No Show for Oscar Winner for Best Picture "Moon Light"
By: McKeith Pearson II
When I initially saw the trailer for Moonlight I couldn’t believe my eyes. Someone was finally making a movie where the main character was a black man struggling with his sexuality, and by extension, his masculinity. I knew I had to see this movie. Too bad that the ole’ faithful Lafayette/West Lafayette movie theatres continue to conveniently not to show any movies about important black issues, but I digress. Basically, I ended up going to Chicago to go see the movie.
The movie begins with Chiron (nicknamed Little) being taunted and called faggot by a group of boys led by the main bully, Terrel. The group of boys are sent away by a middle-aged man named Juan, which Chiron befriends. Juan seemed like the perfect father figure, a good guy. That is, until we find out that Juan is the drug dealer that had been selling crack to Chiron’s addicted mother. Once Chiron finds this out, he never sees Juan again.
As a teenager, Chiron has his first sexual encounter with Kevin, his childhood friend. This was the most uncomfortably tense scene in the movie. You could see the fear in Chiron’s eyes as Kevin leans in to give him his first kiss. It seemed like a good beginning to Chiron coming to terms with who he is. Unfortunately, Kevin is forced to knock Chiron out after being peer pressured by Terrel. The next day Chiron lashes out at Terrel by hitting him in the back with a wooden chair.
Fast forward to adulthood we see a completely different Chiron. His now a muscular, drug dealer in Atlanta. We find out that Juan has been killed and his mother is in a rehabilitation center. Chiron decides to come back after he gets a call from Kevin, who now works at a diner in Miami. He visits his mother first and they have heart-to-heart about their relationship as mother and son. He then reluctantly visits Kevin, who cooks him a meal and apologizes for what happened when they were in school. Chiron explains to Kevin how he hadn’t had sex with anyone other than him and the movie ends with Chiron laying his head on Kevin’s shoulder.
I came to watch this movie with the impression that I would be able to relate more to Chiron as a black man struggling with his sexuality, but instead I found that I could barely relate to him at all. My mother was not addicted to crack, I did not sell drugs, and although I come from a neighborhood where hearing gunshots and seeing drugs being sold to prostitutes and addicts was normal, my mother made sure that I did not hang around anyone who would influence me to join a gang. Chiron, in my opinion, grew up living in an exceptionally bad environment that some children are going through as you read this very sentence. At least I would like to think that Chiron’s situation is an extreme example. I honestly could not tell you how many closeted black men are out there in the same predicament as Chiron.
The biggest difference between Chiron and me that I had a stable home and loving parents. In fact, at 14 years old I came out to my parents. However, much like Chiron, I did not fit in with the other guys in secondary school because they could tell I was different. I was often teased and called a nerd, a faggot, a white-boy, or a faggot-ass white-boy. I hated myself for a long time. I desperately wanted to fundamentally change everything about who I was. In Chiron’s case, I am not sure that we really learned anything about who he was as a person. I couldn’t tell you what he wanted to be, what his biggest fears were, or anything. Chiron is mostly quiet throughout the entire movie, not really wanting to make conversation with anyone. In fact, it becomes disappointingly clear that by the time he is an adult that he doesn’t even know himself. I am not even sure that he even identifies as LGBTQ since he never discusses his sexuality. Would Chiron have turned out the way he did had it not been for the persistent bullying and neglect from his mother? I think that the director, Barry Jenkins, made Chiron so reserved and un-relatable to show how years of trying to fit in reduces most men, LGBTQ or straight, to emotionless, unhappy individuals.
I would not say that Moonlight had a happy ending, which is another reason why I liked the movie. A happy ending makes the viewers feel as if everything turned out right in the end, when that is rarely ever the case. It becomes painfully obvious for most young black men that either you are a man or you are a bitch/pussy/faggot. Most try to be, or at least exude, the former. Even in 2017 there are thousands of young black men that will never confront their sexuality because of religious/social pressure. I can not tell you how many times my closeted friends have told me that they probably were going to end up with a woman—that they were just having fun now being with men.
Here at Purdue I have had trouble making friends with straight black men. Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely made friends, and most individual black men I have met have no outward issue with me being gay. However, I have noticed that Purdue’s black fraternities seriously lack sexual diversity. I am not criticizing any one fraternity, and I am most definitely not saying that all black greek life treats members of the LGBTQ the same. But try and name an openly gay black student at Purdue that is in a black fraternity. I’ll wait as you think of maybe one, and any other names that come to your head would be just one of many rumors. Now ask yourself why is it that there are so few if any? This may just be me, but I get the impression that black fraternities have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. It may not be the case, but as I said that is the impression that I get. I personally have tried to join one of the black fraternities during my sophomore year. I told the president that I was openly gay and proud. He told me that he didn’t personally have a problem with it, but he could not say the same for the other members.
I would like to think that most members of black community, especially the are younger generations, are beginning to challenge this childish concept of what it means to be a man in this world. It would be great if black Purdue could have more discussions about gender roles. I did not mean to leave out black women in my article to intentionally exclude black women. I can only comfortably speak about my experience as a black gay man, but I hope that there will be more mainstream movies like Moonlight that deals with being black, female, and LGBTQ. I would like to think that someday soon we as black people can start to eliminate the toxic effects that come with putting unnecessary social pressures on young children, no matter what their identity.