The Oscar-winning film “Moonlight” : A masterclass in masculine fragility

"Runnin' around, catching up all that light.  In moonlight, black boys look blue. You blue, that's what I'm gon' call you." - Moonlight (2016)

February 14, 2023

The art of dramatic film has been explored and ripened throughout modern movie history, but no movie has arguably left the same mark on contemporary films as Barry Jenkins’ Oscar award-winning film, Moonlight (2016).

Moonlight follows a young black boy named Chiron living in the ghetto of Miami in the mid-80s. The screenplay follows his life in three distinct acts. Each serves in contrast to one another.

We follow Chiron through his turbulent life, from child to teenager to adult, Throughout the film we see him develop as he begins to wholly suppress his identity in favor of being accepted, at the cost of happiness. At the film’s end, he finally finds closure and begins his path to being authentic.

The resolution is simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching and forces the viewers to reflect and wonder, “why did it take so long?” 

The art of dramatic film is wielded masterfully by Jenkins, and he uses it to illustrate the fragility of man. Chiron is a representative case of a victim of society, and more specifically, a victim of masculinity. His character explores the lived experience of a man who doesn’t naturally subscribe to a lot of society’s expectations for what it means to be a man. This is only amplified by the fact that he was raised in a lower-income, black neighborhood.

In the black community, you don’t really fit as a man if you don’t do things like fight or act tough, so it’s refreshing to see a manifestation of that in film such as Moonlight.

— Senior Kimani Hanson

Due to generational discrimination in the black community, the expectation for men is even more rigid and inflexible. So, as Chiron grows up, he is forced into a box where he believes he will  only accepted if he is tough, aggressive, wealthy, and stoic. As he begins to subscribe more and more to this facade, he realizes that his faux lifestyle is making him depressed and unfulfilled. The path that Chiron takes reflects that of many men of color, and shows how embracing one’s fragility can lead to discovering one’s identity and reveal the path to discovery. 

Moonlight is a study of a man’s relationship with masculinity, and how shutting out one’s sense of authenticity can lead them to a dark, morose place. Jenkins utilizes Chiron to teach an indisputable truth about African American culture and wider society and skillfully uses lived experience to warn against the dangers of toxic masculinity in America’s young black boys. 

You can watch this modern classic on Kanopy, Paramount Plus, Spectrum TV, SHOWTIME, Showtime Anytime, The Roku Channel, Redbox., Prime Video, Vudu, or Apple TV.

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