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61 Moonlight (2016)

The Power of Moonlight (2016): Masculinity, Homophobia, and Healing

By Claire Dunn

Moonlight is an insightful and compelling independent film directed by Barry Jenkins that follows Chiron, a Black gay man, at three different points in his life. We follow him as he grows up in Liberty City, Miami with no father and a mother struggling with a crack addiction, plus all the pressure of being a Black boy. Moonlight documents Chiron’s struggles with masculinity, homophobia, and accepting himself. Moonlight ’s story is told through colors, sounds, and subtext, and it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Many people, even those who aren’t queer or Black, can find something in this film that speaks to them. Moonlight is one of my favorite films and I wish more people were aware of this beautifully told story.

In a world where heterosexual white men are often put at the forefront in films, Moonlight is a breath of fresh air. It has an all-Black cast and was adapted from the unpublished play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a Black gay man. Many people didn’t think a film like Moonlight would ever be made in their lifetime. In a review of Moonlight , critic Hilton Als asks the following rhetorical question, “Did I ever imagine, during my anxious, closeted childhood, that I’d live long enough to see a movie like ‘Moonlight,’ [?] … Did any gay man who came of age, as I did, in the era of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and AIDS, think he’d survive to see a version of his life told onscreen with such knowledge, unpredictability, and grace?” Moonlight is important for many Black queer boys and men who rarely see themselves represented on screen but are often marginalized in their communities. Moonlight handles issues that many Black queer men face like not fitting into the ideals of masculinity, experiencing homophobia, and figuring out one’s identity with grace, compassion, and respect. Naturally, Moonlight addresses issues of difference, power, and discrimination through the lens of masculinity and homophobia by showing you critical points in Chiron’s life, cinematography that places you in the middle of conflict with Chiron, and colors and symbols found in the mise en scene and sound design that tell a story within themselves. Additionally, Moonlight addresses the painful effects of hypermasculinity and homophobia as well as the possibility of healing from those effects.

From the beginning of the film, Chiron is set apart and singled out by his peers. In the first act of the film, titled “Little,” 10-year-old Chiron, portrayed by Alex R. Hibbert, is already viewed as different and feminine which causes him to face discrimination. In the first scene, we see Chiron running from three boys and one of them yells “get his gay ass,” (00:02:35). The handheld camera is incredibly shaky as it runs with Chiron. It conveys the panic he’s feeling as he runs from the boys. Additionally, the sound design when Chiron is hiding in an abandoned apartment and the boys are banging on the walls and doors makes you feel like you are right there in the scene with him. Since this is the first we see of Chiron, this scene tells us that he is seen as different and “gay” and therefore not masculine. It tells us that this is going to be a story about masculinity and possibly about gayness. This scene shows the difference and discrimination that many gay Black kids face when they’re growing up for not being hypermasculine.

We can also see the discrimination Chiron faces at home with his mother and her abuse of the power differences between them. In one of the most emotionally devastating scenes in the film, Chiron’s mother calls him a “faggot.” It is a stunning scene where the cinematography, mise en scene, and sound design are pivotal to its emotional impact. Chiron and his mother are standing at opposite ends of a hallway in their house. Paula, his mother, is wearing red with pink lighting behind her indicating her fiery mood and danger to Chiron. They stare at each other; Paula looking angry with eyes full of hatred and Chiron with his relatively emotionless eyes. There’s turbulent violin music playing and that is the only sound in the scene. The scene plays in slow motion and the camera stands between Chiron and his mother. Shot-reverse shots are used to alternate between them looking at each other to immerse you in the scene. The music temporarily becomes slower when Chiron’s mother can be seen yelling at him “you are a faggot” (00:30:18). You cannot hear her say this—you can only read her lips—which adds to the emotional impact of the scene. It is cruel and heartbreaking and although Chiron doesn’t understand what the word means, her anger and hatred alone make it known to him that it’s not a good word. Chiron just stares at Paula as she walks into her room, not able to do anything as he is just a ten-year-old boy who doesn’t have much power in this situation.

Paula stares at Chiron with hatred

The next day, Chiron’s father figure in his childhood, Juan, explains that “faggot” is “a word used to make gay people feel bad,” (00:33:46). This scene shows that Chiron’s own mother discriminates against him, and he knows it now. She makes fun of the way he walks and recognizes that he is different from all the other boys. Paula doesn’t want him to be gay and she thinks it’s wrong so therefore she calls him a homophobic slur and she yells that slur at him filled with hatred. Chiron cannot escape discrimination even in his own home. This shows the reality for so many queer people who have homophobic parents. Chiron grew up in a homophobic, hypermasculine environment with many power differences that were repeatedly exploited, at home and at school, and that impacts him for the rest of his life as I will explore later.

Both scenes I have described so far have the common thread of homophobia. It would be easy to see Moonlight’s main theme as how homophobia changes a person, but the message of the film goes deeper than that. More so than addressing homophobia in the Black community alone, it addresses ideals of masculinity in the Black community, how those ideals harm Black boys from a young age, especially those who do not fit into those gender norms like Chiron, and how those ideals create homophobia. Black men have an incredible amount of pressure from a young age to “not be soft,” a saying that can be heard throughout the film. Micah Gilmer and Riki Wilchins explain in a report on how ideals of masculinity harm Black boys, that “[t]raditional norms of masculinity are understood as a combination of strength, aggression, emotional toughness, dominance, and sexual prowess,” (4). If you don’t fight back, you are not a man. If you cry, you are not a man. If you are quiet and submissive, you are not a man. This is what men, especially Black men, are told what masculinity is, both indirectly and directly. These ideals of masculinity stem from white patriarchy and have increased in the Black community over time. These ideals of masculinity are enforced by parents, friends, and the community surrounding Black kids and teenagers (Gilmer and Wilchins, 4). Throughout Moonlight, we can see the negative effects of masculinity come through in scenes that show how Chiron is perceived as different from his peers for not fitting into the mold of masculinity. In turn, he faces discrimination from classmates and his mother. The ideals of masculinity were so insidious that Chiron developed internalized homophobia, which is a big factor in the second act “Chiron” and the third act “Black.”

Internalized homophobia can be seen throughout the second act of Moonlight, and it is especially obvious during a scene between now teenage Chiron, portrayed by Ashton Sanders, and his love interest Kevin, portrayed by Jharrel Jerome, who we were introduced to in act one. In this scene, Chiron has his first kiss and sexual experience with Kevin on the beach. Kevin has always understood Chiron more than anyone else growing up so Chiron feels safe around him and like he can be his true self. This is enforced by the symbolism of the ocean in Moonlight. The ocean and its sounds represent a place where Chiron can be himself. Throughout the film, the moments where Chiron was able to express himself freely were either by the ocean or accompanied by the sound of waves. Additionally, the lighting has a blue coloring which represents knowing and being true to who you are.

The sequence begins with Chiron and Kevin kissing. Chiron’s movements are very hesitant and it’s clear Chiron wants to kiss Kevin but is grappling with all the homophobia that has been etched into his brain over the years. I think Sanders and Jerome acted out this scene incredibly well. The hesitation is clear and it’s easy to see that Chiron is struggling with this, but Kevin is more comfortable in the situation. Kevin goes on to give Chiron a hand job and after that, Chiron apologizes to Kevin. This is one of the most overt expressions of internalized homophobia in the film. Chiron has finally been able to express his sexuality without being discriminated against for it, but due to all the past events in his life, he thinks that what he did is wrong. He thinks that he must apologize to Kevin and it’s heartbreaking. During this scene, the camera is still and it’s behind Chiron and Kevin. You can’t see half of Chiron’s face when he apologizes, but you don’t have to; his body language says it all. Despite Chiron being sorry, Kevin lets him know that he has nothing to be sorry for, confirming that this is a safe place and making this a positive first sexual experience for Chiron. Kevin is the only one in this act to make Chiron feel safe and seen, so I think this scene is a key moment in Chiron’s development and his relationship with Kevin. Discrimination stemming from ideals of masculinity has weight and, in this scene, we can see how it has impacted Chiron and it has impacted many other queer men similarly.

