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Oblique Intimacy: Moonlight (2016) - LGBT, Queer, or Quare?

Wednesday 12 May 2021, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr Maria Flood (Keele University)

Barry Jenkins' Moonlight achieved mainstream success in an industry which - when it tells queer love stories – has tended to prioritize white, middle-class narratives (Halberstam, 2004).  Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, it won 8 Academy nominations and 3 awards - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for former rapper Mahershala Ali, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It was the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBTQ -related film, and Joi McMillon was the first black woman to be nominated for an editing Oscar.  

Many critics lauded the film’s pioneering depiction of black male identity and its sensitive portrayal of the difficulties of gay childhood and adolescence in minority communities.  There was, however, some debate about whether Moonlight was most usefully classified as a queer or merely an LGBT-themed film, particularly due to its ambiguous ending and the lack of explicit gay sex (Stallings 2018; Walcott, 2018). Sara Ahmed describes queerness as a kind of ‘disorientation device’, ‘allowing the oblique to open up another angle on the world’ (2006: 172). In this talk, Maria Flood considers the ‘queerness’ of Moonlight, the ways in which viewers and critics were unsettled and comforted by its depiction of emotional and sexual intimacy in a coming-of-age narrative. She suggests that E. Patrick Johnson’s theorization of ‘quare' (2004; 2019), a concept that intersects race, sexuality and class, casts an oblique angle on Moonlight that both orients and disorients queer or LGBT readings of the film.

Enquiries to erica.sheen@york.ac.uk

Watch Moonlight on MUBI, Amazon Prime, YouTube and BFI Player; advance readings here: 

E. Patrick Johnson Quare (PDF , 214kb)

GLQ Dossier (PDF , 100kb)

Location: Online by Zoom