Thuggin’ love for $600 Alex

Beverly Hills Cop never gets old. I miss the old Eddie Murphy. Speaking of black people and movies, I finally got around to watching Moonlight and boy was it an experience. Hands down the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time for a multitude of reasons. From the cinematography down to the themes, Moonlight is a masterpiece through and through. The primary things that really resonated with me were the explorations of masculinity from a black perspective and wrestling with one’s identity throughout the stages of life.

Masculinity is a weird beast by itself and exponentially contrived when blackness is mixed in. Vulnerability and expressing “weaker” (sadness, fear, grief etc.) emotions as a male is often frowned upon. There were so many instances within Moonlight where this dynamic was being exemplified. In the interest of avoiding spoilers I won’t give examples, but suffice to say being human gets compromised by some choice antagonists. Anti-gay sentiments and the rejection of embodying feminine traits also permeated the film through the scenarios. The awkward tension and hush hush approach to the subject of homosexuality was perfectly executed.

It’s interesting to see these themes kind of explored in this fashion because homosexuality and masculinity are rarely topics of discussion in the black sphere that don’t devolve into asinine discussion. I’ve never had an issue with people’s sexual orientation because it had nothing to do with me. It just wasn’t a threat. But for some people, particularly in the black sphere, it’s an affront to humanity which is silly. Love isn’t exclusive to heterosexual relationships; it isn’t exclusive to any type of relationship. Love is exclusive to sentient beings that have the capacity to engage in actions of affection that in turn generate valuable bonds. Bonds which sometimes transcend distance and circumstance. And Moonlight did the best job of explaining that. It was the best and most genuine display of love I’ve seen in a long time.

Being hard is the aspiration of a lot of black kids, teens, and men. Because hardness protects against more than physical bullying. It’s a shield against ridicule, it’s a ticket to join similar individuals, and it validates autonomy. It’s a fast-track to making money and gaining power; a slice of actualizing one’s worth in the world through sheer force of will. But the collateral for chasing hardness becomes devaluing softer emotions, intimate interactions, and adopting some qualities of a sociopath. Hardness doesn’t contribute to long term success nor is it conducive for building anything worth holding onto. It just perpetuates a cycle of false strength that is not sustainable for true character growth. How useful is hardness in any other situation that doesn’t revolve around the hood or hood activities? It’s not transmutable to real situations that would uplift someone out of the “hood rich” mentality.

Which reminds of me of the Boondocks episode (S1E6) with Gangstalicious. While this was a caricature, it spoke to some real shit about masculinity and how it is perceived. Throughout the majority of this episode Gangstalicious tried to remain hard, which equated to expressing straight qualities despite being gay. He was obviously cracking when he was in the hospital trying to front with Riley present. The intersection of being hard and being human often results in unpredictable behavior. Naturally it was assumed that Gangstalicious was being hunted by other gangsters for some “real hard shit” when in fact he was being shot at for breaking some dude’s heart. It’s easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, but it speaks exactly to negative effects of this concept of hardness.

I’ve found, as black man and former black boy, that speaking about your emotions, your problems, fears, and other things that embody “weakness” are largely frowned upon. And it sucks. Emotional availability seems to be a lost art in the black male sphere. Or maybe it was never an art to begin with. Whatever the case,  a lot of us can’t turn to one another and truly express how we feel about situations for fear of being seen as soft or offering our dignity to the chopping block. Which speaks to a larger problem of ignoring emotional and mental health as a whole. I personally try my best to be a resource for everyone, regardless of color, to vent and air their frustrations with the world. It has to come out so I rather it come out in a civil manner. I’ve been fortunate to have a handful of older black men help me address those feelings of inadequacy or just being lost in a multitude of areas, but not everyone has access to these resources. Being in the presence of someone akin to Juan from Moonlight underlines both sides of this spectrum in detail and it truly hit home. A lot more than I care to admit.

My biggest takeaway from Moonlight and the exploration of what masculinity means as a whole was that masculinity is not solely reserved to heterosexual men and that homosexual men shouldn’t excluded from this sphere by their preference of partner. To deny them that is to deny them autonomy in the world as thinking, feeling human beings. Being a man should not be gauged by who you fall in love with. It should not be gauged by how well someone can hide their emotions from the public eye. Manhood is simply the evolution of character from a child trying to figure out what the immediate world has to offer; graduation to a teenager wrestling with solidifying their identity and understanding what it is that makes them happy in life. Then finally as an adult carving their path in the world; discovering the requirements to make their dreams a reality.

It’s so easy to dehumanize someone that’s markedly different, yet it’s infinitely more difficult to humanize them with these same differences in mind. I feel like this dynamic is changing for the better. Inclusiveness and tolerance have been on a steady rise over the past decade. Even with the current political climate, I notice more and more acceptance everyday. And that’s important. At the end of the day we’re all in the same race, reaching for that same goal: fulfillment. Moonlight definitely earned Best Picture this year.