Names in The Watermelon Woman and Q.U.E.E.N

 

I think a lot about names!  About my name, why I was named that, what it carries for me, how it makes me feel, how I feel when different people say it, what other people think of my name, what feels like the right/wrong way to say my name.  Other’s peoples names, how I pronounce them, what I infer from them about others, what they mean for those people.  I think names are really, really important. And I think for queer people, names carry really specific meaning.

In The Watermelon Woman, the title is also the name that Cheryl calls Fae Richards.  Fae was credited in the movie she was in as “the watermelon woman.”  The white director stripped Fae of her name and gave her an identity that upholds racist notions of Black womanhood.  Fae didn’t have the basic right to name herself, to claim her name—an experience shared by many people of color and queer people, especially Trans* and GNC people.  Does a name hold identity?  In the film, Cheryl eventually finds June Walker, Fae’s longtime partner and a queer Black woman.  She is angry with Cheryl for even using the name “watermelon woman.”  When we name those in history, especially queer people, what do we decide about how they are represented?  I want to connect this (mis)naming to Heather Love’s “Feeling Backwards,” and the potential hurt to be uncovered but also created when Cheryl looks backwards for a queer Black woman in film.

In Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N”, she starts by asking “I can’t believe all of the things they say about me,” and throughout the song she describes when others name her as “dirty,” “freak,” “weird,” “insane,” “sinner,” “rude,” and more—and she names herself in the title and throughout the song as a queen.  All of the names others call her are racialized and queered names, that queer people and Black woman are called to delegitimate, marginalize, and harm.  She claims instead that she is a queen!

But she also distances herself in real life from being labelled as gay, so I’m not exactly sure where to go with that…  I think that the names we are called, choose to call ourselves, and more are really crucial.

“Moonlight”: A Mainstream Mediator for Minority

Hello! I really adore movies and, after having watched the beautiful film Moonlight, I’m so ready to add it to my list of favorites. I have a lot of thoughts about it, maybe too many focusing on the cinematography, but I’ll try my best to link it back to the topics at hand.

The creators of Moonlight have such an intelligent method of storytelling that allows for a subtle, more natural realization of love and identity than many mainstream films. All aspects of its production point at conveying specific and nuanced tones throughout the film, exploring so much of its own themes without explicitly declaring them. My favorite example of this is the entire diner scene in which Kevin and Chiron finally reunite as men who have had the chance to experience their individual ups and downs. The use of dialogue or sometimes the lack thereof when they react to each other’s admissions is outstanding, as they each show how relieved they are to meet again and how much they have thought about each other over the years. For example, Kevin is visibly disappointed that Black has been dealing drugs and indirectly tells him so, saying that “that ain’t [Chiron]”. Black’s subsequent indignance at this points to the conflict that has been ever-present in Chiron’s life: he knows he isn’t himself as a “hard”, hypermasculine drug dealer, but he’s also so aware of the impossibility of behaving otherwise in the face of society. Even the hopeful conclusion of the movie is not explicitly stated, which is fitting since even with coming out and finding requited love, Kevin and Chiron’s share an embrace embodies both the relief in finding someone to share one’s true self and the support one needs to face a hostile future.

Moonlight has the power to feel real and relatable to an underrepresented intersection of identities, and so existence as a previously untold queer narrative is crucial. It’s interesting to consider that Moonlight’s value is not only in its representation of a gay black man in a community that follows traditional ideals of masculinity, but also in its exceptional beauty as a film. Perhaps a combination of its novel subject matter and its skillful handling of such was necessary to bring the movie to the mainstream, and this popularity allows it to speak to a wider audience and generate more social discussion. It certainly adds a unique and important voice to the entire body of film that is out there for us to consume.

I’m excited to talk more about this film and its implications in class. As for Sabina Vaught’s piece, I certainly found it more challenging to understand but that’s even more reason to figure out Vaught’s intentions with other people.

peace out,

Martina