Stella Maxwell
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Don't Forget Moonlight Made LGBT History

Forget La La Land, Moonlight Made LGBT History

It should have made every headline around the world: Moonlight, an LGBT film with an all-black cast, bested the very-white and very-straight forerunner La La Land at the Academy Awards.

Instead, in a surreal and shocking piece of television theater, Faye Dunaway changed the course of history. By pronouncing La La Land the winner of Best Picture, the Bonnie & Clyde actress set into motion a chain of events that would change the narrative and distract from the night's true triumph.

I'm sure you've seen or heard about the debacle. Last night, a jubilant La La Land team took the stage and delivered acceptance speeches, before the mistake was revealed. Moonlight was announced as the true Best Picture, and the film's shocked producers took their place.

Dunaway isn't to blame. She, along with co-presenter Warren Beatty, received the wrong envelope. Inside was printed the name of La La Land actress Emma Stone, the winner of a previously announced category, Best Actress. The mix-up surprised and stalled Beatty, who showed the card to Dunaway instead of announcing the error.

The blame rests with the mainstream media, which has documented the flub to death. A review of headlines from The New York Times shows a click-bait carnival: "If It Were a Hollywood Movie, You'd Never Believe It." "What It Was Like Onstage During the Mistake." "New Details on Blunder as Accounting Firm Takes Heat." "Review: Politics and an Upset Finish in the Oscars Broadcast." 

For a newspaper known for its slogan "all the news that's fit to print," this coverage seems strangely sensational. Where is the focus on the true history-making news? Hollywood, which has historically obscured, erased, and failed to honor LGBT stories, gave its highest honor to a coming-of-age film about a black gay youth. Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Carol, Philadelphia — none of these queer classics achieved what Moonlight did, which was to break the gay glass ceiling for Best Picture.

The mainstream media's reaction is sadly predictable. Even when queer folks and people of color win, we lose. Once again, our voices have been muted. This attraction to spectacle, rather than substance, is precisely how Donald Trump manipulated the media to spur his rise to power, and even now during his presidency. Sad.

So here's what the news should be: A beautiful, worthy film about a black queer life beat every odd to win at the Oscars. It is the first film with an all-black cast and director to win Best Picture, and the first LGBT production to triumph as well. One of its stars, Mahershala Ali, made history as the first Muslim to win in the category of Best Supporting Actor.

And in winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, an out black man, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, stood on a stage in front of millions of people around the world. He dedicated the award "to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don't see themselves. We're trying to show you you and us. So thank you, thank you, this is for you."

How extraordinary. How historic. How worthy of a headline.

DANIEL REYNOLDS is an editor at The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @dnlreynolds.

Tags: Commentary, film

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