OPINION: Importance of “Moonlight” Goes Beyond Oscar Win

Juan (Mahershala Ali) cradles Chiron (Alex Hibbert) in "Moonlight" - Photo courtesy of A24

By Bree Stephen and Crystal Milner
BU News Service

Black art is capable of presenting a worldview that the mainstream would often not see, let alone, experience or begin to understand.

After 89 ceremonies, just 20 Academy Awards have been given to Black art and artists, with “Moonlight” being the first to win Best Picture. Four of these 20 were awarded at the 2017 Academy Awards last Sunday: “Moonlight” as Best Picture, Viola Davis as Best Supporting Actress, Mahershala Ali as Best Supporting Actor and “O.J. Made in America” (directed by Ezra Edelman) as Best Documentary.

Is this the start of true progression, or is the Academy attempting to pacify the #OscarsSoWhite baby? After receiving criticisms for two straight years nominating only white actors, it is hard not to question whether the Academy saw the true value in films like Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight or whether this a one and done in response to being called out by marginalized communities.

Deserving of its Best Picture nomination and victory, Moonlight is a stunningly shot film with a gripping commentary on Black masculinity and its intersectionality with homosexuality. The plot follows Chiron from his childhood to adulthood. Chiron is raised by a mother with a drug addiction, but finds solace in a loving home with Juan and Teresa serving as a better parental core in a rough Miami neighborhood during the 1980s.

In addition to his tumultuous relationship with his mother, Chiron also struggles to find his identity and understand his sexuality. Moonlight opens a nuanced discussion of bisexuality, homosexuality, and a fresh explanation of masculinity in a community whose culture often doesn’t leave room for discussion on the topic.

But how many “La La Land” story-lines have we seen? The 2116 awards given out after 89 ceremonies (yes, we counted) can provide that answer.

The Oscars have always been the pinnacle of theater accolades. They have held their spot as the be-all-end-all of film ceremonies, with minority groups begging for acceptance, inclusion, and recognition.

Communities of color are on the right track with creating and maintaining their own award shows to honor the art that conveys their human experience. Why is that not enough?

Every year networks host award shows like the NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, AAFCA (African American Film Critics Association Awards), etc. to honor films and other forms of art. For us and by us.
The Oscars are given so much weight, at the expense of said black (and other minority) award shows because that is what society has conditioned the masses to believe. To level the playing field, give these focused award shows the weight that they deserve because in its creation, they loved and appreciated all works of art: Make every award an “Oscar.”

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