FILM POLITICS--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has shared some incredibly poignant thoughts on the way Oscar-favorite “La La Land” handles its black characters.
The critically-acclaimed film stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress who falls in love with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling musician with dreams of opening his own jazz club one day.
In an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, Abdul-Jabbar praises the film for being “bold, daring and deserving of all its critical and financial success,” but points out that it has a few weaknesses, specifically “its portrayal of jazz, romance and people of color.”
The NBA icon thinks the film’s biggest fault is in its only main black character Keith (John Legend), a jazz musician who has found success in the mainstream.
“No, I don’t think the film needs more black people,”Abdul-Jabbar explains.
“Writer-director Damien Chazelle should tell the story as he sees fits with whatever ethnic arrangement he desires. However, it is fair to question his color wheel when it involves certain historical elements — such as jazz.”
Abdul-Jabbar goes on to add that he’s “disturbed” by the fact that the only major black character in the film is portrayed as “the musical sellout,” while Gosling’s character is seen as more authentic and more passionate about jazz.
“It’s not that a black man can’t be the sellout or the drug dealer, it’s just that they shouldn’t be if they’re the only prominent black character in the story,” he says.
“Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, that sends a bigoted message rippling through our society.”
“La La Land” is currently the favorite to win Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, where it leads with 14 nominations.
(Zeba Blay is culture writer for Huff Post … where this piece was first posted.)