Damien Chazelle’s 2016 film La La Land was received with critical acclaim due to the visual, emotional, and musical spectacle it provided to audiences that were clearly reminiscent of the Golden Age American musical film. The film was wildly popular with critics as it was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won six. The film also grossed nearly $450 million, making it culturally popular in a market dominated by the millennial generation. I conducted three separate analyses to determine how a film which relies so heavily on the nostalgia of 50s and 60s Hollywood as well as a dormant genre could be so popular with both young and old audiences. I carried out a close reading analysis of the film, a genre analysis comparing the film to the musical genre, and a contemporary cultural analysis, addressing how Chazelle’s messages are encoded and decoded in relation to the culture in which they were produced and disseminated. My study helped me determine that the source of the film’s dual-popularity can be found in its thematic and narrative subversions of the genre. While the first half of the film is heavily reliant on the traditional narrative and thematic structures of the traditional musical’s love story, the second half of the film depicts the collapse of the romantic relationship in favor of the each of the two lovers’ personal career aspirations. The latter half of the film relates strongly to millennial thoughts and feelings regarding personal success and the priorities of personal stability over romantic endeavors. While relating strongly to the millennial generation, popular criticism argues that the film also ignores many of the issues that the millennial generation cares about such as minority and gender equality, and for that reason should not be held in such high cultural regard.


Atay, Ahmet


Communication Studies; Film Studies


Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | Film and Media Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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