Like I just said, homophobia and discrimination have weight. They impact people tremendously and have serious consequences. In Chiron’s case, the homophobia he faced at school and at home built and built and built until he broke. After Chiron gets beat up at school by Terrel and his friends, as well as by Kevin, the ultimate betrayal, there’s a scene that shows Chiron turning into a hardened version of himself, the man we see in act three named Black. As Chiron stares at his beaten-up face in the mirror of his bathroom, there’s ominous drone music that grows louder throughout the scene, as well as the sound of a lightbulb buzzing which creates an eerie feeling. The lighting is flickering and has a green tinge which evokes an unsettling feeling. The use of slow-motion as Chiron stares at his reflection and turns his head to look at his injuries adds seriousness to the shot, as well as a feeling of dread. Additionally, the camera is completely still, not using Steadicam like so many of the other shots in the film. I took the lack of Steadicam as a way of showing that Chiron is choosing who he wants to become. His identity is no longer turbulent, he knows who the world wants him to become so he’s going to become that. From the lighting, sound design, acting, editing, and cinematography it is clear that Chiron is done being messed with. He is done with getting hurt. He is going to fight back and show them that he is a man because that is what men do; they fight. All those ideas of masculinity come bubbling to the surface as Chiron marches into school the next day and breaks a chair over Terrel’s back which causes him to be arrested and sent to prison. This is the end of “soft” Chiron, and the beginning of Black, the hardened, hypermasculine, aggressive version of Chiron.

In act three titled “Black,” we find Chiron, portrayed brilliantly by Trevante Rhodes, in an almost unrecognizable state ten years following his arrest. He has become a drug dealer who is super muscular and wears golden grillz. It is jarring to see Chiron as someone so hypermasculine, but that’s the point. Chiron’s experiences have changed him forever. He has built himself into a hypermasculine drug dealer who resembles Juan, his biggest influence in childhood. But this is not Chiron; this is who Chiron thinks he must be to survive in the world. He has physically built armor around himself in the form of muscle and an aggressive persona. It is strange and a bit hard to comprehend this massive change, but as we follow his life throughout the act, we can see that this is still Chiron, just a Chiron that is performing hypermasculinity to be accepted in the world. Throughout Chiron’s life, he could not fit into the mold of masculinity that everyone expected him to, but due to the trauma he endured, he was able to change who he was entirely to fit into that mold. The effects of difference, power, and discrimination due to his gayness and perceived lack of masculinity were so great that he became someone unrecognizable. Unfortunately, this reflects the reality of many gay Black men today.

While Moonlight is about experiencing discrimination that stems from ideals of masculinity, it is also about figuring out who you are and healing from the trauma you’ve endured. It seems like Chiron may never accept himself, but then Kevin and Chiron reunite. In the spectacular last ten shots of the film, hope and healing are brought into the picture. Chiron and Kevin are in Kevin’s kitchen in Miami and there’s no music; there is only diegetic sound and crickets in the background. Throughout the scene, Chiron and Kevin are shown in close-ups with a shallow focus to put them at the forefront of the scene. This is purely about them, nothing else.

In the first shot, Chiron says “You’re the only man that’s ever touched me,” (01:44:24). There is a lot of hesitation to his words which shows the difficulty that Chiron has with being vulnerable, but Kevin has always been someone to understand Chiron, so he feels like this vulnerability is okay. The following shots are a series of shot-reverse shots that depict Kevin and Chiron staring at each other and the emotions they are both feeling. Chiron adds, “You’re the only one… I haven’t really touched anyone since,” (01:44:44). Rhodes delivers these words perfectly, so they show the pain discrimination and difference have caused in Chiron’s life. Chiron knows he’s gay, but he has been beaten down for that part of his identity his whole life, so he has kept it hidden inside all these years. Chiron has struggled with accepting himself to the extent that he has not touched another man and has been celibate since that night on the beach with Kevin ten years ago. The cinematography in this series of shots adds to the emotional impact because the use of Steadicam creates a real feel as the camera moves with the characters and their slight movements. Additionally, the rawness of Chiron’s words and the emotion he shows, which are typically associated with femininity, juxtapose his hypermasculine clothes and build. This confirms that below the hard exterior, Chiron is still Chiron.

As the scene continues, there is a weight in their silence as they look at each other and it conveys how important this scene is to Chiron’s journey. There is a shot in this sequence that shows Chiron and Kevin in the same shot from the side and the camera is completely still. The stillness contrasts with the natural movement of the other shots, and this represents the solidification of Kevin’s feelings, as well as the stability for Chiron that comes with those solidified feelings. Next, the camera cuts to Kevin and a smile grows on his face throughout the shot. A key detail is a sound that begins in this shot. You can hear waves crashing against a beach slowly becoming louder until it drowns out all the other diegetic sounds and this sound continues for the rest of the film. The camera cuts to Chiron who slowly stands up straighter, as his confidence grows with the knowledge that Kevin accepts him and understands the weight of his words. This shot then dissolves to Chiron resting his head on Kevin’s shoulder, and there is an intimacy to this scene that shows that Chiron is letting himself be cared for and loved for the first time in ten years. The orange tinge to the scene creates a homey, warm feeling, signaling that Chiron is right where he needs to be. The sound of waves here is significant because, throughout the film, the ocean has represented safety and the ability for Chiron to be his authentic self. Here, in this moment between them, Chiron can be himself. He doesn’t have to be the version of himself he created to survive; he is now in a safe place where he can take the walls he’s built around himself down and begin healing from all the discrimination he’s faced.

Chiron rests his head on Kevin's shoulder in Moonlight

In the final shot of the film, young Chiron is standing on the beach facing away from the camera, looking out at the ocean. The only sounds are the ocean and a somber piano piece. The shot is painted with a deep blue color which is complementary to the orange of the previous shot. As we zoom in on young Chiron, we are reminded of that day on the beach where Juan said to him, “At some point you gotta decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you,” (00:20:59). With these two final shots, I believe the film is saying that Chiron is finally going to decide who he is and not let the world decide that for him. He became the tough, hypermasculine man we have followed throughout act three because of the discrimination he’s faced for not being hypermasculine. The world has forced Chiron to be this version of himself to survive, but he is no longer going to let the world dictate who he is. He is going to begin the healing process now that he is in a safe environment.

This ending feels hopeful, yet sad. The piano music adds a quality of bittersweetness to the final shot because it sounds contemplative and somber. This sadness contrasts with the safety and peace that the ocean represents for Chiron. The sound of the piano and the ocean combine to say that Chiron has been through a lot in his life and the sadness and feelings that come with the trauma may never go away, but that doesn’t mean he can’t heal, find peace, or ever love again. With Kevin, he has the stability to figure out who he is. He is going to break out of the mold of hypermasculinity the world forced him into. Chiron is on his way to making peace with who he is—to being Chiron, not Black, just Chiron.

