Savouring the fruits of the Guardian Masterclasses, YIRRAMBOI Blak Critic Davey Thompson takes a bit and offers insight into the 2017 Best Picture Oscar-winning film Moonlight
I was pretty underwhelmed by the end of Moonlight. It’s truly a great movie, but I have my reservations. What annoys me about this film is that it was sold to me as a ‘gay, black film’ and being a gay, black man you’d think this would be right up my alley.
In all honestly, it scrapes through by the skin of its teeth to qualify as ‘gay black film’ because it stars a ‘gay’ Black man (I’d say A-sexual, but that’s another conversation).
I saw Moonlight post-Oscars, excited to know that we’d infiltrated the system and to see what had finally won over the hearts of the Academy but I wanted our first award to go to something a bit more unique than Moonlight.
We are special, magical people and we deserve movies that show us as such. Moonlight presented nothing new that I hadn’t seen a cisgendered, caucasian hetero struggle with on film before. Call me elitist but I know we’re all much better than that.
I know there’s an audience of ‘cis-hets’ who loved the film and empathise with its characters, but this isn’t what you watch to try and understand what it’s like to be us. If you really want to feel like us, maybe watch Hidden Figures. The way those phenomenal women were expected to accept society’s blind, matter of fact prejudice towards them whilst lumping them with the same responsibilities as ‘the way things are’ reminds me of contemporary heteroes, sitting atop their status quo, abusing their breeder privilege by getting married at first sight for TV ratings. The same way they sit around and laugh off homophobic jokes instead of correcting them. The same way they stand by in the background of viral videos and watch while we get attacked for being who we are. We, as human beings are equal if not, greater than them, are expected to just smile and accept it as “the way it is” even though they hold the power to change it all for us.
That’s the level of storytelling I was expecting from Moonlight. Overall, I feel that Moonlight was a watered down version of the film Precious which attempted to cover a plethora of themes, but in a family-friendly way leaving it lacking any real weight.
My theory is that it’s delivered this way because a heterosexual audience is traumatised enough dealing with an honest portrayal of how they treat us and we can’t show them how incredible we are as well! Which leads me to ask why poverty porn like Moonlight won Best Picture when Precious, a film that holds much more depth and grit, didn’t get a look in with the Academy and lost out to Slumdog Millionaire. Perhaps it was a kneejerk reaction to #OscarsSoWhite perhaps Moonlight won on merit? Only the Academy will ever know.