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'Moonlight' And 'Hidden Figures' Give Us Radical Hope When We Need It Most

28/02/2017 11:18 AM IST | Updated 05/03/2017 10:37 AM IST

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Now and then, I wish I was born in different times. Sometimes I wish I'd been around in the 70s, wearing bellbottoms. Given my never-ending love for trashy 80s pop, I have often wished to be born in time to have a legit crush on Bon Jovi. I have always cringed at the 90s, loathed the way the 2000s pushed me into an adulthood I wasn't ready for.

The past few years have been the worst— the times we live in have consistently marched back against anything remotely civilised. Students have been beaten up, daughters-in-law have started turning into snakes on TV and fascists have been invited to rule countries. I have often wondered if all generations have faced this, or is ours especially headed to a meltdown. I have often lost hope.

'Hidden Figures' inspires hope because it creates figures to emulate; it fills up that big, ever-growing vacuum that feeds on itself because all our heroes are gone.

Then out of nowhere came a film about three Black scientists at NASA who drive 16 miles to work and attend night schools so they can breathe life into numbers and help NASA save America's face, just so they can help John Glenn fly. Hidden Figures inspires hope; not only because the scenes that show the lone woman in heels standing amidst a sea of black ties, not just because the women running their chalks over blackboards to solve equation after equation, and not just because it shows the radicalism of female friendships. It inspires hope because it creates figures to emulate; it fills up that big, ever-growing vacuum that feeds on itself because all our heroes are gone.

The half a mile that Katherine Goble walks in her heels and knee-length skirt, just to get to the bathroom meant for coloured women, reminds us of the hundreds of women who walked those half-miles just so we could climb higher up our ladders with our heads still bowed in caution to avoid that eternal glass ceiling. The film gives me hope because someone decided to tell this story, and was able to. It gives me some hope that the years ahead will bring us more stories that are not yet again about a White girl who wants to go to Paris and be a star.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

It also makes me very proud to belong to the times that throw us a diamond like Moonlight amidst all the mediocre drama. Even today, to see non-fetishised coloured bodies on screen is radical. The hope again lies in the distance Moonlight walks to make them look beautiful against the sea, rippling against the sand under the bluish tint of the moon— a beauty we have not seen before, a beauty which is so new that we can't believe we are seeing it. That this beauty exists and that we can see it, gives me hope. Moonlight, with all its grime, gives me more hope than a cardboard cut-out of the Eiffel Tower ever will.

Hope really arises when we see grime, dirt, heartbreak and pain. It emerges when we see the beauty of flowers growing through concrete.

A lot of films have tried making us forget the world around us, they have immersed us in saccharine beauty and sprayed some rose tint over our eyes. Yes, that is a lot of fun but barely hopeful. Hope really arises when we depart from that; it emerges when we see grime, dirt, heartbreak and pain. It emerges when we see the beauty of flowers growing through concrete.

In times of Ferguson, in the times that Eric Garner lived, it is radical to see Moonlight's Chiron still have enough love to give to Kevin. To be living in a country built on Black backs, where the ruling cabinet is all White and where it is scary to be anything but White, the hope that one sees in Mary Jackson's yelp of joy outside the courthouse is radical. And that is the kind of radical hope my times need, as much as we enjoy bobbing our heads to White men pontificating on jazz.

Radical enough to believe in miracles of wrong envelopes, radical enough to deliver the loudest speech of the night even when one is rushed away from the microphone.

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