Moonlight is a film that moved me to my core. Every shot is stunning, and the story is incredibly raw and real. It’s a film that is extremely important because it has positive representation for Black queer boys that are often ostracized by their communities. Often Black queer men are stereotyped in films, if they even appear at all, and this leads Black queer people to feel like they don’t belong and are not natural. Alphonso Walter Grant explains in his paper about the intersection of masculinity, sexualities, and Black visual culture that “our ways of seeing result from what we are taught to know or what we believe we know. When what we know is overdetermined by stereotypes and biases, what we see is too,” (245). This quote is saying that when you have been taught, by your community and the media you consume, that being masculine means being aggressive, violent, and heterosexual, you will learn to see the world through that lens of hypermasculinity. This, in turn, causes homophobia to be a major part of that lens since being heterosexual is tied up in ideals of masculinity. It is so insidious that often gay Black men can end up being homophobic themselves. If Black queer boys and men can see themselves in media, like movies, that doesn’t represent them as stereotypes and as emasculated men, then that might help them learn to accept themselves as natural and take off that lens of hypermasculinity. Moonlight is a great example of positive representation, and it has struck a chord with many queer Black people, including critic Hilton Als. We need more films like Moonlight to deconstruct how Hollywood views queer Black people. The fact that Moonlight won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2017 shows that perhaps Hollywood is changing, but there is still a long way to go (Bowman). Hopefully, Moonlight is just the start of major films about Black queer people.

In closing, Moonlight is a thought-provoking film that addresses issues of difference, discrimination, and power through the lens of masculinity and homophobia. As we follow Chiron through his life, we see him face discrimination from his peers and his mother, and how this eventually leads to Chiron performing hypermasculinity to survive in the patriarchal and heteronormative world we live in today. In the end, while Chiron has faced so much adversity, there is still hope that he can heal and make peace with who he is, which can be inferred in the final shots as implied by subtext, colors, and sound. Moonlight is an impactful film that I think everyone can connect to in one way or another. It’s also an incredibly important film since it represents gay Black men positively without stereotypes. All in all, I would highly recommend Moonlight. At times it’s painful and heartbreaking to watch, but there are also beautiful moments that show the ups and downs of living as a queer Black man in the society we live in today.

Als, Hilton. “‘Moonlight’ Undoes Our Expectations.” The New Yorker, Condé Nast, 17 Oct. 2016, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/24/moonlight-undoes-our-expectations. Accessed 29 Aug. 2021.

Bowman, Emma. “In A Dramatic Finish, ‘Moonlight’ Takes Best Picture At the 2017 Oscars.” npr, 26 Feb. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/26/516887719/2017-oscars-follow-along-as-the-winners-are-announced. Accessed 31 Aug. 2021.

Gilmer, Micah, and Riki Wilchins. “Addressing Masculine Norms to Improve Life Outcomes for Young Black Men: Why We Still Can’t Wait.” TrueChild; Frontline Solutions, www.unitedphilforum.org/sites/default/files/Young%20Black%20Men%20%26%20Masculinity%20%5BABFE%5D.pdf. Accessed 29 Aug. 2021.

Grant, Alphonso Walter. “How It Feels to Be BLACK ME: Black Masculinities and Sexualities in Black Visual Culture.” Studies in Art Education, vol. 61, no. 3, July 2020, pp. 240–253. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00393541.2020.1794283.

Moonlight. Directed by Barry Jenkins, A24; Plan B Entertainment; Pastel Productions, 2016.

Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis Essay

Introduction, part 1 ‘little’ chiron (chapter 4), part 2 ‘chiron’, part 3 ‘black’, behaviorism, humanistic theory, socio-cultural perspective.

This paper is an analysis of the movie Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins. The film captures the life of a young black boy named Chiron in the quest to realize himself in a community where drug abuse and poverty prevailed. The movie’s setting is in Miami during 1980, where homophobia, racial discrimination, drug abuse and other social crimes were a major menace in the USA. This paper attempts to relate the life of the main character in the film, Chiron, to the characteristics of human behavior. This paper is divided into sections to; highlight the stages of development of Chiron, theoretical perspectives in understanding behavioral development and the impact of the behavior on the main characters life, impact on the society, focusing on family as a unit of the society.

The behavior of Chiron portrayed from his teenage years into adulthood was influenced immensely by environmental factors, peers, lack of proper parenting, and bullying. The parental detachment from a missing father and an uncaring mother pushes the main character into often keeping to himself. Chiron is denied his identity from an early age and is left vulnerable. Chiron’s physical, mental, and emotional development takes a different course from his tender age, which was vital in the behaviour that he picks from his adolescence or teenage into adult life. The effects of poor parenting affect the sexuality of young Chiron.

Chiron did not have a fatherly figure from the onset of his childhood. besides, his mother, Paula, who had conformed to the environment, focused on telling her son Chiron to be strong and tough, not keen on the positive development of her son. This relationship increases the gap between Chiron and Paula. Paula blames her son for being bullied, this increases his hate for her. The bullying and anti-social behaviour are evident in the main character’s early life, as he spent most of his time uncompleted buildings to avoid interaction. The main characters attitude and perception towards life takes a different path due to the events he goes through.

The main character meets Juan, whom he quickly gets attached to, and sees him as a father he never had. Juan, throughout the movie, assists him from his neglected childhood through his teenage years. Chiron faces bullying from Terrel, who plays a major role in ensuring the main character does not realize himself. Terrel criticized Chiron for his skin colour and termed him as an inferior type who could not achieve their destiny. Juan and his girlfriend play an important role in the movie’s early stages (early life of Chiron). An ironic scenario is portrayed where Paula, Chiron’s mother, snatches his son from Juan, a drug dealer, showing parental protection.

On the contrary, Juan offered shelter to Chiron when he was alone in an abandoned building. Their relationship had some symbolism, notably during their time at the swimming pool, when Juan is seen teaching the main character to swim against waves. This symbolized the preparation he was offering to help him overcome the challenges he was facing and focus on his destiny. His life is taking a bolder step, with belief and zeal passed by Juan. However, the end of the first part alters the attitude towards Juan when the main character asks Juan if Paula (Chiron’s mother) is struggling with drugs and if Juan is her supplier.

In this part of the film, Chiron’s main character enters his teenage years, where his sexuality majorly takes center stage. It is crystalizing that he is homosexual, and his nature is not welcomed by Terrel, among others, in school. Chiron faces physical torture and psychological torture. The events at the beach with Kevin symbolize his place in society, where his friend Kevin punches him to the ground, showing that society does not appreciate them. Kevin represented the part of the community that would surrender their relationship with people like Chiron for their safety. In this part, the bold nature of Chiron (impacted by Juan) is seen when a gang attacks him for not alluding to their activities of wrongdoings. He is seen as tough, not as his mother wanted, but to refuse to be swayed into wrong-doings by peers. Chiron still struggles with his identity as those he associated with him secluded themselves due to differences in interest and perception of life. After attacking his bully Terrel in retaliation, he is left questioning his place in society if he has to fight for it.

This part of the movie ends when Chiron grows bigger, preparing him for the film’s final act. Chiron also finds a glimpse of acceptance of his sexuality (gay), when in this chapter, he finds identity with gay people. Chiron experiences his first emotional expression of romance when he flirts convincingly with his friend Kevin at the beach while under the influence of marijuana. Even though he felt something for Chiron, Kevin was shy to show, with fear or intimidation, that the status came along with. The events of humiliations, bullying and intimidation in his early life do not make Chiron weak as perceived but a strong young man, as is notable in the final part of the movie. It ends in arrests of the main character, Chiron, and changing of residence to Atlanta.

