It is common knowledge that the events people experience shape them as they grow older. “Moonlight” is the story of a young man, struggling to establish his identity while growing up during the “War on Drugs” era. While coming to terms with his sexuality, he struggles living in dysfunctional environments. “Moonlight” does several things right, Barry Jenkins captures the essence of perseverance through three chapters of Chiron’s life. These chapters give us insight into his development as a black man in America.
“Moonlight” chooses a different approach to tell the black experience. It brings the essence of the original stage play character to life. The audience gets to admire Chiron’s bravery as he experiences seemingly impossible situations. Chiron shares a similar name and experience with a Ancient Greek mythologic centaur. Both Chirons are considered outsiders among their peers and were abandoned by their mothers. In Greek mythology, Chiron is fostered by the gods Apollo and Artemis, who school him in the arts of medicine and music. In “Moonlight”, Chiron finds Juan and Teresa to provide solace and a normal upbringing.
What stands out about Chiron is his continuous determination. His ability to understand himself while dealing with bullying, a drug addict mother, and an absent father is nothing short of commendable. “Moonlight” is the story that our generation needs to see, it educates and appreciates without generalizing. The film made many appreciate seeing people who look like them on the screen.
Critics say “Moonlight” is not doing anything that has not been done before. They claim that Hollywood recycles the same character archetypes for black males.
— IMFREEPROJECT (@imfreeproject) January 13, 2017
Some people are saying this movie is still perpetuating stereotypes, with a different spin, to cater to the current social climate of the country. However, by addressing these stereotypes, “Moonlight” allows the audience to see past them. We begin to see the characters as humans with their own unique flaws and positive attributes. There is much more to Juan, Chiron’s surrogate father, than meets the eye. By diving into these African American cliches, “Moonlight” works to shatter them.
Mahershala states that people aren’t always black and white. These characters are not the same characters we see in other movies because they show versatility. “Moonlight” shows that people are not inherently good or bad. Even those who do bad things can still treat people with dignity and respect. It’s message is preaching for tolerance, not just telling a story that has been told before.
Is the above picture representative of scenes that you often see in Hollywood? If not, Moonlight is a film working to change that. This movie is attempting to highlight and correct the problem with representation in Hollywood.
In the words of A.O. Scott, “To say that these characters humanize Juan is to get it exactly backward. Nobody in Juan’s situation is any but human…Moonlight dwells on the dignity, beauty and terrible vulnerability of black bodies, on the existential and physical matter of black lives.“
A lesson from #Moonlight – I hope creatives of color will be as bold and specific in their vision. Fuck being "universal" – tell your story.
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) January 9, 2017
Despite critiques, “Moonlight” is recognized as a film that has affected millions. Through it’s core, it celebrates diversity in people.