April 2018

Monday, February 27, 2017


I didn’t sleep well last night. Maybe you didn’t either. I kept worrying about whoever made the envelope error that resulted in the wrong announcement for Best Picture. “It’s La La Land…. No, it’s Moonlight.”

As cute cousin Michael said, “That was awkward.” (The go-to word for the millennium. That and “random.”)

I have always beat myself up for my own errors, so I’ve been fretting about the person who made the mistake. How are they? Are they beating themselves up? Did Trump do it? (the inside scoop)

 I was glad Moonlight won. I would have liked Hidden Figures or Fences, too. I liked Loving for the story it told, but it wasn’t a great movie. Not Manchester by the Sea. It was just too depressing.

I haven’t seen La La Land, and I probably won’t. This doesn’t seem like the time for an escapist movie, a romance to take me away from real world problems. As speechmakers like to say, art is about truth, and I’ll add that the truth is that there are serious issues in our nation, issues for journalists and artists and activists….

Dad pointed out that all the movies I liked were Black movies (or, he said, “half Black” in the case of Loving.) I liked Hidden Figures because it was a good movie, and it was about an historical truth about Black women, a truth that isn’t in our history books. (Neither was the Japanese Internment when I was in high school anyway.)

I also liked August Wilson’s Fences, but I suspect mixing the genres of film and stage theatre didn’t work for a lot of people. And I liked the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Though Baldwin died in 1987, the script rings true today, as the contemporary images woven through the film argue. (It wasn’t up for best picture and didn’t win best documentary, but I thought it was great.)

So why do I, a white woman (pasty some would say) like all these Black movies, you and my dad may be wondering. As a woman and a lesbian and now a disabled person, maybe I identify more with the outsider’s narrative than I would have in my younger heterosexual and agile years. Maybe. But as a girl and then a woman, I have always noticed sexism in our culture, and it has always pissed me off. So in some sense, I have always identified with the narrative outside of the power structure.

These days, with Trump and his buddies in office, I feel my vulnerability as a disabled lesbian more than ever. And I want to see  the human story of the unseen in my newspapers and my art.  Perhaps I am more open to that story than I was in my less vulnerable years.

I don’t want an easy movie right now. I want a movie that helps me understand voices and histories that both are and are not my own, even if those stories are hard. As Reverend Barber III says in The Third Reconstruction (a book of both hope and truth), “Peace with God means conflict with the world.”

I have thought a lot in the last months about my friend Dave’s observation that I like to be safe and comfortable. That’s true. So maybe I seek films that make me uncomfortable—or really films that make other people uncomfortable.

And maybe I need to let go of perfectionism in myself and others. Maybe that’s part of God’s peace, too. Perhaps to see and hear truths I need to be willing to make mistakes. Perhaps relinquishing this perfectionism can be a tiny part, a tiny step along the way, but a beginning to truth. And perhaps the truth will set us free. And for sure it will be uncomfortable. 

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