After an insane Oscars snafu, ‘Moonlight’ ended up the winner of Best Picture (FOR THE CULTURE) at the show’s 89th awards ceremony. A win that will go down in history, not only because of the inane moment it created, but more importantly because of what it means for the industry as a whole. ‘Moonlight’ is the most political film to win Best Picture, simply because of what it is — an all-black film that carries an LGTBQ+ story. This year, being the most political and being the best are one and the same.
‘Moonlight’ is the FIRST EVER ALL-BLACK FILM to win Best Picture
Let that soak in for a little bit — just so you get the gravity of this statement. Think about it this way: how many all-black TV shows and movies can you think of? Okay, now what if you remove the obscure reality shows and the classic comedies of the past few decades? That’s a pretty short list, isn’t it? And if you can say, “I can name five of those shows,” think about the vast majority of film and television you can name without it.
Black and ethnic representation exists, but it is still quite sparse. The need for more ethnic characters, and even films and shows about an entire group of ethnic characters continues to persist. And not just one’s where they kill off an ethnic character and almost immediately replace them with an ethnic character of the same race (I’m looking at you, ‘The Walking Dead’). It is uncommon for shows and film to sport an all-black cast in general, which makes the ‘Moonlight’ win even more astounding.
It is also important to mention that Mahershala Ali became the first ever Muslim actor to win an Oscar. A win that is crucial, given the world’s current treatment and attitude towards Islamic people. A win that says, you don’t have to believe in our religion in order to be accepted, in order to have a chance to be an actor, in order to be nominated for awards and actually win them. You can be who you are, and still have a chance in this industry.
Here’s the other thing: ‘Moonlight’ is not a film about slavery, about being the help, or even about race politics — all areas where black actors and films typically only get nominated (and sometimes awarded — YES VIOLA!). Instead, ‘Moonlight’ is a simple, beautiful story about a prototypical (maybe not so prototypical) black youth’s growth. Hopefully, Hollywood picks up ‘Moonlight’’s baton and starts to invest in more stories that show the everyday lives of black and ethnic people — something that is much needed in a time where fear and misunderstanding of others is unfortunately very prevalent.
‘Moonlight’ is the FIRST EVER LGBTQ+ FILM to win Best Picture
Equally as important, ‘Moonlight’ becomes the first film to be focused on an LGTBQ+ story to win Best Picture. Let’s play the same thought experiment as before, shall we? How many movies can you think of that have LGTBQ+ characters in it? Probably a few right? The representation of LGTBQ+ has been surging in the past few years. Oh, but wait, how many of those are black or other ethnic characters? If you are able to name even one, give yourself some credit. Their existence is like finding a unicorn.
‘Moonlight’ being the first ever LGTBQ+ film to win Best Picture is monumental and extremely important. First off, there isn’t nearly enough LGTBQ+ representation in film or television. These characters are starting to exist more and more, but are typically over-sexualized or killed off — or both. ‘Moonlight’ does a phenomenal job of not portraying stereotypes or the typical LGTBQ+ characters you see, but normal people who are LGTBQ+. In the same way that it is important for film and television to show ethnic people living their everyday lives and their normalcy, it is equally as important for film and television to show the normal, everyday lives of LGTBQ+. Again, people have a fear of what they don’t understand; The only way for them to quash that fear is to see that LGTBQ+ are regular people just like them.
It is even more important that ‘Moonlight’ is the first ever LGTBQ+ film to win Best Picture because it is a film about black people. For those of you who do not know, the vast majority of black and ethnic people are typically, for lack of a better term, gender binary and sex binary conscious. Most of these people are vehemently opposed to any LGTBQ+ “lifestyle,” to use their term. If an anglo-centric film were to have been LGTBQ+ and won, that would have been fantastic. But the fact that a black LGTBQ+ film won is a vital and important step towards representing, understanding, and educating a large segment of the population that does not comprehend the existence and naturalism of these people.
The ability to recognize someone, to accept them, and to understand them is something that ‘Moonlight’ will give to a mass of people. There isn’t anything more important than that.