Why Everyone Needs to Watch Moonlight


Moonlight is an impactful, compelling and moving film. Chiron, the main character, is in constant conflict with his masculinity, sexual identity and general identity. Although he grows up to exhibit some of the typical masculine traits such as strength, stoicism, wealth and dominance, he is still self-conscious and uncomfortable in his own skin due to his homosexuality. In MTV’s news, Madison explains that Moonlight “betrays our notions of what black masculinity is.” Ultimately, the film does an impressive job dismantling and challenging society’s traditional notions of black masculinity. 

The film is divided by three crucial stages in Chiron’s life. The first is Chiron’s childhood where he constantly feels alienated from the boys at school and his own mother. He is quiet, reserved and thoughtful. It becomes evident that Chiron is unique when he does not enjoy wrestling, playing ball, or playing rough like the other school boys. Instead, he loves to dance. Chiron is often abandoned by his mother and his biological father remains unknown throughout the film. Juan becomes a father figure for Chiron instead. He is masculine in that he is a strong, wealthy and powerful drug dealer. However, he is also very protective, loving and supportive toward Chiron. These thoughtful qualities challenge the negative stereotypes associated with black masculinity such as being aggressive and dangerous.



During Chiron’s adolescence, he continues to be bullied and treated as an outcast by his peers. His relationship with his mother continues to deteriorate due to her drug addiction. Still, Chiron remains resilient, a trait often associated with masculinity because it constitutes “being a man.” For instance, his friend Kevin is encouraged by Terrell to beat up Chiron, who bullies Chiron on a daily basis at school. Chiron endures the strikes to his fragile face by continuing to stand back up strike after strike. The next day, Chiron releases his rage on Terrell by smashing a chair over him. Although Chiron is quiet, reserved, and keeps to himself to combat bullying, Terrell has a second sense about Chiron and torments him for being gay. Furthermore, Moonlight explores how societal forces such as bullying and alienation shape identity and masculinity.  In Chiron’s case, these forces cause him to build a tough exterior to prevent himself from being hurt by others.

Once Chiron reaches adulthood, he is a wealthy, well-built, attractive, and stoic drug dealer. He completely reinvents himself as a result of self-hate and a constant struggle with his sexuality. Although he maintains a tough exterior, it becomes clear that his battle with masculinity has affected every aspect of his life and self-identity as well. This struggle is evident in that he is still a virgin and very self-conscious. His last sexual experience is with his friend Kevin when they were teenagers. Perhaps Chiron could never love anyone else because he did not love himself. Additionally, he did not receive the love and acceptance he needed while growing up. Since Chiron appears to be macho on the surface, it is hard to believe he is going through an immense crisis with his masculinity and sexuality.


Moonlight shows us that masculinity is not black and white. The film exposes the negative implications of society’s expectations of manhood. Chiron suffers internally with his identity throughout the film and cannot help but turn to hyper masculinity because of it. Moreover, he is wounded and scarred from a lack of acceptance and a society that tells him homosexuality is a weakness. Therefore, he uses his masculinity as a disguise and defense mechanism. This unique form of masculinity is what makes Moonlight such an intriguing and influential film.