Prelude to Moonlight

I am interested in how Saeed Jones would understand and respond to the film Moonlight, based on his writing about being a Black, gay man in the south. Jones writes about the violence he sees every day inflicted on bodies that look like his, and identities that he has. While reading Jones’ collection of poetry Prelude to Bruise I was reminded of scenes and themes from Moonlight. The film is based on a semi-autobiographical play that follows Chiron growing up the projects of Miami from a young boy to an adult. One scene in particular reminded me of Jones’ poem “History, According to Boy”. The opening line of the poem is “Boy is not one of the boys, but Boy is observant” (85). In Moonlight, Chiron’s name is a central issue to the plot; the film is divided into three distinct sections, the first called ‘Little’, because that is the nickname given to him by his peers. The film works like a play: we are shown, not told, that Chiron is excluded from the boys at his school and singled out for being different. His mother cites this difference as “the way he walks”, which is strikingly similar to Jones’ father monitoring his actions: “Boy was so excited he did a little hop. Boy noted that his father’s smile dimmed then, but only for a second” (88). Both characters learn through their interactions with the world, first from their parents, that they are different and wrong in some way. Also, in both of these works intimacy is received often through violence, which is a result of toxic masculinity. One crucial scene in Moonlight involves Chiron getting beat up by his friend and crush Kevin, who the night before they had a sexual encounter. Kevin must prove to the other boys he isn’t allied with Chiron, who has a ‘spoiled identity’ according to stigma theory. Jones makes the same observation about the boys in his class, that when “The teacher talks about male friendship. . . “Fags,” hiss the rest of the Boys in agreement.” (90). It is implied here that boys are teaching each other not to show any intimacy, for fear of being perceived as gay.

I believe it is important to consume these art forms because they depict the harms done by continuing to stigmatize male friendship and queerness. Both these artists challenge stereotypes that depict Black men as violent, hyper sexualized beings and speak from an autobiographical place. The delicacy with which both Jones and Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, show the pain of struggling to be accepted as gay Black men in America incites empathy from every audience member.

3 thoughts on “Prelude to Moonlight”

  1. This is a great connection as there are so many elements of Moonlight that have been seen in Prelude to a Bruise through the violence and teasing that ensues. One other moment that I believe connected them is the retaliation that we see from Chiron when he slams a school chair into a bully that tormented him and how Jones holds his father’s gun that was given to him to kill himself and instead holds it in front of them as they sleep. I think this connection between them shows where they diverge. Since Chiron didn’t seem to have the outlet of writing that Jones did he becomes the “straight” gangster version of himself that is similar to the other males around him while Jones uses the notes that he keeps in his head to then writes out beautiful stories. The aftermath of all this hate is so different for so many queer people but I think that hearing stories from them is important to help queer people who are struggling like Jones and Chiron.

  2. I love your connection to the movie Moonlight, as Jones’ texts and the movie context had a lot in common in term of topic about trauma for being different. However, the great thing about Moonlight is that the movie manages to portray the ideas of trust, healing, and overcoming, which I believe to be truly the highlights of the movie. Saeed Jones’s poems also have a lot of content that provides different demonstrations of queerness and hardship, but in my opinion, Jones is somewhat lacking in positive improvements. From my personal view, he whines a little bit too much in his poems aswell, which does not really align with the agenda of Moonlight in term of delivering a message – overcoming the hardships. I do agree that we should consume these kind of contents to raise certain awareness, but for context, Moonlight provides a much more meaningful message than Jones, and the connection to Jones’ pure negativity in my opinion does not do justice for Moonlight.

  3. The passage you selected from Saeed Jones’s “Prelude to Bruise” made me think of “Fun Home”, where Bruce, Alison’s father, implies that she should be more feminine, by wearing head garments or fancy dresses. In Jones’s poem, when he celebrates by doing a little hop, his father disapproves this action. This made me think about how the bodies and behavior of queer people are constantly monitored by society, which sets heteronormativity as the ideal. It’s interesting to think that Bruce, who was gay, projects his own internalized homophobia onto his own queer daughter. It’s a cycle of oppression that goes through generations.

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