Moonlight: The sea unravels

Image: Cynthia Via

When I first saw the trailer for Moonlight it caught me off guard. I immediately felt intrigued by the quiet scenes, the slowness of the dialogue clouded  in dark blue and green hues. Most of the characters on screen were male, but it always went back to a young black boy and Mahershala Ali, who played Juan, and seemed to be the wise friend.

Moonlight, directed by Jenkins, chronicles Chiron’s childhood, through adolescence and adulthood. The character is played by three actors (Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes). We don’t get every detail of Chiron’s life, but only the major turn of events. Every scene is part of a chapter or a change, and the gaps are left for us to imagine an unraveling that leads to the next chapter. The empty spaces in between each new chapter carry on the emotions to the next event. The film is about discovering your place in the world, who you are, and while for others it may come easily, the search for Chiron is a long and meaningful journey.

In one scene Juan takes Chiron to the beach and teaches him the basic lessons of swimming, as a father would, lifting him so he can float in the coolness of the water. In more ways than one, Juan is the only person, who can keep him afloat in a world where few understand the boy. Chiron is bullied in school by a classmate who questions Chiron’s masculinity. At home, he arrives to a mother who is usually drugged out on her own or drugged out with male company. He doesn’t have anyone to turn to for support except Juan and Teresa, played by Janelle Monáe, who lives not far from Chiron’s apartment complex. He has questions about his sexuality, but he rather hide behind silence then become ostracized by the people who put their masculinity on display, as a kind of test to weaken him. By rebelling in a quiet, conforming way, he is inviting people to pry him open and judge him.

The score of the film draws you to the urgency being felt by the characters on-screen in moments of raw clarity. Some of the best scenes are accompanied by the sound of the beach at night, the waves clashing somewhere far, the moon illuminating dark corridors, the palm trees swooning, the humid days where people are out in the streets. You can feel this hot place in the agitated moments when Chiron’s mother is in the middle of a drug-fueled argument in the heat of the night or when Chiron is walking home from a rough day in the Florida sun, and he is met with the teasing of a bully.

Chiron has a quiet demeanor and feels out of place. He never answers with more than one or two words, and even when adults bribe him with a hot meal, he still only says a few words, leaving a feeling of sadness and uncertainty in the observer. Juan and Teresa want to help him; they listen and are there for him, which is sometimes enough. Often more is said with fewer words, but the emotions expressed by the character’s actions, leave you wishing he could express those thoughts hovering above him during his interactions, especially when he stands across an old friend he hasn’t spoken to since since high school.

As an observer Chiron’s silence feels like a burden that we all carry, and when it ends you wish he could have said more, but it’s possible silence was his only defense.

Bad Feminist


This is how I feel on some days.

There’s no better time to talk about Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay. It’s a sound way to combat the idiocy. Once again we find ourselves in the whirlpool of misogynistic language. Just last week, not only did the Republicans try to defund Planned Parenthood, but also forced a 5-hour hearing on a well known organization that provides medical services especially in low-income areas. The hearing was filled with inaccuracies, ignorant remarks towards women and fake graphs that don’t prove anything—except that republicans want to control women’s bodies.

Republicans have gone as far as shutting down the government to meet their goal of defunding PP with the argument that they have increased abortion services. It’s become the go-to talking point for the circus party. But people are already seeing the cracks in their argument. Abortions is not the only service PP provides. Out of 10 million services yearly, 4.4 million are related to STD, 3.5 million for birth-control, a 1 million for pregnancy tests, and so on. Abortions only make up about 3 percent of PP’s work. Even so federal funds don’t pay for abortions directly, and other services are paid through a Medicaid reimbursement after services have been given, not before.

Bad Feminist resurfaced many thoughts I’ve had over the years, watching the bullshit on cable news and what we hear from our elected officials. Gay presents emphatic arguments on gender, sexuality, race, and what it means to be a feminist. Bad Feminist gets at the core of being a women or simply a human asking for respect and acknowledgment of our worth.

Most of the writing I’ve read on these topics are usually academic or journalistic—not to say they’re not enriching, but it often lacks a contemporary style. Gay is opinionated but also uses factual information, and personal anecdotes, making the tone wiry and funny. It points to the hypocritical nature of society, and the barriers left to overcome, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about what it means to be a feminist, and how it’s portrayed as a man-hating, militant ideology. Put simply: women want to be treated like human beings—not second-rate citizens. There was an anti-feminist trend going around twitter sometime ago, where females praised themselves for not needing feminism. Some chose not to be called a feminist for fear of alienating men. There’s a misconception that feminists hate men and want nothing to do with them. Recently Meryl Streep said, she doesn’t consider herself a feminist but instead a humanist; she likes an “easy balance.” Why should we care anyway? She’s clearly part of the tone-deaf side of Hollywood. Streep’s not-a-feminist baggage, and the “I rather be a rebel than a slave,” T-shirt for the movie Suffragette are giving me a bad taste. This is what happens when you try to dilute a historical complexity into a silly shirt for marketing points.

Let’s get things straight—Feminism, similar to other movements have many factions, in the realm of moderate and extreme. As a women it’s counter intuitive not to be a feminist. The reason why you can vote, own property, control your finances, get an education and employment—is because feminists paved the way. Men did not have to fight for equality it was given to them. We needed the women’s movement to find equality under the law. Even though it wasn’t perfect since initially the women’s movements did not include black and minorities. Also it’s counter-intuitive for us to ask for equality when we don’t believe men should be equal too. For the time being no one is making life difficult for men in a similar way.

Gay doesn’t pretend she has all the answer. Her vulnerability as well as her intellect are out for everyone to see. She’s funny and smart, and acknowledges there’s no sense in prescribing to essential feminism, which has rules on how to be a proper feminist, as she suggests in the Back To Me essays. It sounds absolutist to even suggest there are strict rules. Just as there is no standard for the ideal women. We’re told women are supposed to be chaste, submissive, have a family, a husband and kids; those that don’t follow this pattern, have clearly fallen from grace. They are not proper women.

Gay comments on female friendships in Girls, Girls, Girls, and the misconception that they are essentially combative and fraught with jealously. If a good friend is envious over your well-deserved success then possibly she’s not happy with her own life. It would be wise to reflect, and not bring negative energy to the relationship.

Sometimes our crushes are seriously misdirected at people who clearly don’t deserve it. We fall into the trap, the glazed feeling for a guy who’s our version of “prince charming.” It’s not rare to be smitten by the wrong guy, and fall head over heals. We’re often distracted by his looks, career or some vain quality, and we overlook behavioral flaws that offend us. As Gay points out in The trouble with prince charming and he who trespassed against us, even when we know we’re being treated like shit we continue to hurt ourselves and make excuses for the sake of keeping a relationship. And yet we call ourselves feminists. How did we let this happen? It’s a learning curve like anything else, and there’s no reason to believe all is lost simply because you chose dignity over a guy who has no meaningful purpose in your life, other than being eye candy.

We need more writers like Roxane Gay voicing their concerns and their experiences in strong and powerful language. What we need is a variety of voices; diverse, and real. There’s no such thing as a perfect feminist. There’s no perfect human, but we keep learning and fighting to be respected. Bad Feminist asks the reader to get involved by not letting the media corner us and define women based on preconceived notions.