As dynamic as the movie Moonlight and its characters were, I feel that if we look closely, we will all find Little, Chiron, and Black in ourselves. For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, I highly recommend it. It is another screenplay meant for theater that was brought to the big screen and again, another one that doesn’t disappoint. That is saying a lot coming from me because it’s not my typical happy romantic comedy. But after seeing the film, I definitely believe it lives up to every nomination it has received.
This section of the movie hit home for me because I, like many others, was bullied during my childhood. Statistics for bullyingstatistics.org say, “About 77% of students have admitted to being the victim of on type of bullying or another,” so I know many of you can relate. It was hard to watch such a fragile child who was so unsure of himself deal with both physical and emotional abuse pertaining to topics that he had no knowledge of. It was also hard because much of his bullying stemmed from society’s unwillingness to accept him and ultimately rejecting aspects of his being because it didn’t exude masculinity as we define it today.
While I felt for this character, I also recognized the all too familiar pain of being an outcast and not truly understanding why. While my childhood bullying situation was nothing like Little’s, this was only the beginning of me understanding how our pasts have a lot to do with who we are today and how we answer the ever-illusive question, “Who are you?”
Just as many kids experience when bullied, it only gets worse as you get older. So bad that in many cases, you’re pushed to a breaking point. While Chiron was physically abused more than anything, the mental aspect of trying to figure out who he was and live a life that would grant him peace and a sense of normality was no easy task.
Like Juan alluded to earlier in the movie, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” In this part of the movie, you see the beginning stages of Chiron defining himself, and I identified with he as he attempted to do that.
If you think about it, whether it was in high school, college, or even if you’re still waiting for this, at some point, we all have a defining moment or series of events that help us define ourselves. For me, I think my “moment” was and still is a series of events that continue to take place every day.
I am not the same person I was in high school, and now I can say I’m not the same person I was in undergrad. Always changing, I find myself constantly in a Chiron state of mind, balancing aspects of my past with current situations, and where I see myself in the future. Call me crazy, but I think we all deal with this reality at some point or another.
Chiron took a huge step towards choosing who he wanted to be. Ultimately, he made the decision to save himself from his life of physical and mental abuse by fighting back in the most literal sense. Which leads us to the manifestation of what he chose to be, Black.
I think if anything, we will all see a reflection of ourselves in the character Black. I know I do. As a person who is extremely keen on self-reflection and awareness, I often find myself asking who I would be if my past were a little different, or if I genuinely like/hate some of the things I claim to. After taking one too many sociology classes in undergrad, the Goffman theory that we all actors never fails to peak its head in my daily thoughts. But this movie helped to bring these ideas and theories to life.
Just as Chiron left and reinvented himself to be Black, the toughest version of himself, I feel that in some cases we all adjust our personalities and preferences to shield us from past negative experiences. But with that said, are we truly ourselves? Is that who we chose to be or is that who society forced us to become?
For me, the true beauty of this film was discovered when a concept I learned in undergrad at UVA surfaced. The idea that we are always in a constant state of becoming. This idea in its simplest form is that we are always changing into versions of our best selves. But from this movie, it also shows that we are always changing as we attempt to answer the question of “Who are you?”
I’m sure if the movie went on there would be another character following Black. But for us, as we move through different phases of life, we are not solely limited to being Little, Chiron, and Black, we have the opportunity to be so many different versions of ourselves as we continue our cycle of becoming. But with the opportunity to continually become, I hope that we have the strength despite what society says, to truly become ourselves. Not the version of ourselves that society created due to its sometimes harsh and unforgiving nature. I hope that you truly become you.