“Moonlight” and literature

Dr. Philip “Pip” Gordon, assistant professor in the Humanities Department, was the featured speaker at the Platteville Public Library to discuss the film “Moonlight” and how it ties with black literature. After the Charlottesville talk on Oct. 3, 2017, Emma Radosevich, the Outreach Librarian for the Platteville Public Library, reached out to the presenters to see if they would like to do a talk at the Platteville Public Library. Gordon replied that he would love to give a talk. Gordon had suggested that he could give a talk during Black History Month and discuss the movie “Moonlight” with its connections to African American authors such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright, as well as famous literary critics such as Houston Baker and Henry Louis Gates Junior. Gordon had previously given this talk at Fisk University in March 2017 and has tinkered with how he would present it to the public. The presentation would be different from how he presented it to Fisk University students. The students were part of a gender studies group, and the goal of the talk was to discuss the complexity of sexual orientation, racial identity and the intersection of those concepts.

The goal of Gordon’s talk at the Platteville Public Library was to make the topic accessible to the public and hopefully encourage the audience to watch the movie “Moonlight” or read a book by a black author. The main difference between how he gave this talk to students compared to the general public was that students would read the works and been introduced to terms of literary theory over a period of time. He gave background information on “Moonlight” and the works done by Baldwin, Wright, Baker and Gates Jr. Gordon was familiar with the literary works prior to watching “Moonlight”. While watching, he noted how the movie captured the themes of those works, specifically black masculinity.

The premise of the talk was on black masculinity and how black men were portrayed throughout history. He also explained how they were portrayed in a way that people only perceived black men as a stereotype and never saw them as people. He made the connection of how the film changes the dialogue of black masculinity.

When it comes to black masculinity, people usually see either the perfect, meek and mild stereotype or the misunderstood, angry Kanye West. Baldwin said in his works that people are only saying we’re either one thing or another, but Baldwin kept saying that we need a middle ground. Gordon brought this up in his talk.

“When it comes to black masculinity we only see the stereotypes. Baldwin was trying in his essays to figure out a way to see past the stereotypes. In his lifetime, I don’t believe he ever succeeded in presenting that the way he wanted to. I think he knew he failed and he kept trying and he failed but on the way he laid the groundwork that eventually gave us ‘Moonlight.’ ‘Moonlight,’ I don’t dare say perfect but it does an amazing job of defying our stereotypes that shows us what Baldwin was talking about when he was talking about the problems of how representation has worked all along,” Gordon said.

Gordon has opened up the dialogue, so check out Moonlight or some of the authors mentioned and become part of the dialogue.