Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Takes Issue with Academy Award Nominated La La Land and It's Bigoted Message

February 19th, 2017 12:40 AM

In case you missed it, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined The Hollywood Reporter as a contributing editor. Under such arrangement, he’ll write a regular column and conduct celebrity interviews. 

His first column set be featured in THR’s February 24 print publication (currently available online), talking race, history, romance and the “bigoted” message of the Academy Award nominated movie musical La La Land.

The movie stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress who falls in love with a struggling musician (played by Ryan Gosling) who hopes to one day open his own jazz club. Abdul-Jabbar claims to be a huge fan of the movie musical, calling it “bold, daring and deserving of all its critical and financial success,” but took issue with the movie’s “portrayal of jazz, romance and people of color.”

One issue in particular that “disturbed” Abdul-Jabbar was with the character Keith (played by the talented singer/songwriter John Legend), a jazz musician who Abdul-Jabbar calls a “sell-out” who “has corrupted jazz into a diluted pop pablum” because of mainstream success, compared to the passionate and authentic jazz musician played by Gosling: “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.”

Abdul-Jabbar also noted writer-director Damien Chazelle’s portrayal jazz history and lack of black figures in that history:

No, I don’t think the film needs more black people…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.

“Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, that sends a bigoted message rippling through our society.”