The last episode of the movie (Black) brings out a matured Chiron; he has learnt to live with his sexual status and does not take intimidation for who he is, racially and sexually. The impact of his ‘father’ Juan crystalizes in the adult version of Chiron; he is bold, he has picked up the lifestyle of Juan; clothing, piercings and business. Chiron is now a drug dealer. Barry Jenkins described the last act as black since Chiron had then grown to a mature black man, who was subject to suspicion and association with any form of crime as it were at that time. Chiron is, however, bold in decision making, clear when he rejects alcohol from Kevin. Chiron felt taking alcohol was betraying his belief and fight for gay acceptance and appreciation in society. Chiron’s stay away from Miami unveiled another version of him. He was built (masculine), had grilled teeth, and his physique cleared any doubt about being gay. Chiron makes sole decisions as he spent the better part of his life alone; he may not be lured into other activities that his conscience considered ordeal. He reunites with Kevin in a rather cold fashion as the movie ends.

The behavioral learning theory, commonly known as behaviorism, states that behavior is learned from observation of the environment around humans. JB Watson came up with the theory based on Ivan Pablo’s theory of classical conditioning; Behaviorism has been accepted and developed further by other scholars. In this movie, the behavior of characters and the society at large were influenced and acquired in the society (Hutchison, 2021). For instance, Chiron’s mother is involved in smoking and substance abuse since that is the culture of living poverty and racial segregation. On the other hand, Chiron does not conform to the behavior of his mom or most teenagers in the neighborhood, supporting that behavior is not inherited but observed from a surrounding where the behavior exists. Besides, Chiron takes the lifestyle of Juan, of putting on clothes similar to Juan’s, which would then portray him as ‘feared’ just like Juan. This made him bold like his ‘father’ Juan.

Another perspective displayed in the movie is the humanistic theory model of acquiring behavior. This approach suggests that every human being understands the universe, its environment, and all phenomena involved. Developed by three theorists Maslow, Carl, and Frankl, they suggested that human behaviour depends on the human nature of human beings. Juan exhibits humanistic behaviour in the movie when he helps neglect and rejects Chiron to shelter and parental love. On the contrary, Juan also sells drugs to Chiron’s mother, struggling with addiction and substance abuse. Similarly, Chiron exhibits bold steps by choosing a contrary lifestyle compared to teenagers his age.

Lastly, the socio-cultural perspective of behavior development suggests that personality and culture are interdependent. Further mentioning that behavior may be determined by the interactions and social categorizations like gender, religion, race etc. (Hutchison, 2021). Chiron returns from Atlanta with a different outlook, a different way of dressing and argument. His beliefs about homosexuality are bolder and do not go against them, evident when Kevin offers him alcohol which he boldly rejects.

The impact of the challenging life that young Chiron goes through from childhood into maturity identifies him as a bold personality. The pain of rejection, assault and loneliness helps him find his true self at the movie’s end. When he was accepted by gay people, where he found acceptance, he felt that was his sexuality and moved on to show for it. Chiron found love in Juan, who he saw as a father he never heard. The spiritual and emotional connection they created gave the main character a belief in parental love and care, and acceptance. The formed values of the personality of Chiron are manifested already in the second part, when the main character does not surrender the police who attacked him and independently solves the problem with Terell.

The setting of the movie is the projects of Miami, where poverty and drug abuse raged. Single parenting impacted children’s psychological development, as in the case of Chiron, who lacked the presence of a father and felt no love in the hands of his mother, who was into drug and substance use. The setting was ‘ruled’ by norms that would result in stagnant progress and rigid cultural development evident when Chiron’s mother pushes him to buy the idea of ‘street toughness’ to see him against bullying and other children abuse activities. Class issues are compounded by issues of gender and sexual orientation, which have long dictated the needs of the heroes, prioritizing feelings of appreciation, apology, and love. Racial discrimination, coupled with class problems, lead to severe conflicts that form individuals who are difficult to trust and open up even to once close people.

The Family unit in the movie has been satirized with ironic events exhibited in the initial scenes of the movie. Paula, Chiron’s mother, blames his son for being bullied instead of taking the primary role of protecting her son against the effects of the vice. On the contrary, Juan, a drug dealer painted as a bad figure, takes up the burden of fatherhood on young Chiron and finds shelter and food for him. The impact of Juan on the life of Chiron remains evident even at the end of the movie. Paula is quick to pull her son away from a drug dealer, but not from the hands of bullies. Juan and his girlfriend treat young children with love despite their social reputation of drug dealing. Behavior development begins from those closest to the young ones as they grow into adults; thus, parenting plays a major role in behavioral development and mentoring.

The accumulated resentment does not pass the test of time: as a result, family affection still leads to mutual forgiveness of Chiron and the mother. Kevin, who has become close to the protagonist, although he regrets life, is still happy to be a father. The lack of upbringing of his father left a characteristic imprint on Chiron that he was looking for him in Juan and Kevin. Not finding comfort from his mother until he became an adult, Chiron would eventually be able to open up and trust only the one in whom he saw his father. Chiron himself is hardly ready to take on such a role, therefore, even in adulthood, he seeks this support, hiding his feelings behind a thick shell of negative life experience of drug trafficking, prison and a difficult fate.

Hutchison, E. D. (2021). Dimensions of Human Behavior . Sage.

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IvyPanda. (2022, November 27). Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moonlight-by-barry-jenkins-a-movie-analysis/

"Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis." IvyPanda , 27 Nov. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/moonlight-by-barry-jenkins-a-movie-analysis/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis'. 27 November.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis." November 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moonlight-by-barry-jenkins-a-movie-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda . "Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis." November 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moonlight-by-barry-jenkins-a-movie-analysis/.


IvyPanda . "Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis." November 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moonlight-by-barry-jenkins-a-movie-analysis/.

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“Who is you, man?” Dramatic film has long been fascinated with issues of identity, but they’ve rarely been explored with the degree of eloquence and heartbreaking beauty as in Barry Jenkins ’ masterful “Moonlight,” one of the essential American films of 2016. “Moonlight” is a film that is both lyrical and deeply grounded in its character work, a balancing act that’s breathtaking to behold. It is one of those rare pieces of filmmaking that stays completely focused on its characters while also feeling like it’s dealing with universal themes about identity, sexuality, family, and, most of all, masculinity. And yet it's never preachy or moralizing. It is a movie in which deep, complex themes are reflected through character first and foremost. Jenkins’ film is confident in every single aspect of the way that a critic can use that word. Every performance, every shot choice, every piece of music, every lived-in setting—it’s one of those rare movies that just doesn’t take a wrong step, and climaxes in a scene not of CGI or twists but of dialogue that is one of the best single scenes in years.

The protagonist of “Moonlight” reflects the conflicted and fluid masculinity of young African-American men in the United States, even in just the way he’s presented. The film is divided into three chapters—“Little,” “Chiron” and “Black”—the three names used to refer to the same person that we follow from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. He’s a boy and then a man who has trouble figuring out his place in the world, which is also articulated by the character being played by three separate, all-remarkable actors.

The film starts with Chiron as a boy, referred to by his bullies as “Little” ( Alex R. Hibbert ). We meet this youngster running, trying to hide in a boarded up apartment from the kids who want to beat him up. Little is found there by Juan ( Mahershala Ali , doing career-best work), a local drug dealer. Juan takes the kid out to eat, even bringing him back to his place, where he meets his partner Teresa ( Janelle Monáe ). Little could use this makeshift family. His dad is gone and his mother Paula ( Naomie Harris ) happens to be one of Juan’s best clients. Juan becomes something of a father figure, but that might make this relationship sound more predictable than it is. Juan sees something good in Chiron and wants to help this quiet boy, even as he provides the product that’s ruining his home life.

