Intersectional conflict in Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016)

The movie Moonlight follows the life of a young black child through adulthood and although it doesn't perfectly correlate with the contents of our course, I think it's important to discuss the elements within the movie that transcend boundaries of geography, race, culture and so on.

I saw the movie when it was first released in 2016 because I was a fan of Naomie Harris, who plays the protagonist's mother. That movie offered a perspective I didn't know I needed to see. It's one thing to be Black in America (ever), it's another to be gay (in the 80's or even now), and poverty has made life miserable for people since the beginning of time. This movie forces us to acknowledge themes of toxic masculinity among the Black community, homophobia and racism (among others) as they intersect in the body of a single individual. What's more important, in my opinion, is that Barry Jenkins does this in a way that maintains the humanity of the characters. He doesn't force intersectionality on his audience as a theory or an academic discipline, he simply presents to us the reality of what it means to be a complex individual reduced to binaries because of how rigidly the world around him perceives him.

It is the body of the individual that serves as the battleground for different faucets of identity. One does not have to be any one of these things (Black, gay, working-class) in order to relate to the experience of conflict and confusion. We experience it within ourselves in different ways: balancing the role of the dutiful daughter with the desire to be an opinionated woman; figuring out a traditional religious upbringing and how it can coexist with a newfound sexual identity; the desire to be a successful worldly woman conflicting with the guilt of not being a present mother. These are themes I have known throughout my life, these are themes that live in every individual, and this is what makes internal conflict so transcendental.

I think anyone who hasn't seen the film should give it a shot, it's well worth your time. Maybe (hopefully), you can relate to the film in ways that I can't, based on your life and it's difference from mine.


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