“Moonlight” falls short of satisfaction

By Tatiana Rodriguez, Columnist

The boundaries of intimacy in movies has often been a topic of controversy — especially when it comes to LGBT+ films. For queer kids, it’s always a bummer when your favorite on-screen couple doesn’t seal the deal of a happily-ever-after with even a mere kiss. After growing up with little to no representation in TV or movies, it’d be nice to see a little more than a quick peck or some “implied” intimacy.

That’s why when Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed film “Moonlight” hit theatres, I was pumped. A queer film with people of color and a complex love story? Sign me up.

As I watched Chiron, the timid protagonist, grow up right in front of my eyes, I prepared myself for the emotional dam that I was sure would be broken by the end of the film.

When Chiron got bullied for his assumed sexuality, dealt with his mother’s drug addiction and retaliated against his homophobic attackers, I held back tears in an attempt to save my ugly crying for when a real surge of emotion overcame me. I thought, maybe, that it would come when Chiron finally reconciled with and eventually kissed his childhood love and best friend, Kevin.

That moment, however, never came.

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    Though I appreciated the delicate beach scene for including the characters’ kiss and moans, I was a bit annoyed that their faces were left out as their backs were turned to the camera. What I truly couldn’t understand, though, was why the film failed to deliver on an almost promised kiss at the end.

    Near the end, Kevin invites Chiron to his home after having made a meal for him, drinking wine together and dedicating a sweet jukebox ballad to him. As the two get closer in the kitchen, a kiss is almost promised by the scene’s constant buildup between the two precious men who could finally be alone after all of these years. Though they don’t say much to each other, their eyes do. And yet, nothing.

    When the film ended, I was annoyed. This beautiful, gentle film had fulfilled me in many ways but let me down in one place that truly hit home. And I couldn’t seem to shake it off.

    Director Barry Jenkins commented on the shocking move, or lack thereof, in a recent Vulture article saying that Chiron kissing Kevin “wasn’t realistic for this character at this moment. I think that these two men don’t fall into this happily-ever-after relationship, in any way. I don’t think Chiron is now extremely comfortable with his sexuality, and I don’t think he’s ready for even just a night of physical intimacy.”

    While I do understand that movies must maintain some level of reality, I think that Jenkins might be a little misguided.

    Jenkins, a straight man, cannot understand what it feels like for a queer person to not only watch a complex, thorough film about a gay youth, including representation of different facets of the black community, and then be let down by the omittance of one of modern society’s markers of basic intimacy — a kiss.

    Yes, Chiron needed honest acceptance, patience and caring and real, pure love. I think the choice for Jenkins to include the scene of the two men quietly caressing each other speaks to these needs. I’m relatively aware Kevin and Chiron would not become a couple — kiss or no kiss. And I agree that a Kevin and Chiron sex scene would be unfitting.

    But a simple, small peck, maybe a longer scene of the two holding each other, maybe a full but sweet kiss in the kitchen, would have not only made sense in terms of the character’s state, but it would’ve satisfied the many queer people who desperately look for intimate on-screen representation wherever they can.

    And that’s the thing. While queer characters are appearing on screen more than ever, it isn’t enough to satisfy whatever representation quota hip TV or movies seem to have. Queer characters deserve to have the same level of on-screen intimacy as straight characters.

    I’m tired of internally begging my favorite on-screen queer couples to kiss for longer than a millisecond. It’s pathetic when I find myself giddy over two queer characters staring at each other lustfully.

    Perhaps I would be satisfied with the explanation of the excluded kiss if there were more accurate representations of queer love in the media. But there isn’t. I’m sorry, Jenkins, that I expected you to personally deliver the queers some much needed closure. The lack of on-screen intimacy for the LGBT+ community shouldn’t rest on your shoulders.

    But as a straight man making a queer film in today’s society, you should be prepared to throw us a milk bone, at least.

    Tatiana is a freshman in Media.

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