The film jumps to Chiron as a teenager, dealing with more intense bullying and questions about sexuality. These are the years in which everyone claims to be sleeping around and a young man like Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders ) struggles to find himself, especially now that all semblance of a normal home life is gone. He literally has nothing, and it takes kindness from his friend Kevin (played by Jharrel Jerome at this age) to bring him comfort. But even that is turned in a time, place and age in which compassion is sorely lacking, when young men believe that violence is the answer to what will make them feel better or allow them to fit in.

Finally, we meet Chiron as a young adult, played with remarkable subtlety by Trevante Rhodes . Kevin (now played by André Holland of “The Knick”) reaches out to a very-different Chiron, and the film’s themes coalesce in a surprisingly emotionally resonant way without monologues or heavy-handed melodrama. In a sense, “Moonlight” is a coming-of-age story about a boy often overlooked by society, that little kid not cool enough to hang with the bigger ones and without the support of a family to keep him from simply disappearing into the night.

The trio of performances that make up Chiron from Hibbert/Sanders/Rhodes are perfectly calibrated by Jenkins, who directs them to feel not like imitations of each other but express growth. We can see the sad eyes of Chiron as a boy reflected in Chiron as a man. “Moonlight” could have easily felt episodic, especially with three actors playing the same character, but it’s stunning how much it never falters in that regard. Jenkins’ work with his ensemble creates consistency from chapter to chapter, even as the cast changes as often as it does. Jenkins also draws great turns from Harris and Ali, playing two of the most influential people in Chiron’s life.

Jenkins and his technical team shoot Miami in a way that we don’t often see, using their setting brilliantly, especially the way that the water and the beach around it can feel like a break from the troubles of the real world. But "Moonlight" is a film about faces. Chiron’s eyes say so much that this young man has not been taught how to express. He is young, black, gay, poor, and largely friendless—the kind of person who feels like he could literally vanish from being so unseen by the world. During one of the film’s many memorable dialogue exchanges (written by Jenkins, adapted from a play by Tarell McCraney ), Chiron speaks of crying so much in his life that he feels like he could simply turn to liquid and roll into the ocean.

While there’s memorable dialogue in “Moonlight,” it’s what’s unsaid that really resonates. It’s the look of a morally complex father figure when a child asks him why other kids call him a bad word. It’s a nervous glance between two young men who know something is a little different about their relationship but society has given them no words to express it. And it’s in the final scenes of the film—in which Jenkins knows he’s laid the groundwork, trusts his actors and allows the emotions of what’s unsaid to provide the dramatic thrust—that “Moonlight” makes its greatest impact. Jenkins deeply understands that it is human connection that forms us, that changes our trajectory and makes us who we are. 

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Moonlight (2016)

110 minutes

Mahershala Ali as Juan

Shariff Earp as Terrence

Duan'Sandy' Sanderson as Azu

Alex R. Hibbert as Little

Janelle Monáe as Teresa

Naomie Harris as Paula

André Holland as Kevin

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  • Joi McMillon
  • Nat Sanders

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Analysis of the Social Issues Addressed in Barry Jenkins' Movie "Moonlight"

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"Moonlight" Film Analysis

The film Moonlight takes viewers on a journey through Chiron’s difficult life as he struggles with his self-identity and his sexual identity. Moonlight displays how Chiron, a black male living in Miami, is affected by society’s expectations of masculinity. The film highlights that society’s pressure to fit in can damage a person’s sense of identity. The film is divided into three parts. Each part of the film reveals the struggles of Chiron to figure out who he is during different times of his life.

Each part is important for analyzing Chiron’s struggle to truly be himself, despite society’s view on black masculinity.

Section 1: Jaun and Chiron

Section 1 of the film illustrates Chiron’s struggles as a young child to figure out where he fits in.This chapter in Chiron’s life is called “little.” During this section of the film, viewers see that Chiron has a difficult home life. He lives in poverty, and his mother is a drug addict who seems to neglect Chiron by barely being present in his life.

In addition, Chiron is harassed and bullied emotionally and physically by his peers. The opening scene captures young Chiron running away from a group of peers who are chasing him.

Chiron runs to an abandoned house to seek safety from the bullies. The camera zooms in on young Chiron sitting on the floor of an abandoned house, and this allows viewers to see the fear and pain in Chiron’s face. At this point in the film, viewers can already see that Chiron is considered an outcast in his community.

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“ Amazing as always, gave her a week to finish a big assignment and came through way ahead of time. ”

This representation of Chiron as an outcast comes from his peers believing he is too soft. Luckily, a man named Juan follows Chiron into the building and rescues him from the bullies.

Juan takes Chiron home and became a sort of father figure for Chiron during his childhood. Another scene that shows that Chiron’s peers are influencing his views of himself is when Chiron asks Jaun,“What’s a faggot?” This term holds a negative connotation for being homosexual. Clearly, Chiron’s peers call him a faggot, and this clearly resonated hard with Chiron. Chiron now associates homosexuality as a negative concept. This greatly affects Chiron because he is still trying to understand his sexuality. W. E Du Bois in his writing Strivings of the Negro People emphasizes a double-conciousness. This double-consciousness is the sense of always looking at yourself in the view of others.

Chiron feels like he is weak and soft because his peers view him that way. This greatly affects how Chiron sees himself, and it starts to create a sense of shame within young Chiron. This shame will go on to affect Chiron’s identity later in the film. An example of Chiron feeling like an outcast can be seen in the scene where his peers are playing soccer in a field. The camera pans across the children, and then captures them all playing and having fun together. This creates a sense of unity among these children.

Young Chiron clearly didn’t feel like he fit in, so he left the scene. Kenny, a friend of Chiron, follows Chiron and tells him to “show these niggas you ain’t soft.” He tells Chiron this in hopes that Chiron will be able to better fit in by being more tough. This highlights the common ideality that one must be tough to be a true man. Even further, this shows that masculinity shapes even young children’s view of how a male should act and feel. Kenny feels as if he is helping Chiron, but this only adds to Chiron not being himself.

Juan, Chiron’s father figure, attempts to help Chiron realize that being himself is a good thing. Jaun helps Chiron with his identity by telling him “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be – can’t let nobody make that decision for you.’ Jaun tries to teach Chiron that it’s okay that Chiron is soft, and that Chiron shouldn’t feel ashamed of this softness. During a scene, Jaun teaches Chiron how to swim. This moment is very vulnerable and happy. Chiron lets go of all of his worries and doubts about himself and instead is just a happy boy swimming in the water. Juan tried to help Chiron be himself, not try to change himself based on his peer’s expectations. Without Jaun’s support, Chiron was once again left confused about his identity.

Section 2: Chiron’s Character

Section 2, labeled Chiron, portrays Chiron as a 16-year-old adolescent. Jaun has passed away, and Chiron is clearly still struggling to find who he is. Chiron is still being bullied due to his soft and quiet nature. The beach scene between Kenny and Chiron helps to illustrate Chiron’s shame of his vulnerability. In this scene two important conversations occur.

The first conversation is when Chiron admits to Kenny that he cries all the time. Chiron is opening up to Kenny by being vulnerable about his feelings. This conversation is followed by Kenny and Chiron kissing, and sharing an intimate moment. After this intimate moment, Chiron apologizes to Kenny for kissing him. This highlights the fact that Chiron feels ashamed of his feelings towards Kenny. This scene is also important because it shows a glimpse of Chiron’s sexual identity, but Chiron feels ashamed of this identity due to society’s view on homosexuality. For instance, the negatively used word “faggot” that is associated with being homosexual.

Chiron feels further confusion and doubt when Kenny beats him up at school to look manly in front of the school bully. The camera zooms in on Chiron’s face as he’s being beat up by Kenny. Chiron looks hopeless in this scene. At this point, Chiron has no sense of identity that is his own. He only views himself how others view him; weak and a faggot. And he is ashamed of these traits. Due to society Chiron views these traits as being a problem. Chiron’s peers used his softness against him, and in section 3 viewers see that Chiron tries to get rid of these qualities that got him bullied.

Section 3: Black

Section 3 of Moonlight is called “black”, and it reveals that Chiron grew up to be a tough drug dealer. Sean Nixon in his book, Exhibiting Masculinity, defines the term subjectivization. Subjectivization, according to Nixon, refers to how people shape themselves according to the norms. Nixon also emphasizes that this makes it hard for people to find their own sense of individuality.

As an adult, Chiron changes himself to fit in. He adopts a tough personality, and he internalizes the shame of being queer and vulnerable. Chiron’s struggles while growing up was associated with how society views people who are different. Chiron was vulnerable and soft, while society expected a black male to be tough, strong, and violent. Adult Chiron adopted these expectations because he was tired of trying to find his own identity. Nixon also describes identification, which is the desire to be someone else. It seems as if Chiron desired to be more like Jaun.

Chiron became a drug dealer just like Jaun. Chiron’s major shift in personality proves that society can affect a person’s sense of identity. At the end of the film, Chiron seems to start to accept his true identity and sexual preference. Chiron meets up with Kenny, and they share an intimate moment. Chiron admits to Kenny that Kenny is the only guy that has ever touched him like that. A very sensitive moment is then shared between Kenny and Chiron. Kenny rubs Chiron’s head, as Chiron lais his head on Kenny’s shoulder. This scene shows Chiron’s vulnerability and softness. This scene also helps Chiron accept his sexual preference.

Chiron’s acceptance to his vulnerability and sexual preference at the end of the film may only be temporary, or maybe Chiron finally figured out who he truly is. Either way it is terrible that society shaped how Chiron viewed himself and made it impossible for Chiron to discover his true identity. This highlights how society’s expectations on people to conform to the norms is a truly toxic process. Society’s expectations about masculinity left Chiron confused most of his life. Overall, Moonlight did an amazing job at showing Chiron’s confusing journey at finding out who he is.

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Moonlight (Film)

By barry jenkins, moonlight (film) summary and analysis of "introduction" and "little" (part one).

We open on the curb of a street in Liberty City, a tough neighborhood in Miami, as a souped-up classic car, its dashboard decorated with a miniature crown, pulls up and parks. Juan , a confident drug dealer, emerges from the car and crosses the street to greet Terrence . It becomes clear that Terrence is an employee of Juan's who deals crack on this corner. Juan asks Terrence how business has been, and Terrence answers that everyone has paid up, offering the money to Juan. Juan tells him to keep it until the weekend.

A man approaches them asking to buy. He appears slightly crazed and seems to realize he's not being respectful towards Juan. He apologizes and moves down the block to retrieve the drugs from another man posted at a corner. Just then, several boys run past Juan and Terrence, seemingly pursuing one little boy.

We leave Juan to follow these little boys as they chase Chiron (nicknamed " Little ") through an abandoned lot. Little takes refuge in an abandoned apartment complex, slamming the door shut just in time to foil his pursuers. The other boys throw things through the already broken window to try to hurt Little, who cowers in the corner. As his antagonists seem to retreat, Little explores the apartment. He finds a crack pipe and holds it up to the light.

Suddenly, loud knocks sound at the door. Little freezes, expecting the boys, but it's Juan. He enters, asking Little if he'd like to go eat some food. Little hesitates. Juan says, "C'mon. It can't be no worse out here."

At a fast food joint, Little eats ravenously and dodges questions from Juan, who threatens to take away Little's food unless he talks. Little casts his eyes down and shrinks into his seat, resigning to his dinner being taken away. Juan laughs and apologizes, but Little still seems too proud to give in.

Unable to figure out where Little lives, Juan takes Little home with him and warns him that his girlfriend, Teresa , will get him to talk. They arrive and Little watches, unable to hear, as Juan and Teresa discuss the situation. Teresa gets into the car with Little.

Later that evening, Little digs into a meal made by Teresa and explains that his name is Chiron, but "people call [him] Little." He tells Juan and Teresa that he lives in Liberty City with his mom, but gets silent and stops eating when they ask about his father. Juan entreats Little to tell them where he lives, but Little refuses. Teresa buckles, allowing Little to stay at their place that night.

The next morning, Juan brings Little home, finding his mother, Paula , worried sick. She scolds Little and seems resentful of Juan's attempts to care for her son. When Juan tries to fist-bump Little goodbye, Paula pushes Little inside. Inside, Paula tries and fails to coax an explanation out of Little. She gives up and cuddles him, but he doesn't seem interested. He tries to turn on the TV, but Paula tells him he can't watch TV—only read—as punishment for failing to come home the previous night.

At school, Little and his peers play a hybrid of soccer and football, kicking balled-up newspaper down a field and tackling each other. When Little leaves the game, apparently disinterested, a little boy named Kevin , follows. Kevin asks Little why he lets people pick on him and tells Little he needs to show the other boys he's not "soft." Kevin forces Little to wrestle him in order to prove this, and eventually, Little begins to engage in the fight, successfully fighting Kevin off. Exhausted, the boys lie on their backs and pant. Kevin gets up and tells Little, "See? I knew you wasn't soft."

In this opening chapter, director Barry Jenkins acquaints us with the impressionistic style that will shape the film. Little's world is tactile, just like him—it centers on running, broken glass, and fried food. Thus, Jenkins' style likewise focuses on these physical realities, adopting an intensely subjective approach to telling Little's story. This is particularly visible when we break from Juan in the opening sequence to run with the boys chasing Little through an overgrown lot. In the single shot that captures the boys running, the camera is shaky, because we, like the boys behind Little, are on his heels, panting for air. In adopting such a subjective camera, Jenkins situates his audience in Little's subjectivity, where we will not only watch but feel his journey throughout the film.

Jenkins also introduces us to some of the film's core motifs and themes here, including the dichotomy between the inside and the outside. When Juan invites Little to go out for food with him, he quips, "C'mon. Can't be no worse out here." Of course, Juan is referring to the fact that Little is hiding in a dangerous former crack den, but his words also take on deeper meaning. Over the course of Chiron's journey, the notion of being open about his sexuality, often colloquially referred to as "coming out of the closet," is a freedom that Chiron is afraid to pursue. Thus, Juan's words gesture at the division between one's outward behavior and the true, interior self that Chiron will struggle with throughout the film. Later, Chiron will hesitate to leave school, peering down at the bullies that wait for him below, echoing this first scene.

As we, just like Juan and Teresa, become increasingly curious about the details of Little's home life, we come to understand the difficulty his lack of role models creates. Of course, this will become one of the film's chief themes, as Chiron will struggle with who he can truly look to as an example throughout his childhood. Although we understand Juan's background from the first shot of the film, we also quickly come to trust his and Teresa's goodwill towards Little, introducing us to the moral ambiguity that will shade Little's experience with this couple. Even when Chiron reaches his house, greeting his hard-working mother, we feel his mother's downfall foreshadowed, particularly when she forbids him to watch their TV, which she will later sell for money to buy crack. Little's network of parental figures who are sometimes present, sometimes absent, in turn positive role models and bad ones, begins to paint the film's complex picture of the relation between identity and environment.

