Moonlight: Public History Dream

What is the role of expert reviews and awards in determining the meaning of a film and how it is classified as historic? Even before the Oscars on Sunday, I was regularly thinking about the movie Moonlight and how it feels like nothing I’ve ever seen before, a dream that is simultaneously intimate and universal.

Some questions that are swirling around my brain with reference to Moonlight and our readings about public history are:

  • How could we apply Glassberg’s idea that the meanings of books, films, and displays can change “as audiences actively reinterpret what they see and hear by placing it in alternative contexts derived from their diverse social backgrounds” (10) to Moonlight?
  • What does it mean for me as a straight, white woman and the Oscar voters (a mostly white, male group) to celebrate Moonlight as a Best Film?
  • How have expert reviews and the various think pieces about Moonlight and its Oscar win affected my and others’ view of the film? How will these reviews be read in the future?

A Slate article published yesterday titled “Forget the Embarrassing Mix-Up. The Real Story Is Moonlight’s Historic Win” ends by stating, “By awarding Moonlight, at a time when both blackness and queerness are being directly challenged at the highest levels of power, the Oscars landed on the right side of history—both cinematic and otherwise.” I agree with this sentiment while also wondering how Moonlight will be contextualized in the future, especially as a movie that doesn’t overemphasize its themes of homophobia, poverty, or bullying but focuses on the intensely personal and the power of glances and small gestures.

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