stuff like this: If an apocalypse came tomorrow, would whatever you are doing, or whatever skill set you have, be of any use? If we are being honest, photography, especially film photography, and art in general, would be of little to no use. Knowing how to apply makeup, hair styling, cake designing, all these things will not help you if your family is about to starve to death in a couple of days. (Pretty grim isn't it? Welcome to my blog.)
Of course the argument here is that art does have a purpose, at least as things stand now. Artists, if nothing else, can make the world a slightly more beautiful place. But beyond that, we have more practical uses. You are constantly surrounded by the work of artists. You know that commercial you saw about some car? An artist was payed to do that. That billboard that caught your eye? An artist. That pair of shoes you have been saving up for? Yep, you guessed it, an artist designed those.
So let us get back to Gosling's character and my skill that has no real purpose. In the movie Gosling struggles with the reality that Jazz is a dying art. So too do I struggle with that fact that, well, my skill is dying and useless, and I wonder sometimes what I am doing it for at all. Being an artist and trying to make money from said art is, admittedly, quite difficult.
So am I spinning my wheels?
The alternative is to leave La La Land completely, forsaking my land of joy and happiness, for the 9 to 5 grind of office life and mid morning coffee runs. I have done this, and it is torture. Honestly, I have had those soul sucking jobs. I was a security guard for... I don't even know how many years. I was depressed, I was gaining weight faster than I care to admit, my health was terrible, the people I worked for didn't even know my name, I was under payed, under appreciated, and going nowhere despite asking for a raise and/or promotion multiple times. On top of all that, I had no time to even think about art, let alone practice, and create. Is that what I am leaving La La Land for? I am not sure that sounds worth it...
On love and success:
The other main theme of La La Land is that love and success cannot happen at the same time. Here too I bristle at the message. I do, however, agree that for some people love and success must come at the sacrifice of the other.
But, let's be realistic here... Who the fuck needs so much success in their lives that they must sacrifice all other forms of happiness? Only a complete narcissist. True, sacrifices will have to be made in places, and for both people to live out their dreams, relationships will be tested at many points. You may need to do the long distance relationship thing for a little while (which is no laughing matter, it is difficult), you may need to put off a date or two here and there. But in the end, realistically, you do have time for both. I cannot, for even a minute, buy the notion that you can't be successful if you want to pursue love, and you can't pursue love if you want to be successful. That is bullshit. Again, it may be hard, but not impossible. Anyone who truly cares for you will understand that a date may need to be cancelled because of a really important, last minute, meeting. A person who truly loves you will support you, wish you the best, and reschedule that date for another time.
I understand what this movie was trying to say with both story arcs, but just as much as I live in La La Land, the movie La La Land portrays a very nihilistic view of art and love. That is not to say that it is a bad movie, not at all, in fact the opposite. But if the opposite of La La Land is the world that these writers portrayed... count me out.