Ashburn
56
overcast clouds

Social Media

Light
Dark

“American Fiction” No Laughing Matter

By Lynn Thompson A shared chorus of laughter resonated through the theatre as moviegoers enjoyed the satirical storyline of “American Fiction,” nominated for five Oscar awards, including Best Picture.  You couldn't resist laughing at how the plot thickens for its star character, Monk (Jeffrey Wright), an author who sets out on a vengeful path after …

By Lynn Thompson

A shared chorus of laughter resonated through the theatre as moviegoers enjoyed the satirical storyline of “American Fiction,” nominated for five Oscar awards, including Best Picture. 

You couldn’t resist laughing at how the plot thickens for its star character, Monk (Jeffrey Wright), an author who sets out on a vengeful path after his non-Black manuscript is rejected by publishers. He seeks to rub their noses in the”unenlightened trash” or ratchet ghetto stories that take top billing in the white-owned publishing world. Penning a similar story, he watches in horror as a publisher enthusiastically picks up his manuscript. The quick adoption of his satire sets off a chain of events he couldn’t begin to fathom. 

The movie’s climax reaches a high – or emotionally suffocating low when Monk faces a moment of truth about how his story might end. While white moviegoers gut-wrenchingly laughed at one of the outcomes, the scene snatched the breath out of me and an unknown Black woman two seats over. Monk is riddled with bullets fired by law enforcement as he stands on stage in a black tux holding an award. He appears to white audiences as the victim of his own fictionalized success; thus, the laughter when he is savagely murdered. 

Meanwhile, Black viewers likely saw flashbacks of the continuous news stories of yet another Black life lost – Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor – which still causes heartache in the Black community. 

After that scene and putting the entire movie on mental repeat, could “American Fiction” be one big stereotype?

For instance, Monk’s dad regularly cheated on his mom while she stayed by his side. Unfaithful Black men are the reason so many Black families fail. How often have we sold that narrative, whether at the hands of white or Black filmmakers? Is it stereotype or truth?

Monk’s sister (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a doctor and divorced. Black women can’t have careers and be married. Stereotype or truth?

Monk’s girlfriend (Erika Alexander) barely ended a relationship with her ex before sleeping with the author. Black women are sexually promiscuous. Stereotype or truth?

Monk’s brother (Sterling K. Brown) divorces his wife to live his gay, cocaine-snorting lifestyle. Black men are on the down low and drug users. Stereotype or truth?

Do these situations happen in Black America? Of course. Could “American Fiction” be more non-fictional than some of us care to admit? If that’s the case, there’s much less to laugh about than we think, and we should be working hard to share the success stories of Black families.

avista

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Keep in touch with our news & offers

Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *