Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Rules and La La Land

Up front: I've always considered Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider's The Rules a feminist statement. The idea that a girl might as well ask a guy out is usually dumb, assuming the girl wants the relationship to lead to wedding bells and babies. That's a "Rules" idea, not one that many feminists accept.  Also not an idea La La Land coddles: the Emma Stone character does talk to the Ryan Gosling character first, and the movie seems to want to say this is fine. Normal. Completely acceptable dating practice.  Still,  one of the critiques of La La Land has been its supposed anti-feminism: we see his jazz playing, but not much of her acting, although I'd say her numerous auditions show plenty of acting. He doesn't come to her one-woman show. He gets her to go to the audition that makes her career--this has been seen as anti-feminist in the sense that the Emma Stone character relies too much on male authority to believe in her acting abilities, while the Ryan Gosling character doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks of the kind of jazz he wants to play: he's going to open his own kind of jazz club and damn the torpedoes. But when he hears the love of his life chatting with her mother, who wants her to have  boyfriend who can support her, he takes a job he hates with a band just to be that kind of a guy. It's the Emma Stone character who talks him out of that, just as he talks her into going to that last audition. By this time, the two of them are certainly best friends. Romantic mates for life? Well, he doesn't follow her to the city where her career is taking off, which happens to be the most romantic, terrorist-free Paris you can imagine, except in her long fantasy-sequence that we see after she and her husband wander into her former dreamboat's jazz club when freeway traffic is too much to take. If she didn't have an adorable toddler at home, the movie's whispering, she'd vault up to the stage to fall into Ryan Gosling's soulful jazzy arms. But she does have the cute little girl sitting home crayoning on the sofa with the babysitter, so Dreamboat just locks eyes with her and plays their song, which is a lame one, if you've seen Singin' In the Rain, West Side Story, Les Miserables, or even Guys and Dolls. Emma Stone has beautiful eyes and Ryan Gosling has soulful ones. But neither can sing or dance, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, if they loved each other, they couldn't have flown back and forth to see each other. Each has the idea that art takes all, that there's no room in life for true love while a career is being formed. 
Here's another reason, and a Rules one: She talks to him first. And he slams right into her, not hearing her, because unbeknownst to her, he's just gotten fired. Maybe that wouldn't have been so very bad, except that when they meet up accidentally again and again, she talks to him first to him again and again, requesting, during one party scene (actually raising her hand!) that he play "I ran." Yeah, he did run, Emma Stone character. You should have said, "Next!" and moved on. But no. She keeps talking to him every time they run into each other and when he's on tour she calls and says in the neediest tones imaginable that she misses him. Then, surprise! He's in their tiny grungy apartment making dinner for her. But not so surprising, they argue. The moral of this story may be that she got bored with him because she chased him. He didn't chase her. Not in the beginning. Into which the end is rolled. 

P.S. This is what I wanted to see instead of those lame tap sequences in La La Land: 

This kind of originality--not to mention philosophy--is another thing missing from a film styling itself as paying a tribute to Singin' in the Rain:


  1. La La Land is definitely over-hyped, and much of the criticism is deserved. The end of their relationship puzzled me, too! Your theory is a sound one. I never thought about that before, but it's a lesson I've been learning in my own life lately. I discounted that "rule" since, yes, it seems anti-feminist, but there's definitely a difference in the effort levels of men who chase versus ones who are chased.

    What you say makes sense: Perhaps the puzzling end to the relationship simply highlights their relationship dynamic. She put in more effort than he did all along, and when she stopped, he stopped (and wasn't really doing much, anyway). And so it unraveled. Realizing that, I'm trying to let guys approach me now. It certainly feels much nicer when someone expresses interest, and I don't practically go crazy wondering if they're actually interested, and how much... Ugh. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Also, love the first video you posted. I saw that recently, and was entranced. Brilliant and so engaging!

  2. Thanks. I do tend to think "The Rules" make sense--not that they should never be broken, just that following them is a woman's way of protecting herself, that is, if she's in the relationship for romance and long-term.