A heavily awarded and highly acclaimed 2016 musical romance, La La Land seems to be one of the most enjoyable…and annoyingly frustrating films of all time. It feels pure in it’s originality, it’s soundtrack is gloriously addictive and it is one of those movies where you don’t associate the actors with their previous work. But as a philosopher- on closer examination- my mind broke through the facade. The film is layered with philosophical propositions from commentary on ambition and fame; to the ideas of fate, chance, coincidence and love.
So here’s to the fools who philosophise…
The Dream vs The Date
Without spoiling anything to those who are unfamiliar with the film, in brief, La La Land details the dreams and ambitions of an aspiring actress, Mia and jazz pianist, Sebastian as their lives interweave through love. They soon discover a conflict between their separate desires for fame and success; suggesting the rather philosophical lesson that love does not trump all.
As a fundamental aspect of society, status is seen as something we are continually striving to improve. It’s why we are thrilled at our accomplishments, boast or ‘post’ of ourselves online, and are often eager to form connections with others in the hope of being liked or approved of. As seen in La La Land, a person’s dreams and desire for status can consume them to the point where nothing else is deemed as important.
For instance, when a musician or actress gains a following and is applauded for their talents, they feel their social worth or status to increase; and internally, they are thereby motivated to seek further approval (via performing more often). This feeling of being socially popular or appreciated for one’s skills and effort, leads the characters to pursue their dreams whole-heartedly; often at the expense of their relationship. This philosophical idea warns us in a sense, that our inert greed -and possibly need- for approval, can cause us to abandon logical and considerate ways of thought; becoming self-centred due to an inflated ego.
Commentary on Love and Chance
Arguably, a huge part of the film’s appeal is it’s innocent ideal of romance. There is no sexualisation. No raunchy, rude scenes. The charm and feel of the whole film is that of an old era, black-and-white drive-in movie. But apart from this timeless take on love, La La Land also has some unique philosophical commentary on the relationship between romance and chance…
The two characters meet time and time again, in three completely consequential occurrences. First, Mia walks in on Sebastian during an abruptly ended piano solo and they meet again at random, at a summer party. I have briefly touched on the notion of fate and destiny, notably here in one of my Philosophy in the Flash posts: ✍Fate & Destiny⚡️. Keyly, fate is thought of as something that is ‘decreed’ while our destiny is ‘caused’ by our previous and future actions or personalities. It appears these characters, brought about by coincidence… or ‘the stars aligning’ so to speak, were fated to meet and fall in love. However, Mia and Sebastian’s actions led them to a united destiny of love. By abandoning a sour relationship in favour of Sebastian, by going to the summer party and deciding to walk into the piano lounge, Mia’s actions created her destiny to be with the jazz pianist. Conversely, the chance that Sebastian was in the lounge or at the party and the fact that they even talked or encountered each other, can debatably be attributed to fate.
These ideas on fate and romance can relate to us, in that, we meet people by chance situations but connect with them, through a destiny created by the actions and paths we determine.
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