Last week a friend had on her F.acebook page that they were getting a group together to go see the movie Pariah. I had heard an interview with the writer and director, Dee Rees, (an African American woman who is also a lesbian) on NPR and definitely wanted to see the film, but I know myself and my lack of follow through on some things, so I was fist pumping that I could hop on the bandwagon. And I’m so glad I did because the movie is awesome!
The movie was very well done. The plot and dialogue were realistic. There was drama without it being melodramatic. Because of the universal themes, it was a story that people of all colors and hues could relate to and appreciate. Oh and the cast?!? Every.single.thing. Everyone in the film from the woman Adepero Oduye who plays the main character to Kim Wayans (yes, I said Kim Wayans) who plays the mom does a great job and brings depth and heft to their roles. If you are one of those people who crave or complain about the lack of good movies with Black folks in it, then get thee to the nearest movie theater with independent films and see Pariah.
Before going in to the movie, I knew that it was the story of an African American teenage girl struggling with what it means to be a lesbian. But after seeing the film, it’s so much more than that. It is truly a coming-of-age tale, and while the fact that the main character, Alike, is a lesbian is central to the plot, it is truly a story about finding yourself in and making sense of the world.
Alike lives in a two parent home, but her parents’ foundation is rocky; her mother Audrey is a religious woman who knows deep down Alike is a lesbian but refuses to see it and continues to push a heterosexual i.e., normal lifestyle upon her; and then there is Alike herself, trying to make sense of what it means to be a lesbian with no one to guide her along the way. She doesn’t fit in at the night clubs where it’s hot s.ex on a platter. But where can she go? Who can she turn to? She has a friend, Laura who is more comfortable with her definition of lesbianism. But she too is 18 years old and has her own issues and is trying to figure it all out herself. And then finally Alike finds an unexpected ally and just when it seems like things will work out, her world comes crashing down again and she has to experience heartbreak in so many ways.
I sat in the theater truly enraptured by the story because I remember all the angst of being a teenager. Of being in high school Of trying to find your place. Shoot. I’m 30 and I still feel that way sometimes. Now, add trying to figure out your sexuality and having no one to hold your hand, to tell you that things will work out, that you can define your own self, and all that angst and worry is compounded.
Wrapped up in the tale, the movie explores universal themes of acceptance, friendship, freedom, and heartbreak.
I think that’s the movie’s major takeaway. That all people want to feel loved. Cherished. Significant. Heard.
The other day whilst listening to the radio, I heard a preacher say, “love is adding value to someone.” He said for instance if on a scale of 0-10, you see someone as a 4 – like character wise or however you judge people. And don’t act like you don’t. Well, he said that because of God’s grace, God essentially gives us all 10′s even though we don’t deserve it. So who are we not to add 6 points or 2 points or 4 points to someone and make them a 10? And then treat them like a 10. See. Adding value to someone’s life.
And that for me was the core message of Pariah. That here was a girl yearning, pleading, desperate to be loved by those who were supposed to love her and those who may never love her. Searching to find the space and the place where she would matter. Does she find it?
Go see the movie and find out! Seriously. Go see the movie.