Hollywood is going through a transition period of diversification which sees black people writing, staring and producing, in films that are culturally specific to their black identities. It would be naive to assume that black representation in Hollywood is fairly depicted just because 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture 2013 and Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for her acting. However it shows that black identities are being represented in Hollywood, and not just in the classic black comedy, sort of way.
Moonlight chronicles the three stages of childhood, adolescence and adulthood, of a gay African-American man’s life growing up in a rough Miami neighbourhood. In the year that the Academy had the most diverse members in their history, Moonlight beat Academy favourite La La Land to Best Picture 2017. Some argued this was down to the diversification of the 683 Academy members who decide on the overall winners; however to suggest that a diverse group of members are prejudice to films based on their minority representation is demeaning to the quality of the films as a whole. The entire premise of the Academy is to recognise films that are categorically, the best of the best. Insinuating that films with black representation are being critically acclaimed just because they recognise and embody other ethnicities, works to suggest these films are not as worthy as their white counterparts. If this were the case 12 Years a Slave would not have won under an Academy made up of 93% white members.
Similarly, films which depict LGBTQ+ issues often portray more extreme LGBTQ+ matters, with the likes of Midnight Cowboy discussing male prostitution, Dallas Buyers Club addressing the 80’s HIV pandemic and Milk representing the Gay Rights movement. Moonlight differs by dealing with the more basic struggles of being gay by addressing, bullying, awkwardness and most pertinently, the loneliness that comes with developing through a queer childhood. Trevante Rhodes who plays the lead Chiron, described the script as uncharted territory. He said:
Moonlight perfectly deals with a number of issues surrounding growing up as a black gay man in modern America. Hollywood often portrays extreme gay issues and doesn’t touch on the simpler difficulties that every gay man deals with, such as realisation and acceptance of oneself. Moonlight expertly demonstrates wider issues of being a minority within a marginalised community, via the involvement of Chiron’s drug addicted mother and local drug dealers as father figures in deprived black America.
Moonlight’s sole purpose is representation. Playwrite Tarell Alvin McCarney said on writing the piece:
Within itself the LGBTQ+ community is often portrayed with togetherness and support, though it rarely discusses the loneliness that comes with discovering oneself as an outsider to the norm. Addressing such a simplistic theme, while reflecting the lives of many marginalised communities, the black, the LGBTQ+ and the underprivileged America, Moonlight has shown it is not only a film about diversity, but a film of quality.