Importantly, we are also introduced to the character Kevin in this section. In the scene in which Kevin forces Chiron to wrestle him, Kevin encourages Chiron to be less "soft" and more "hard." This distinction between "soft" versus "hard" will continue to provide one of the chief motifs in the film, one that ties into themes of masculinity and performance. Here, Kevin knows Chiron is not truly weak, yet he urges him to perform strength by wrestling him. Kevin will ultimately continue to perform traditional masculinity in the film, whereas Chiron will struggle between the ideals of being himself and being a "man."

On the whole, this chapter also introduces the viewer to the particular world in which Jenkins sets Chiron's journey: that of Liberty City, Miami in the thick of the 1980s crack epidemic. Chiron's world is one of nuance, and Liberty City is neither a good nor a bad place. Indeed, Jenkins finds beauty here, and throughout the film, in even the crack-stricken neighborhoods. When Little holds a crack pipe up to the light, for example, he is momentarily mesmerized by its refraction of the sunlight. Food, too, will continue to serve as an ordinary reminder of what one can share with others, and for Chiron, Teresa's food will always serve as enticement for him to open up.

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Moonlight (Film) Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Moonlight (Film) is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Embers of moonlight

Who is the author of this?

Which sentence from the story Embers of moonlight best explains why the narrator has never before watch the end of night of rebirth

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How, if at all, does the representation in the media text reinforce systems of heteronormativity? How do you know?

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Study Guide for Moonlight (Film)

Moonlight (Film) study guide contains a biography of Barry Jenkins, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Moonlight (Film)
  • Moonlight (Film) Summary
  • Character List
  • Director's Influence

Essays for Moonlight (Film)

Moonlight (Film) essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Moonlight (Film) by Barry Jenkins.

  • Moonlight Scene Analysis
  • Black Identity: The Struggle between Virility and Vulnerability
  • Color, Lighting, and Powerful Motifs: The Evocative Visual Design in Moonlight
  • Sexuality and Performance in Paris is Burning and Moonlight
  • Chiron’s Lifelong Search for Love

Wikipedia Entries for Moonlight (Film)

  • Introduction

moonlight film analysis essay

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Analysis of Movie Moonlight Essay

Chiron, also known as Little, is the protagonist in Barry Jenkins’s film, “Moonlight” . The film takes us through Chiron’s journey from his childhood to adulthood while exploring his life’s experiences and the people who shaped him into the man he becomes emotionally, physically and sexually. However, the basis for this growth is evident in the first 10 minutes. The main problem faced by the protagonist within these minutes is constant bullying because other boys perceive him as different. Based on the script, “three young boys (adolescents, 12/13 years old) with sticks chasing Little who is running, terrified” (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, p. 2).

Little’s weakness is his homosexuality and lack of acceptance into the society. However, there is no mentioning of its connection to any Ghost in the past. Notably, this weakness can be said to make Little behavior in a weird manner.

Jenkins describes Chiron’s life focusing on the physical realities of it with a subjective approach throughout the script that makes the audience feel the journey rather than just watching it. As such, the inciting incident starts where the scriptwriters introduce Little’s sexuality. However, this is made possible by the introduction of another character, Kevin, who saved Little and also seems to be gay. Precisely, this state continues as Little acquires more friends like Juan but continues to be bullied by others.

Jenkins and McCraney portray the school bullies as the antagonists and they are a great challenge for Little’s weakness. They arrange an after lunch beat-down, and one of them, Terrel, pushes other kids away to provide adequate space for the protagonist to be humiliated.

Just before the Midpoint, it is evident that Chiron is already grown into a young man, but his childhood continues to be part of his present life, specifically his sexuality and the relationship between him and his mother. The turning point shows Chiron finally deciding to confront his bullies, showing that one should really shape his or her future (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, p. 46).

However, Chiron’s ability to open up about his sexuality is an illustration of the freedom he has to pursue. Jenkins also shows Chiron’s expression when he holds the cocaine pipe for the first time. Undoubtedly, these events demonstrate the protagonist’s escape from his weakness and acquisition of the ability to confront his bullies. At the climax of the story, Chiron’s problems are far away yet emotionally present for him. The climax of this interesting drama is reached when Chiron finally reunites with his longtime best friend and desired lover, Kevin.

There are three obstacles that prevent Little, the protagonist, from achieving his goals: being black, homosexuality and drug abuse. Jenkins and McCraney introduce the audience to the structure of the film by break Chiron’s life into various sections between which his age advances. Similarly, these sections show his encounters with bullies at childhood and life in drugs during mid-life. For instance, the beach scene marks a new beginning for Chiron as he finally acts on his sexuality (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, pp. 52-53).

It clearly demonstrates meditative, somber, longing, impressionistic and wistful moods. The script also presents a major conflict revolving around Chiron who tries to find his identity and true love within the ruins of Miami’s ‘drug-possessed’ neighborhood. Firstly, the scriptwriters try to convey Little’s gay personality by identifying “the hints of something sensual, fleeting in its appearances; Kevin’s cheek wedged close to Little’s neck” (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, pp. 18). Secondly, Jenkins also depicts Paula as loving specifically when Paula tells Chiron that she would not wish for his heart to turn ‘black’ like hers was. She says, “Didn’t come all the way the hell to Georgia to have you fall into the same shit, Chiron” (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, pp. 67). Lastly, Teresa and Juan use food as an enticement for Chiron to make him share his life story. Juan tells Chiron, “You don’t talk much but you damn sure can eat” while Teresa adds, “that’s alright, baby. You talk when you ready” (Jenkins & McCraney, 2017, p. 7).

Through Paula, Chiron’s mother, the scriptwriters illustrate the themes of parenthood, redemption, and identity. Moreover, we understand Chiron drug problem through his mother especially when they reestablish their relationship with a reversal of roles. Chiron becomes the drug dealer and Paula, a clean and reformed character. Through Kevin, the author demonstrates Chiron’s homosexuality from a very young age. Also, the bullies at school help the reader understand the protagonist’s personality as a humble boy who lacks masculinity. Lastly, Similarly, Paula’s character is used to demonstrate the main characters response to parenthood. Precisely, Chiron seems to prefer Juan and Teresa as surrogate parents as his mother is more of an antagonist than a parent. In turn, it leads to Paula expressing some jealousy as she tells Chiron that she is his only real family. Through Juan, who advices Chiron to confront his oppressors, the protagonists abilities are reveals. Chiron transforms from a vulnerable little boy who struggles to communicate to a character that resembles Juan.

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Home — Essay Samples — Entertainment — Moonlight — The Sexual Identity and Overall Well Being of Chiron in Moonlight, a Film by Barry Jenkins


The Sexual Identity and Overall Well Being of Chiron in Moonlight, a Film by Barry Jenkins

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Related Essays on Moonlight

Directed by Barry Jenkins and released in 2016, "Moonlight" is a critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama that offers a unique perspective on identity, sexuality, and personal growth. The film, based on the play "In Moonlight [...]

Moonlight was directed by Barry Jenkins, adapting the unproduced play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Moonlight is a coming of age movie of a young African American man through three stages of [...]

What I believe the film Moonlight is attempting to communicate to us watching is not simply the acknowledgment of homosexuality inside African American neighborhoods, yet additionally grasping young men who exist outside of that [...]

