‘Moon­light’ shines through all the shade

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“Black gay ex­cel­lence – the first all-black cast, and the first LGBT-themed movie to rise to the top of the in­dus­try – was un­der­mined and over­shad­owed, with news re­ports start­ing with de­tails of the on­stage chaos, then tran­si­tion­ing to the in­di­vid­ual awards won by ‘La La Land,’ while a seg­ment of black folks be­moan Hol­ly­wood cel­e­brat­ing the sup­posed emas­cu­la­tion of black man­hood.”

It feels like “Moon­light” has bro­ken my heart ev­ery other beat for the past few months. I was deliri­ous when I re­served seats for an ad­vance screen­ing, hence my friend and I mak­ing it to the ticket-taker at At­lantic Sta­tion’s Re­gal 16 be­fore I looked at the print­out and re­al­ized we were sup­posed to be at the AMC 14 at Phipps Plaza.

By the time we ar­rived at Phipps, there was a line of about 100 peo­ple with “reser­va­tions” try­ing to get into the al­ready full the­ater. The de­jec­tion I felt that night was mild com­pared to how my spirit sank upon walk­ing in the the­ater when the movie opened in At­lanta a week later.

Given the over­flow crowd at the screen­ing, along with the ex­cite­ment sat­u­rat­ing my so­cial me­dia feeds, I braced my­self to search for bad seat­ing when my friend and I walked in the the­ater as the pre­views were start­ing. But there were only about a dozen peo­ple in the seats, plus a sim­i­lar num­ber who trick­led in dur­ing the first act of the movie.

It hurt that so few peo­ple might hear such a poignant mes­sage, that an artis­tic state­ment you were pas­sion­ately an­tic­i­pat­ing was of no con­cern to most peo­ple, be­cause most peo­ple aren’t all that aware of, or in­ter­ested in, the ex­pe­ri­ences of black gay men.

Ev­ery scene and sto­ry­line of “Moon­light” rocked my soul dur­ing that ini­tial view­ing, in the cat­e­gories fea­tured at awards shows, and the fa­mil­iar crises that mir­rored el­e­ments of my ado­les­cence and young adult­hood. The emo­tions were as pow­er­ful each time I took a new set of friends to the the­ater, and the seats were just as sparsely filled.

Although I didn’t mea­sure the film’s worth by its box of­fice draw, it was dis­ap­point­ing to re­al­ize that there would be no “Broke­back”-level buzz among main­stream LGBT me­dia and culture, and that the movie would go un­seen by a ma­jor­ity of black folks who posted about #Os­carsSoWhite ear­lier in the year. In that way, “Moon­light” was an apt metaphor for how black gay men are ig­nored by both those com­mu­ni­ties, let alone broader so­ci­ety.

It’s now sym­bolic of larger dis­con­nects af­ter the snafu dur­ing the Best Picture pre­sen­ta­tion at the Os­cars, which seemed to be a dram­edy of in­com­pe­tence rather than a racist con­spir­acy to un­der­mine black gay ex­cel­lence. Still, black gay ex­cel­lence – the first all-black cast, and the first LGBTthemed movie to rise to the top of the in­dus­try – was un­der­mined and over­shad­owed, with news re­ports start­ing with de­tails of the on­stage chaos, then tran­si­tion­ing to the in­di­vid­ual awards won by “La La Land,” while a seg­ment of black folks be­moan Hol­ly­wood cel­e­brat­ing the sup­posed emas­cu­la­tion of black man­hood.

Through it all, “Moon­light” stands as Best Picture, fill­ing my heart anew ev­ery other beat. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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