We are living in a post-Moonlight world, but it seems that the great reception and achievements that were graced upon the film haven’t made any real change to the genre.
Gay films, and gay films about people of color, are still incredibly niche. Business people and executives who sign the big checks don’t want to risk producing films about these topics because they feel they won’t come back with a profit.
As such, while Moonlight was able to make a splash in Hollywood by grossing $65 million worldwide on a $1.5 million production budget and winning multiple Academy awards, there were several others that did not get as much recognition. (Admittedly, Moonlight was no box office hit).
For instance, Spa Night, a Korean-American film about a young man struggling with his identities as a gay man and a Korean-American man, came out in the same year.
The film was praised greatly at Sundance, but creator Andrew Ahn told Variety Fair that he had a lot of trouble getting the film off the ground.
For instance, he says that he had to first fundraise it on Kickstarter, “We couldn’t even get the money to go through preproduction” Plus, he then struggled to find a distributor for the film.
And this is a problem that seems to not be going away anytime soon.
If even indie productions like Spa Night have issues, we have few chances at having LGBTQ characters outside of the “They’re gay but they don’t really talk about it or acknowledge it” stories that took over this year.
Don’t get me wrong, having these types of stories is perfectly fine. In fact, it’s something to celebrate. That said, if we have too many of these similar stories we are in a deficit of diverse gay storylines and representation.
And the same mentality goes within sub-communities of the gay community.
For instance, the black gay community is still struggling with getting different examples of gay life. Being a black, gay man can mean many things and look many ways. Yet, as The Huffington Post expresses, we often see the same stereotype repeatedly.
“This is an open call to TV and film executives, writers and creators to offer the culture more than a stunt queen with a sharp tongue and outfit to match. Instead of sticking with the same old recipe try something different.”
That’s why it is important that we have diverse stories and characters like Jamal Lyon in Empire or Chiron in Moonlight.
In the meantime, we must celebrate and support the creators who are trying to create these diverse depictions of gay life.
For instance, take the time to often search crowfunding sites that help to produce original work.
Or, we can watch and share web projects that can easily make representation accessible to a wider audience.
One such project would be In the Dark which was made by an gay NCAA athlete making a short film for $300 about a gay athlete (which of course, you can check out below).
Or, we can support Barry Jenkins who has already adapted a great gay story before and will be doing it again. Jenkins has signed on to adapt a film version of the novel If Beale Street Could Talk (which was written by the famous black, gay writer James Bladwin but sadly does not follow a gay topic).
In general, Moonlight has come and gone and sadly it didn’t change much in terms of Hollywood’s perspective on gay stories.
As Andrew Ahn noted to Variety Fair, “I think there has to be a couple more Moonlights,” and he added, “I don’t think it’s going to be the mainstream that’s going to do the work. I think it’s more a grassroots-y thing, and it just has to keep building and building.”