American Fiction was far and away my favorite exploration of race in the past year. It’s a story wherein racial identity is explored in a broad and nuanced way that isn’t tokenizing. Unique in its approach, this movie shows our main character, Monk (Jeffery Wright), as an author of color who doesn’t want his work to be limited by his racial identity. This causes his frustrations to boil, and he often lashes out at his loved ones. He wants to be respected because of his contributions to the literary community, but alas, we live in a complex world where we don’t have full control of how we are perceived. It’s realistic, satirical, and funny. Definitely worth a watch and a discussion.
American Fiction also reminds me of my identity and who God says I am. When Jesus is baptized before starting his ministry we see his Father affirm his identity, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Jesus is affirmed by God before he actually begins his work for God. His work, in fact, comes out of the love that he receives from the Father. We should operate the same way, instead of working to be identified by our works.
Nominated for several Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, and also starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Sterling K. Brown, the best way to watch this movie, in my tongue-in-cheek opinion, is by wearing a do-rag and all of the jewelry you can find (real or not, doesn’t matter). (In theaters. Rated R for language throughout, some drug use, sexual references and brief violence.)
About the Author
LeMarr Seandre Jackson’s mission is to raise the bar for student and Christian leadership. He is the director of youth ministry at Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.