What ‘La La Land’ Reveals About Millennials and Marriage

Hollywood may have gone ga ga for La La Land, but not everyone agrees it’s worth the hype. As Mark Judge points out, many have found the movie to be little more than “a dramatic facade.”

But did it need to be so dramatic?

It certainly is raking it in for a musical drama. Its fourteen Oscar nominations tie the flick for first in all-time Oscar nominations, and it won more Golden Globes than any movie in history.

But the drama would have imploded if the two main characters had simply tied the knot.

And there was no compelling reason for them not to.

I suppose the conceit that Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) felt they had to choose between marrying each other and their careers is a realistic portrayal of modern youth; but it also makes the movie less of a dramatic facade and more of a prettily dressed window into reality. For reasons that remain perplexing, young people today have bought into the silly narrative that they cannot both get married and flourish professionally. This is mostly driven by the post-feminist narrative that women should be established in their careers before they say, “I do.” Case in point, articles like this one in Slate, which argues that a husband is actually worse for a woman’s career than her kids.

And yet, many of these very same women are already living as if they were married, taking themselves off the dating market and cohabitating with their boyfriends. Plenty of them even clean up after, cook for, and bear children for their boyfriends, who in turn offer absolutely nothing.

At least in La La Land, Sebastian cooks Mia a nice dinner; nevertheless, they are very much like many young couples today at the start of their careers who feel like they must consequently keep marriage at bay. Study after study make plain that today’s millennials are delaying or forgoing marriage entirely at unprecedented rates, with economic and professional reasons as the primary cause. As one Washington Post article on the phenomenon put it, “Marriage is indeed a financial investment, which explains why people their 20s aren’t ready to take the plunge.”

And yet that statement is a nonsequitur. People who have very little money can still invest and are constantly encouraged to do so. Today’s financial gurus will tell you the earlier you invest, the richer off you will be later; that a dollar today can turn into a million dollars after a few patient decades. And so on.

Likewise, with marriage, you are making an investment of yourself with another person, often long before you have fully blossomed into the person you are meant to become. And anyway, do we ever stop developing as people? The idea that we cannot commit to another person without being fully established as ourselves, something that arguably never stops occurring throughout our lives, just short-changes us of the chance to develop more fully as a part of married life with another.

And making a life-long commitment actually has the effect of forcing two people to maximize life goals together, something Mia and Sebastian could have pulled off. Had they been married or engaged, something tells me they could have pulled off her traveling overseas to shoot her film for a few months while he took a break from touring. Then she could have returned while he opened his jazz club. Or they simply could have endured a few months apart (they wouldn’t have been the first couple to do so). Then they could have had kids, and balanced the various demands of their careers, each making sacrifices for the other. That would make them just like many married couples who simply find ways every day to make it work, to pursue our dreams alongside each other, while at the same time continuing to grow together.

You don’t have to live in la la land to be happily married with kids and two fulfilling careers. Anyone who tells you otherwise is the one living disconnected from reality.

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  • Prospector

    Will probably skip this one.

  • unominous

    Other than the fact that the filmmakers wanted a certain ending, there was no sense in their splitting up so she could go to Paris alone. As he said, Paris has lots of good jazz. Probably more than LA. So if his character was interested in an actual jazz career and not just making quick bucks to buy his club, then he should have gone with her. Given his feelings for his art, his character would have gone, except of course the filmmakers wanted that particular ending.

  • Opetke

    “And yet, many of these very same women are already living as if they were married, taking themselves off the dating market and cohabitating with their boyfriends. Plenty of them even clean up after, cook for, and bear children for their boyfriends, who in turn offer absolutely nothing.”

    Women who clean up and cook? Not on the coastlines, brother.

    • m a

      It’s a rare woman who can cook anymore, young men are actually the better cooks on the west coast (don’t know about the east) nowadays. Have to be if they want a decent meal.

  • tsol

    Nicely put, although I would argue that the “marriage is a trap, children are a burden” trope became widespread with my generation, Gen X, in the 1980s as we were teenagers. The anti-teen pregnancy propaganda of the era, “You go girl! Reach your dreams… BEFORE
    you get pregnant!” (real billboard copy) taught us all that we had to achieve our major life goals before we settled down, that marriage and especially parenthood would doom our own lives and that of our offspring unless we were fulfilled and prosperous beforehand.

  • Californio

    Cannot write a conventional happy ending and be treated as a serious “artist” in LA or New York. Watch “Film School Confidential” and it’s parody of the pretentious art world. The only student in the visual arts class with any talent draws a beautiful, realistic, portrait of a woman and professor John Malkovich cannot hide his distain – “And What is THAT supposed to be?” he sneers. In our post modern world the anti-social criminal becomes the hero and the supposed “good guy” has to be shown to be a psycho or pedophile. And the artistic community is BAFFLED by the rise of post-modern president TRUMP…..just…wow.

    • dwpittelli

      Thanks for the movie tip. BTW, it’s “Art School Confidential” (your mention of Malkovich made it easy to find).

