Black people, we need to dance under this Moonlight.
I'm not mad about the Moonlight mix-up.
In fact, I'm going to start using it as a verb for every time Black people snatch victory from white people who think they have it all sewn up. I’m going to use it every time we prove we are fucking excellent, we’re coming for what’s ours—and you will just have to deal.
When Serena crushes that Steffi Graf BS about who’s the greatest once and for all? I’mma say, “She Moonlighted that trick.”
If I could go back in time and make the Superbowl 51 go the other way so that the Falcons ate the Patriots' huge lead and won in overtime? I'd sit in my time machine with Doc and Marty and say, "We Moonlighted on 'em hoes."
I wanted Moonlight to win, just like everybody else Black did. And I am clearly in the minority when I say it, but maaaaaaaan…listen, nothing made that victory sweeter than the slice of Humble Pie that LaLa Land got served with it. And Mahershala Ali was a big ole dollop of chocolate ice cream on top.
LaLa Land, Hollywood, and white America NEEDED that harsh, painful smack upside the head. Because a simple, ordinary loss wouldn’t have been sufficient to make them feel what it is like YEAR AFTER YEAR when you turn in supreme excellence so astounding that victory is certain, only to have the hope you dared to hope smashed to smithereens in your face—and to be expected to be gracious while someone tells you, “you should be holding this trophy that I am totally going to take home." Beyoncé knows this feeling.
See, LaLa Land’s producers and cast had not really dared to dream. They sat in reasonable confidence of an assured victory. Their only real competition was Moonlight, a low budget, Black, Queer film with no “A list,” “marquee” names—nobody from Moonlight was a household name unless you live in a woke, Black household. So LaLa Land wasn’t daring to have soaring hopes of victory. They had the net of white confidence beneath them. It took a moment like the one that happened—them actually physically holding the testament to victory in their hands and having to give it to someone they didn’t really think would ever take it from them—to equal the magnitude of despair that we feel in our deflated souls every time we are punctured by the unbending lance of white self-celebration.
So don’t fall for the bullshit that this was such a terrible tragedy for the cast and crew of LaLa Land. It wasn’t. It was merely the same pain that Washington (now playing the role of Denzel-in-Distress) was hiding behind his eyes, writ large on the stage so everybody can see it.
The chaos. The confusion. The pain. The EMBARRASSMENT. You really thought you’d win? No muthafukka YOU don’t get to win.
WE. FEEL. THAT. SHIT. EVERY.DAY.
And I for one was GLAD to see the agents of mediocrity that usually dish out the pain take their plate of pie and EAT IT, in public.
No forks. Eat it with your hands. Cause it’s messy.
The fact is LaLa Land’s “defeat” will make them the wounded underdogs that Hollywood wants to take care of, because Hollywood takes care of it’s own. No, I do not feel bad for LaLa Land. I am appreciative of their performance in a role they never thought they’d be cast in: Entitlement Deferred.
They had to gather themselves. Adjust their faces. Pretend that they were happy. Make snarky excuses, (Emma Stone: “I was holding my best actress card that entire time so I don’t know what happened…”). Those assured, confident, entitled white folks did an amazing job of setting the stage for Blaxcellence to outshine and overcome.
Emma Stone gon’ be alright. She will still be paid 4 times as much as Black actresses 10 times as good as her.
Those producers gon’ be alright. They will get MORE opportunities for having almost won an Oscar for formulaic mediocrity than Barry Jenkins will for having turned the impossible into the undeniable.
Our victories are never smooth. We just make them look so. But we all know they are rocky, painful, and hard-fought and no one but us seems to recognize that. When we win, the hegemony discounts it as us “sliding in,” getting by—either on race or some other presumed entitlement, some “card” we have tucked away that we play at our convenience. Had Moonlight simply won, the pain that we go through to get to victory would not have been made clear, nor would the pain of our defeat been relatable to the whiteness of Hollywood had they not experienced it vicariously through LaLa Land.
The only way for Moonlight to truly WIN was the way it happened. Moonlight needed a victory that resonated with poetic justice. Moonlight had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It had to rise from a crushing blow to stand on the summit of excellence. It had to SHOCK THE WORLD.
And weren’t you shocked?
So yea, Black people, we don’t have to be mad about this. We can dance in this moonlight for today. Because rest assured, the Hollywood establishment will punish us all for this victory in the year to come. And we’ll keep shinin’. Keep being excellent. And keep winning. Ugly, hard-fought victory is still victory.
Now go out there and Moonlight on these hoes.
Julian Long is a writer, branding and marketing strategist, voice actor, caretaker, and commitment coach with roots in NYC and Kentucky. His passion is helping people b up to big things. Like all good Southern-raised church boys, he loves his God his Mama, his dog, and good fried chicken. Not necessarily in that order. More Julian: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook