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Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Moonlight was quite literally treated like an afterthought following the massive mistake of rewarding white mediocrity with the most important award of the night.

It took me some time to process my emotions after watching the end of the Academy Awards. Thousands, perhaps even millions of us mirrored the disarray on the main stage of the Dolby theater when the producers scrambled to correct the mistake that had just been made.

When the producers of La La Land were giving their acceptance speeches, there was clear confusion happening behind them. Two of the three producers had already given their speeches, the third, Fred Berger, finished his speech and then said, “We lost, by the way” before walking away. Producer Jordan Horowitz then announced that the actual winner for best picture was the underdog favorite, Moonlight.

The amount of precise planning and the height of the production is why the Oscars are considered the most prestigious film awards in the industry. The voting ballots are counted judiciously by a company called PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the results are delivered in duplicates in separate cases. The production of the show itself is planned to the second; it is rehearsed with precision and with every possible outcome. So it came as an utter and complete shock when there was such an enormous misstep during the most important and final award.

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It was painful to see those three white male producers give their acceptance speeches, followed by commotion and an awkward apology from Warren Beatty. Barry Jenkins and the cast of Moonlight deserved the moment, they deserved perfection, they deserved precision and the prestige of an elaborately planned event. Moonlight was quite literally treated like an afterthought following the massive mistake of rewarding white mediocrity with the most important award of the night.

A timeless, sensitive and elegant film like Moonlight deserved a moment which reflected its own presence. It pains me to think that this moment should have let Moonlight stand alone in its perfection, but instead it is now associated with this glaring mistake. What made me even angrier was to see how much time was given to the producers of La La Land to make their faux-acceptances speeches. Jenkins should have had his moment. He should have been able to stand in front of his peers to say the words he deserved to say. Instead, Beatty rambled and Jimmy Fallon said awkward things about everyone deserving the award.

As fans, as viewers of the masterpiece that is Moonlight, I hope that we will celebrate the film in all of its glory.

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Lara Witt is an award-winning feminist writer who primarily writes about feminism, racism, pop-culture, mental health, and politics. Witt received her BA in Journalism from Temple University and interned for Philadelphia CityPaper’s arts and entertainment section and the Philadelphia Daily News covering local news, court stories, and crime. Following her graduation, she became increasingly committed to writing about gender, race, and queer identity by using Black and brown feminist theory to analyze current news and politics. Witt freelanced for national and local publications, which led to her working with Wear Your Voice Magazine eventually becoming their EIC and rebranding the site to focus primarily on using the analytical framework of Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality. Witt’s goal is to provide platforms for marginalized voices with a focus on having other Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) writers tell their own stories and explore their own narratives. Witt has spoken at local Philadelphia events, such as the March to End Rape Culture (2017) and curated a yearly series of events called The Electric Lady Series. These events highlight women of color in Philadelphia by exploring gender, rape culture, entrepreneurship, art, self-care, sex, and culture.

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