I recently watched La La Land (like three times). By the third time I was able to sit through it without crying hysterically (seriously. I thought I was going to be escorted out of the cinema the first two times). Needless to say—the movie had a PROFOUND effect on me, which I wasn’t expecting AT ALL.
This means you can expect to find more La La Land references in future posts, but, for now, I want to cover ONE thing that COMPLETELY smacked me upside the head in the film.
It was one line in one song…
“AND THAT’S WHY THEY NEED US.”
Without going into spoiler territory, it’s a line from a song called FOOLS WHO DREAM, which is sung by Emma Stone’s character Mia, who’s telling a story about her aunt, who was an actress with a traveling theatre.
SOOO… why the waterworks?
For years now I’ve been very clear with those who have asked about my writing that I DON’T write literary fiction.
“I just write for fun,” I tell them cheerily.
“I just write commercial fiction,” I say with a self-sacrificing smile.
“I just write to entertain,” I add, sweeping my stories away as fluff to fill an afternoon.
That simple word “JUST” completely devalues both my stories AND commercial fiction, as if they don’t contribute a lick to the world. I seem to forget in these self-effacing moments that many classics began their life as commercial fiction—like anything by Jane Austen—and modern classics too—like Harry Potter.
I grew up largely reading commercial fiction—stories that were both inspired AND inspiring and that not only entertained, but taught me about life—relationships, problem solving, empathy. MOST OF ALL, these were the stories that nurtured my love of books and of writing.
So, WHY do I think my books are any different?
My epiphany arrived at the theatrical climax—when Stone sang:
She told me:
A bit of madness is key;
To give us new colors to see.
Who knows where it will lead us?
AND THAT’S WHY THEY NEED US.
So, bring on the rebels;
The ripples from pebbles;
The painters, and poets, and plays.
And here’s to the fools who dream;
Crazy as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that break.
Here’s to the mess we make.
These words drove home that my books ARE needed—the way I needed all of those books I read as a kid and then as a teen and now as an adult. Just because a book is commercial fiction and therefore labeled ENTERTAINMENT, rather than EDUCATION, it doesn’t mean you won’t carry it around in your head AND your heart for years after.
I won’t even go into the rest of the effect the lyrics had on me—touching on the highs and lows of being an artist. I’ve actually been called ridiculous behind my back (and many other things in reviews) for being a writer, but now I’m quite happy to claim the title of FOOL.
There are many people who can write books—some better than others and some better than me—but I’m the only person who can write MY books—books that give my readers new colours to see.
AND THAT’S WHY THEY NEED ME.