By David Ngo
Another year of Hollywood’s reign on entertainment has ended. Once again, the Globes have shown us some of the best works of television and cinema. Much like the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for the Oscars, members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association voted for their favorite nominees after attending hundreds of screenings.
While the trophies themselves may not mean much to some people, this year’s awards show can be seen as having one big victory split into two.
One: “La La Land”
Being a blend of old and new sensibilities, this film in particular portrayed glamour with hard-hitting touches of reality. It’s no wonder that it swept the Globes, winning for best actor and actress in a motion picture musical/comedy, best film in musical/comedy, director, screenplay, score and original song.
Honestly though, who cares about all that? It’s the message of the film itself that is important to people studying the liberal arts; it is an anthem to those trying to make it with nothing but passion and work despite their circumstances. “La La Land” is a love letter to those who dream — as foolish as they may seem. But it doesn’t stray from the reality of how difficult it is to actually make it.
The story behind the production of this film further hits home. Writer/director Damien Chazelle often described the process getting the film produced, stating it took six years of rejections before the script was taken seriously. In full melodic force, “La La Land” and the climate around it leave nothing but uplifting notes for us artists still in the works.
Of course, the film has also received backlash for a certain lack of inclusivity. Critics called John Legend’s character the “token black guy” — a convenient plot device to keep the two lead characters going. There is also the issue of Ryan Gosling’s character being white and loving jazz — a music genre deeply rooted in African-American culture. There are plenty of people of color within the film, but they only show up as dancers, singers, or lesser roles than the two leads.
It seems that Chazelle is simply trying to tell a love story without any notion of racial context. While the film tries to be pure and simple in its intentions, people have the right to point out what may be problems in its focus. “La La Land” may not be trying to ignore, attack, or misrepresent people of color, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t done so.
Two: More Diversity and Representation
Yet with all that’s happened, it’s safe to say industry bigwigs have learned some kind of lesson in diverse representation. Host Jimmy Fallon’s opening number for the Globes explicitly stated how not all the nominees were white this time. The number of candidates that included POC in 2015 paled in comparison to this year’s.
“Moonlight,” a film about a young African-American man struggling with his sexuality, won the award for best motion picture drama. “Atlanta,” helmed by Donald Glover, won best television series and Glover won best TV actor. Viola Davis won best supporting actress for “Fences” — a film that was headstrong in tackling the effects of racial issues. The nominated film “Hidden Figures” also starred women of color, based on the real women who did significant work at NASA during the space race.
Here’s the reason why these two trends are so noteworthy for liberal arts majors:
They provide hope. They provide hope that times are slowly shifting, but they are shifting.
Take away the romantic plotline of “La La Land,” and you have people who want the term “success” to be equivalent to reveling in their passion.
Take in all the captivating stories of the films and shows told by diverse voices. They tell us that we can climb up that ladder in spite of the “Caucasian insight” that the generations of old continue to value so highly. That concept is diminishing in favor of views that are more encompassing.
And there you have it. We’re here, and we can do it. Of course, the business-centric reality of Hollywood is what disillusions many. Still, much of the cinema it produces continues to be breathtaking. People will continue to exert themselves to attain the sensational. The Golden Globes 2017 have proven — in a small but large way — that we still can succeed.