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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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Havent watched the movie itself but movies like these are so so important. They go well and beyond just making room for discourse but also show the truth of such complicated aspects of existence.

Also the last paragraph really hit home, we watch things like these and just associate them as part of distant media, when conflict of identity is present everywhere and throughout us all.

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What a spectacular film. Well written, Asiya! The intersectional analysis in this film is truly brilliant. In my eyes, what makes Moonlight so relatable is the fact it is, above all, a film about coming of age and identity. Recently, on Twitter, there was a trend of people sharing their coming of age stories living in Pakistan; reading the vastly unique experiences of different people was such a rewarding experience. Watching the protagonist come of age in this film through the unique lenses of class, sexuality, and race is what makes this film a masterpiece.

Here's to hoping that something like Moonlight can come out of Pakistani cinema one day in our lifetimes!

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I think movies like this go a long way in explaining that intersectionality can go as far as to imply that no two individuals have the same experience. Two gay black men who are part of the working class in 1980's America may have a starkly different experience from each other because of one small factor. I think this makes studying experiences of individuals as part of a group incredibly difficult, and may also lead to implications for how education can be most effective based on different circumstances. Everyone is always trying so hard to fit people into neat little groups, but I don't think it can be done, and trying is in itself futile. Maybe we need to figure…

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