The Collegian
Friday, April 19, 2024

OPINION: The real reason behind Moonlight’s Oscar win

What are the true implications of a film about a gay black man winning the award for Best Picture?

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor's note: The Collegian allowed the following piece to be written anonymously at the request of the writer and because of what the editors agreed were special circumstances. 

Alex R. Hibbert’s character, Chiron, stood on the beach, his back to the audience. He was basked in moonlight and blue darkness, the camera slowly zooming closer and closer to his back. As the camera continues to creep towards him, Hibbert suddenly looks over his shoulder and stares at the audience. Then, the screen goes black.

I exhaled, not realizing that I had been holding in my breath the whole time.

“Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins, enchanted me from start to finish.

The film tells the story of Chiron, a young black boy from Miami, Florida, as he grows up and struggles with his sexuality, his relationship with his crack-addicted mother and his difficulty adhering to society’s strict rules surrounding masculinity.

The film has been praised for multiple reasons. From its mastery of various filming techniques to its critically acclaimed soundtrack, the film won the hearts of critics everywhere -- even earning a rare 97 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was so well-received, in fact, that it won the Oscar for Best Picture last month.

I was won over by the beautiful acting and the film’s relatability to my own life. I felt a personal connection with Chiron, a person of color struggling to accept his sexuality, and his rejection by his peers.

To me, “Moonlight” was clearly the best film of the year. Nevertheless, one thought has been bothering me. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has historically been composed of white, cis-gender, heterosexual men.

This makes me wonder:

Did “Moonlight” win Best Picture at the Oscars because it was truly the best film of the year? Or did it win because of the current political climate and the backlash the academy received, in years previous, for its lack of diversity?

I mentioned that I loved the film because I related to it. It was the first time I had watched a film with a queer person of color as the lead. Even though this film focuses on the black queer experience, it is still representative of a minority group within a minority group.

As a queer Asian I could relate to many aspects of “Moonlight,” but what about the academy?

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How did the academy connect with the film? How did a group of older, straight, cis-white men relate to a film about a young, gay, poor black person? What about “Moonlight” moved the members of the academy? Was the academy simply playing the role of “white savior” once again?

In my opinion, the members of the academy could never truly connect with the film. For this reason, I believe the film won Best Picture in order to placate critics of white-washed, homogenous Hollywood.

With these thoughts in mind, it almost invalidates the symbolism behind the win. To me, “Moonlight” is deserving of the award in all aspects, and this is not just my opinion. Film critics around the world have given the film their stamp of approval. People have raved about how much “progress” this film’s win means to Hollywood.

But isn’t this win just another attempt to quiet the disenfranchised?

What is the point of having diverse films in Hollywood if those in charge of recognizing them are part of the dominant culture?

It’s almost as if the academy was saying, “Oh, the minorities are complaining again. Let’s give this film Best Picture so they stop questioning the lack of inclusion in the academy.”

We must be vocal about this injustice.

We cannot become complacent just because a couple of films with minority leads won awards this year. We have to fight until the whole academy is restructured to be more inclusive of underrepresented groups. Do not let this win distract you from the greater problem in Hollywood.

I want to see more black and African American people, more Asians, more Latinos, more Native Americans, more queers, more women, more everyone in the academy. We should be recognized by our peers and not by one group in our society.

We are talented beyond belief, and we should be able to recognize this and reward ourselves for it.

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