Can’t tell you how happy I am for director Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew of Moonlight, which just took home the Best Picture Award a few days ago in this year’s Oscars. As you may recall, we covered his debut feature, Medicine For Melancholy, quite heavily, and I finally got to meet him in 2009 at the National Black Arts Festival, where I moderated a panel with him, Farai Chideya and Boston Fielder. So to see him go from that beautiful indie effort, grind it out for eight years, and then to generate all this acclaim with this film, well, I’m overjoyed.
I’m thrilled for what it will mean for him and his ability to continue making films and developing his vision. I’m thrilled that it is the first LGBTQ movie to win Best Picture. And Mahershala Ali becomes the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actor).
Does this mean things are going to be smooth sailing for black films, black directors or films about black queer people? Hardly. But while it may not be a seismic shift in the world order, Moonlight is still this year’s Best Picture. That means something. That’s inspiration for a lot of people, whether your black or queer or not. Even if you just wanted some assurance that the Academy could bless a small indie film over one that critics and audiences apparently have gone completely gaga over (La La Land), it’s encouraging.
Of course, let’s not forget all the work that the academy president, a black woman named Cheryl Boone Isaacs, has probably been doing behind the scenes for the past three years. Let’s not forget the impact of #OscarsSoWhite. My point: Never discount timing. This excellent film came along at the right moment.
All that said, all those involved should take advantage of every opportunity that this wonderful visibility brings. That includes the opportunity to lead a major fashion house’s Spring campaign.
One of my acquaintances tried to make the case that this effort purposely plays on the trope of hyper-sexual black man, that “black men are merely walking phalluses.” Okay, whatever. Historically, this has been true. And it’s actually on-point to remind us of the history. But, damn, most folks just wanted to enjoy and praise these handsome brothas! Even my wife said thank you when I posted the photos of Mahershala and briefs-clad Trevante on Facebook! It’s not like women (and men, for that matter) haven’t already noticed that these brothas were hot. Sometimes you just need to leave the Marxist, intersectional critique at home and let people enjoy themselves. To do otherwise is to throw a wet blanket on people’s fun. To do otherwise is to suggest that you’re the only woke muthafucka in the room, i.e., “people just don’t get it.” That’s a disservice to the intelligence of those around you. Believe me, there’s plenty of time ahead to deconstruct capitalism, racism and all the other ills that plague our society.
For now, just let people have a moment of unadulterated enjoyment.