The last time I wrote a political article about a movie, it was my not-so-bold prediction that Zero Dark Thirty wouldn’t win the Best Picture Oscar because it delivered a message highlighting the effectiveness of waterboarding and the need for a strong military. Movie award season is upon us and another great flick caught my attention for its subtle conservatism.
La La Land is the tale of a coffee shop barista trying to land a gig as an actress and a jazz pianist trying to bounce back from a bad deal. Both are underemployed and questioning whether or not their dreams are actually pipe dreams.
Whether intentionally or not (okay, so the chances of it being intentional are nil), the story is strangely conservative. There are themes and plot points throughout that defy the leftward propaganda we normally see in modern Hollywood productions, yet nearly everyone in Hollywood is going crazy about its award buzz. Before we get into the conservatism, let’s look briefly at why it’s even possible.
Hollywood, including the critics and buzz-makers who drive success both at the box office and during election season, has embraced La La Land as one of their own without realizing the underlying concepts driving the story are right-leaning. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no blatant conservatism being espoused. That would tank the movie instantly in the eyes of movie kingmakers. The story essentially told itself. The end result leans right in just the right way that Hollywood social justice warriors didn’t notice.
So, how did it get away with it? First, it’s a musical. That alone is enough to disguise the conservative undertones. Second, the stars are Democrats with Ryan Gosling supporting socialist Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Third, it’s set in the Los Angeles area. Young dreamers in Hollywood can’t be conservative, right? They weren’t. It wasn’t that they were playing conservatives in the movie. It’s the story that leans right in spite of the characters. All of these attributes combine to bring a right-leaning message to the big screen.
Why it was conservative
There are some spoilers ahead, but written in a way that shouldn’t detract from the experience if you plan on seeing it. To be safe, go see the movie (I loved it) and then read the rest. Definitely skip the last two bullet points if you’re going to see it.
Here are some of the conservative themes the movie promotes:
- Traditionalism (Originalism): Gosling’s character is a jazz musician who believes in the purity of the genre. He despises those who want to modernize something that was already perfect. His dream is to own his own jazz bar and grill where he can control the music selection, keeping the original intent of jazz’s founders in place. Conservatives often fight the same battles whether over the Constitution, marriage, or gun ownership. Just as conservatives often espouse, Gosling’s character takes on an attitude that if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
- Entrepreneurship: When Emma Stone’s character can’t get casting directors to give her a chance, Gosling convinces her she should just write and star in her own production. She writes and produces a one-woman show, taking an chance on her own talents rather than expecting others to recognize her greatness and present the world to her on a silver platter. She didn’t bend to a feeling of entitlement but chose to take the bull by the horns and run with it.
- Agenda-Free Identities: If you watch a lot of movies, particularly “feel good” types like musicals, you’re probably used to seeing awkwardly inserted “identity” characters. The funny and brilliant gay best friend. The quirky and wise activist relative. The stereotype-busting minority. This movie played race and identity flawlessly in that it reflected society. They didn’t make a big deal out of the white sister marrying a black man. It simply happened without dwelling on it or making a statement, just as it happens in the real world. Any absence of leftist messaging highlighting identities is a conservative win.
- BIG SPOILERS IN THE FINAL TWO: Skip past the next two bullets if you’re going to watch the movie.
- Hard Work Pays Off: At first, it appears that Stone’s attempt at entrepreneurship is a failure. Instead, it turns out to be the ticket she needed to reach her goals. As for Gosling, he sacrifices his jazz principles for a while to earn enough money to make his own dreams come true. They were given opportunities based upon their talents and they worked hard to make the most of those opportunities.
- Just Because Love is Possible Doesn’t Mean it’s Supreme: In one of the most brilliantly delivered endings you’ll see in a love story, the characters are faced with separation in order to reach their goals. They declare that they’ll always love each other, then we flash forward five years. They’re living their dreams exactly as they had always hoped as a direct result of being part of each other’s lives for a while. A chance meeting has Stone and her husband entering “Seb’s” jazz bar and grill. Their eyes meet. As Gosling plays their song, we are shown what might have been had they abandoned their dreams for the sake of love. This scenario shows that they would have been just as happy for different reasons, raising a family and finding contentment without being a movie star or a bar owner. The montage ends with the two happy lovers coming to the same point as they’re at now, just as happy but living a different type of dream. Their final glance is a thank you, a congratulations, and an acknowledgement that they can be happy in their lives while still having a tinge of regret for what might have been. It’s not that abandoning love for the sake of a dream is a conservative principle, but for a Hollywood production to glorify people choosing success over love is uncommon. Sometimes, the touchy-feely dreams of the left don’t pan out for the best.
Again, I have no illusion that the movie was created to spread a conservative message. Director/screenwriter Damien Chazelle would probably object if he read this article. The biggest reason it was conservative is because it was realistic with itself and didn’t contort to fit into a liberal Hollywood paradigm. Leftists who see it won’t notice they appreciate the conservatism in the movie because they won’t realize it’s there. Conservatives who see it may walk away feeling impressed without knowing why.