  Moonlight was directed by Barry Jenkins, adapting the unproduced play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Moonlight is a coming of age movie of a young African American man through three [...]

Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is a novel pervaded by a multifaceted and intrinsic musical presence. Protagonist Alex’s fondness for classical music imbues his character with interesting dimensions, and resonates well [...]

Stanley Kubrick wrote the screenplay for and directed the film A Clockwork Orange based on the book by Anthony Burgess with the same title. The distinguishing feature of the book is the language the narrator, Alexander DeLarge, [...]

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moonlight film analysis essay


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  1. Moonlight (2016)

    61 Moonlight (2016) . The Power of Moonlight (2016): Masculinity, Homophobia, and Healing. By Claire Dunn . Moonlight is an insightful and compelling independent film directed by Barry Jenkins that follows Chiron, a Black gay man, at three different points in his life. We follow him as he grows up in Liberty City, Miami with no father and a mother struggling with a crack addiction, plus all ...

  2. Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: A Movie Analysis Essay

    This paper is an analysis of the movie Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins. The film captures the life of a young black boy named Chiron in the quest to realize himself in a community where drug abuse and poverty prevailed. The movie's setting is in Miami during 1980, where homophobia, racial discrimination, drug abuse and other ...

  3. Moonlight (Film) Essay Questions

    Moonlight (Film) study guide contains a biography of Barry Jenkins, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Best summary PDF, themes, and quotes. More books than SparkNotes.

  4. Moonlight (Film) Summary

    Moonlight (Film) study guide contains a biography of Barry Jenkins, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Best summary PDF, themes, and quotes. More books than SparkNotes.

  5. Analysis on a Movie: Moonlight (2016)

    Analysis Of Cinematography In Barry Jenkins' Movie Moonlight Essay Moonlight was directed by Barry Jenkins, adapting the unproduced play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

  6. Analysis of Cinematography in Moonlight by Barry Jenkins: [Essay

    Moonlight: cinematography analysis. Moonlight's cinematography is the most important in establishing not only the characters and the environment but the relation between the two and their importance to the main theme of the film. The theme, being who we truly are and what our environment expects us to be, is the protagonist's main conflict.

  7. The Main Message of The Film Moonlight

    Analysis on a Movie: Moonlight (2016) Essay. Directed by Barry Jenkins and released in 2016, "Moonlight" is a critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama that offers a unique perspective on identity, sexuality, and personal growth. The film, based on the play "In Moonlight [...] Analysis Of Cinematography In Barry Jenkins' Movie Moonlight Essay.

  8. Moonlight movie review & film summary (2016)

    The protagonist of "Moonlight" reflects the conflicted and fluid masculinity of young African-American men in the United States, even in just the way he's presented. The film is divided into three chapters—"Little," "Chiron" and "Black"—the three names used to refer to the same person that we follow from childhood through ...

  9. Moonlight (Film) Essay

    Moonlight Scene Analysis. Barry Jenkins's 2016 drama Moonlight depicts a young African-American boy, Chiron, struggling with his sexuality through three stages in his life, early childhood, his teenage period and finally in his adult life, showing how he develops as a person. In this middle, high school period, he begins a secret relationship ...

  10. Analysis of the Social Issues Addressed in Barry Jenkins' Movie "Moonlight"

    Moonlight is a 2016 film written and directed by Barry Jenkins that was named the best film of 2016 by several media outlets and won numerous Academy... read more WritingBros Essay Samples

  11. Essay on 'Moonlight' Film Analysis

    This analysis focuses on the economic and social context of the film and choices in cinematography, sound, editing, genre, mise-en-scene, symbols, narrative structure, themes, and motifs to convey meaning according to the filmmaker's intentions, vision, and influences. Moonlight was released in 2016 and is set in the Liberty City neighborhood ...

  12. The Film Moonlight Film Analysis

    The Film Moonlight Film Analysis. The film Moonlight was released October 21, 2016. Moonlight is all African American cast, and was awarded over 25 awards including the Academy Award for best picture. This film is a coming of age story that follows the dramatic ups and downs of the life of Chiron, a young Africa American man growing up in Miami.

  13. Moonlight Film Review and Analysis

    The ending of Moonlight can leave people a little unfulfilled. I thought it was a perfect ending. Chiron looks to Kevin and mentions that he's the only other person who had ever touched him, and ...

  14. Moonlight (Film) Study Guide

    Moonlight (Film) Study Guide. Directed by relative newcomer Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a film adapted from Terell Alvin McCraney's play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Production on the film, financed by A24, PASTEL, and Plan B, began in late 2015; the film was released in November of 2016. Moonlight tells the story of a young black boy ...

  15. Essays on Moonlight

    Analysis on a Movie: Moonlight (2016) Directed by Barry Jenkins and released in 2016, "Moonlight" is a critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama that offers a unique perspective on identity, sexuality, and personal growth. The film, based on the play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell Alvin McCraney, follows the life...

  16. Moonlight Film Analysis

    The Film Moonlight Film Analysis. This is a criticism of Moonlight, a film directed by Barry Jenkins. It is a coming-of-age story, telling the journey of a young gay black man named Chiron. Through linear character development the film follows a young Chiron from adolescence into adulthood while growing up with alpha males in Miamis black ghettos.

  17. "Moonlight" Film Analysis Free Essay Example

    Analysis, Pages 6 (1409 words) Views. 179. The film Moonlight takes viewers on a journey through Chiron's difficult life as he struggles with his self-identity and his sexual identity. Moonlight displays how Chiron, a black male living in Miami, is affected by society's expectations of masculinity. The film highlights that society's ...

  18. Moonlight (Film) Summary and Analysis of "Introduction ...

    Summary. We open on the curb of a street in Liberty City, a tough neighborhood in Miami, as a souped-up classic car, its dashboard decorated with a miniature crown, pulls up and parks. Juan, a confident drug dealer, emerges from the car and crosses the street to greet Terrence. It becomes clear that Terrence is an employee of Juan's who deals ...

  19. Analysis of Movie Moonlight Essay

    Analysis of Movie Moonlight Essay. by December 4, 2019. Chiron, also known as Little, is the protagonist in Barry Jenkins's film, "Moonlight". The film takes us through Chiron's journey from his childhood to adulthood while exploring his life's experiences and the people who shaped him into the man he becomes emotionally, physically ...

  20. Analysis of The Structure of The Film Moonlight

    Published: Aug 6, 2021. Berry Jenkins intimate film Moonlight, follows the struggle of a young sensitive black man trying to find himself against his society's expectations of masculinity and identity. Moonlight was loosely adapted from an unpublished play from Tarell McCraney called, Black Boys Look Blue.

  21. Critical Analysis of The Film Moonlight

    Critical Analysis of the Film Moonlight - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. This is a presentation essay giving a critical analysis of the "Moonlight" film.

  22. Elements of Visual Design in The Film Moonlight

    Rather than employing a realist, documentary style, Moonlight is filled with elements of visual design such as contrast, color, camera angles, lighting, and slow-motion that immerses the audience in a dreamlike setting. Furthermore, the usage of costumes, props, motifs, and realistic setting of Miami allows viewers to make connections between ...

  23. The Sexual Identity and Overall Well Being of Chiron in Moonlight, a

    Analysis on a Movie: Moonlight (2016) Essay. ... Analysis Of Cinematography In Barry Jenkins' Movie Moonlight Essay. Moonlight was directed by Barry Jenkins, adapting the unproduced play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Moonlight is a coming of age movie of a young African American man through three stages of