Why “Moonlight” needed to win

Marta Vander Top – contributing writer

If you’ve spent any time around me within the past month – either in real life or on social media – you’ll know that I am completely obsessed with La La Land. The soundtrack is practically the only thing I listen to, I bought a poster to hang on my wall, I saw it a second and a third time in theatres, my wardrobe is more vibrant with primary colors, I wrote a review for In All Things . . .  but I didn’t want it to win Best Picture.

As a twenty-something white female who has her fair share of heartbreak and failure as I’m on this pursuit to discover my “calling” … vocationally, romantically, etc., of course I related to the plot of  La La Land, but it’s not the story our culture needs. After a year of shootings, law changes and protests, a story about a poor, black, gay man is far more important than a story like mine.

Moonlight was a story about authentic vulnerability. I think each character wears a mask in some way or another to hide their shortcomings and who they “really” are. Some just don’t talk much, others do drugs and some bully and harass others. But they are all living in some form of insecurity.

There are genuine declarations of love – not just between romantic partners – and they are met with human responses: strong eye-contact, tears and a lack of words. It’s when we break down our walls and show our true cards to someone in love; that is when we are truly vulnerable.

That night, on the red carpet, Naomie Harris said, “Once you make something specific it becomes very personal.” Moonlight is an incredibly specific and pointed story and maybe I can’t relate to most of it. I’m a white, straight female, who grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis; none of my story should relate to Moonlight . . . yet it does. I still know the pain of insecurity and beauty of vulnerability. I can feel the emotion that is strewn across this movie.

So what’s the point? Why does it matter who wins and who loses? I think the answer is found in my pick for Best Original Song: “The Audition” from La La Land.

“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us.


Vander Top’s picks alongside the actual winners of the 89th Oscars.

Who knows where these “mad,” new and diverse stories will take us? Culture and community needs stories that differ from the ones we experience for ourselves – that’s how we grow. We need films like Moonlight to break the circle of self-consumption. I recognize that I’m partially to blame, seeing La La Land three times while not seeing Moonlight, Fences or Hidden Figures in theaters.

Moonlight deserved and needed to win Best Picture in order to show that our society values all different kinds of stories, not just the easy ones. I encourage all of us, especially myself, to take time to watch films, listen to music and read stories that are outside our own experiences.

This article was originally published on Vander Top’s personal blog, titled “Ever, only, all for thee.”

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