I'm Black, But I'm Not Applauding Moonlight

6 months ago
A24/Plan B Entertainment/Pastel Productions

I could not care less the creators and cast of Moonlight are Black. I will believe we are getting somewhere in America when a married Black couple fighting to make it and intelligent, educated Black women working are the surprise Oscar winners of the night.

An epic 3-hour movie like 2015's Boyhood, filmed over 12 years of watching real White actors grow older as a family by the year, was not good enough to be an American boy coming-of-age story to win Best Picture.

So how does a 110-minute, low-budget movie that uses three separate Black actors to chart a Black male drug dealer coming-of-age sexually-repressed and abused in several scenes qualify? After Halle Berry and Mo'nique were traumatizing their Black child in Monster's Ball and Precious, I was satisfied that story of us was covered. This is now overkill.

Even Moonlight's main actress said she was not enthused about yet another negative portrayal of Black women blasted out on film. My question is: Why is everyone else so excited? This is not an exploration of Black pain and sexuality as portrayed by 12 Years a Slave, intent on showing what Blacks were held captive within. Moonlight shows Black people who willingly make poor decisions that hurt themselves and other people for life. The fact there are astonishing directorial and cinematic glossings do not change this fact. 

There were two better Black-cast/themed films to be honored as a Best Picture of 2016. If Fences or Hidden Figures had made the headlines, I would gladly clap and celebrate The Academy and America for reversing its racism.

But how many times are messed-up Black women and abused Black children elevated on screens around the world? How many times are whole Black families' and intelligent Black women's stories not good enough? How many times are the damaged, weakened and unconscious Blacks in America put on a pedestal as the best art?

I understand the Moonlight director's and original playwright's personal life stories are important. I do not blame or fault them for barriers erected long before their film. I would have enjoyed seeing a film about their lives right now.

August Wilson is an heroic American playwright, but still struggling to make it into classroom textbooks alongside Eugene O'Neil and Arthur Miller. His Fences is one of the most enduring, time-honored American stories ever told- for people of any race. No matter how poor and defeated they are, his characters make honest livings and fight for the American Dream the right way. Its family and characters, though flawed, are unified.

Viola Davis, who won Best Supporting Actress for playing the wife and mother in Fences, has played a drug addict who neglected her son. Denzel Washington directed her in this role in The Antwoine Fisher Story. The son indicts her for leaving him in harm's way to figure out on his own how to make something of himself. But this film, which acknowledges a community's weaker members but spotlights the stronger ones who build it, received no Oscar nominations.

Hidden Figures has actual star power, led by excellent veteran Oscar nominees and even a winner. The Black female characters in both movies carry themselves with strength and grace. They are smart and spiritual. They respect their bodies. They guard their children fiercely. They are respected pillars of their communities. In Fences, the Black son of a woman like this goes on to serve his country and return a mature, whole man.

It is just the same old same old.

Black Americans must be messed up, promiscuous, abused, violent, on drugs or selling them for mass celebration in Hollywood. They can creak by playing Mammies and slaves or tragic heroes of history, but never educated or empowered Black people regularly played by Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Sanaa Lathan and so many more we never see at the Oscars.

The pretend liberal population- rampant in Hollywood- loves to fast-track images of pathology, violence, hypersexuality, drugs and confusion with black and brown faces on screens around the world. Then they can stand up, pat themselves on the back and take credit that their benevolence and good mercy has helped the poor chirren who have such a tragic life to live. In reality, they avoid those communities and their people like the plague.

I would not be clapping for Moonlight if I was LGBQ or T either.

I loved the 2014 Cannes Palme d'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color, though I could understand the actresses' complaints about extended love scenes the director forced on them. It would have been an entirely different film if the couple had been surrounded by beatings, drugs and mental abuse. Something tells me these are not circumstances a studio would fund to show White women and girls falling in love with each other or coming of age sexually.

I would have applauded a film where a Black boy discovered himself and his sexuality without sanitized mentors who sell drugs, a scary mother who abuses him into funding her drugs and a life of crime waiting to supply drugs to other Black mothers like his own.

25 years from now, a new generation will still have no clue who August Wilson or Katharine Johnson are. However, they will have a "classic" Best Picture still popping up. It will use pretty arthouse shots and soaring classical music to show them Black women were crackheads who neglected and abused their sons to grow up into emotionally-damaged drug dealers. This has got to stop. I loved Moonlight as a movie to talk about after a Saturday night date- not something to memorialize for all time as a story of my people, our history and our artistry. 

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