    • Matthew

      Insightful post. Thank you.

    • annademo

      Related to your comment, the Angelina Jolie remake of Sleeping Beauty into Maleficent turned Aurora’s loving, selfless father (who gave away his only child to save her life) into a cold-hearted jerk and her brave and devoted Prince Philip into a bumbling idiot. If they aren’t portrayed as psychos or pedophiles, men are then portrayed as jerks or fools. As the mother of 3 sons, I fear for where this country is going and hope President Trump can right the ship.

      • jlord37

        Better a a Trump than a Pinochet. But if the new Khmer Rouge persist in their “days of rage” escapades, and their well-heeled puppet masters persist in their nation killing ways, they shouldn’t wonder at what sort of counteraction will follow.

  • Vizzini

    Why would a man today get married? “Life-long commitment?” Don’t make me laugh. The idea that marriage is a life-long commitment became as quaint as buggy-whips the day of the invention of no-fault divorce.

    A man who buys into the “life-long commitment” lie is more often than not a sucker who will be rewarded with financial devastation and heartbreak when the former girl of his dreams gets bored and decides to “find herself” (usually in the bed of her next conquest).

    • annademo

      I’m reminded of an old saying we had (I’m old): Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Why should men make life-long commitments to a woman?

    • m a

      On another site someone referred to marriage as ‘an illusory promise’ vice a contract. There are no enforceable provisions to marriage anymore— companionship, affection, assurance of paternity, lifelong commitment, raising kids in an intact family— except one:
      The higher income (normally the man) will be expected to live up to the financial obligations of marriage even after it ends.

      So- would you enter into an agreement that guaranteed no benefit, but was a guaranteed financial obligation even if the other person opted out?

  • Greigio76

    Yes, it is all possible, but having lived this, my first wife divorced me due to her ambitions. Never again will I wait on a woman. She never remarried again, but I did to a conventional woman who is not a careerist. I felt like I wasted my time and energy with my first wife. In the movie, she got everything she wanted. He made compromises and she oddly made fun of him. She is less realistic than the male character.

  • whnp

    “making sacrifices for the other…” That is it in a nutshell. Millennials have been sold the notion that they should never have to sacrifice anything for someone else – spouse, kids, job. You deserve the perfect spouse, the ability to abort less-than-perfectly timed or disabled kids, the perfect job. Anything else and you walk away, to preserve your “independence”. Marriage is about learning how to compromise which is actually part of becoming an adult. Traditional religious connections to marriage have been abandoned precisely for this reason because most of them preach that self-sacrifice and recognition that you are not the center of the universe is the true path to happiness .

    I have not given up hope, however. My kids are millennials and they understand the value of sacrificing for others and demonstrate that in their choices. Their friends seem to be on the right track, too.

  • smartsenior

    So many words spent on trying to figure out why young people eschew marriage. One word does it: DIVORCE. The boomers split their families up in enormous numbers after the advent of easy divorce. Today, all these kids were in a home of divorce or knew plenty of kids at school who were. The whole institution is unstable so why bother? Live together and split without courts makes a lot of sense. Also, never forget the modern influence of welfare which supports single mothers.

    • champ

      Especially true for men, as they usually end up getting screwed by the courts ina divorce…I know, it happened to me…

      • Micha_Elyi

        There’s hardly a young man in the US today who doesn’t personally know of a man who has been treated badly by the courts–all in service of the female who unilaterallly chose to divorce him. Most divorces are initiated by the female, 91% of the time it’s the female in control according to feminist Shere Hite.

    • Micha_Elyi

      Boomer-blaming is not smart, senior. You probably don’t even know who “the boomers” are. If you did, you’d have realized that it was the parents of boomers who “split their families up in enormous numbers after the advent of easy divorce”.

      P.S. Don’t say “single mothers” when you mean “unwed mothers”. You’re hiding unwed mothers behind the skirts of honorable widows.

  • Rick Caird

    Along these lines, it is pretty much impossible to know if a couple living together are married or not. It just seems to weird..

  • m a

    “….for their boyfriends, who in turn offer absolutely nothing.”

    Well, there you have it Ashley. When women view men as offering absolutely nothing and men know that’s what women think no matter what the man actually does, no matter what effort he makes-

    Why marry?

  • Chuck Hardin

    Ashley, if you have any more anti-male claims, such as that boyfriends offer “absolutely nothing,” I suggest you keep them behind your teeth. I also suggest you apologize for your misandristic silliness. The world in which you could get away with that nonsense is disappearing rapidly, superseded by a world in which you will be held responsible for your crap. Neither your God nor your husband can save you from that.

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    Military couples endure long separations as members get deployed, yet they raise children and endure as families under far more challenging circumstances than most people ever encounter.

  • jlord37

    “Boyfriends who offer them absolutely nothing “. Another feminist hiding behind the antifeminist, tradcon label. Yet another proffered that Nawalt is a myth.