Benjamin J. Dolan
Professor Channon Miller
History 226: African American
March 12th, 2019
The African American experience and the experiences of Homosexuals are rarely, if ever, portrayed by film. The fact that this movie was even allowed to be made should be celebrated and it shows that we have made some progress as a society. The Director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, illustrates a story about the life of Chiron, a Gay African American growing up in Miami. Jenkins does a phenomenal job of showing the struggles Chiron faces because of his race and because of his sexuality and allows the viewers to witness the negative aspects of being a minority.
Throughout the film, Chiron experiences tough times, but I noticed by the end of the film that there is one common theme that keeps occurring. There is one place that Chiron feels safe, without worry, and escapes his problems, and that place is water. We this in many parts of the film including with the ocean, the bathtub, the sink, and the numerous times we hear waves crashing when there is no ocean nearby. The first time we see the solitude found in water is when Juan, a father figure to Chiron, takes him to practice swimming in the ocean. Leading up to this point, Chiron had been quiet and struck with fear and uncertainty about himself, but in this moment swimming he finally feels somewhat free. To me, the ocean can be scary and uncertain, so in my mind the ocean represents how Chiron is uncertain and scared of his identity. He feels as if he is surrounded by so much negativity and there is nowhere to go but down. But, Juan shows him he can find peace in all of the chaos.
Another example of water giving Chiron solitude is when he finds his mom passed out from drugs that he boils water on the stove top and uses dish soap to make a bubble bath. Considering he had to put in so much effort to make the bubble bath in a moment of pain, you can tell he finds sanctuary in the water. Throughout the movie, including in his dreams, he finds calmness when waves are heard. Perhaps he finds peace with his identity as a Gay African American in these moments? I think so. It also may not be a coincidence that he has his first romantic encounter with another Gay African American on the beach next to the water.
This film gives me a connection to how enslaved African American felt during slavery. In Moonlight, especially after he is beaten up by his friend Kevin, Chiron is stripped of everything. He has no money, no identity, no opportunity to progress, and all because of unfair treatment due to his race and ethnicity. He is taken away and he has to start his life over, with only little assistance. This reminds me of how slaves felt, but to our class specifically, Cudjo Lewis. Cudjo also has everything stripped like all slaves did. He has no identity or finances or support system or opportunity. This connects to Black History Month because it shows us the inequality that African Americans still face, and a lot the things they face are similar to the struggles they had during slavery. But, in the end Cudjo finds a way to tell his story through being interviewed and Moonlight is able to tell Chiron’s story.
It is also good to mention the inequality of society raised in the film. Chiron already lives in a society that isn’t accepting of African Americans and Gays, but on top of that he, like most African Americans, is put into a cycle that packs minorities together into low opportunity neighborhoods and schools and eventually leads those kids to have to raise their families in the same places. This is the reason why many become stuck in the “trapping” game, because there isn’t anywhere else to go. This is unfortunate because Chiron ends up being forced through poor unsupervised schooling, then Juvenile Hall, then back to the streets.
This film was very important to me, because it makes me feel upset with society, yet it gives me hope because this movie was even allowed to be show, let alone win best picture. This film hits on the hardships of the African American experience, while also showing the unique life a Gay African American. I really hope I get to read and hear about what other students thought about the film in class.
Word Count: 758