Jul 13th, 2017
Our original Dramatica analysis of the Academy Award-winning Moonlight offered this errant observation:
Moonlight is all Main Character Throughline and little to no Objective Story Throughline. The end result is a great subjective experience, or what is commonly referred to as a slice-of-life story. Without the objectivity one receives from the Objective Story Throughline, the story fails to make its case for why things turned out the way they did. In the same way that our lack of objectivity in our own lives fails to grant us meaning, our inability to see what happens outside of Chiron’s point-of-view locks us into his perspective.
Complete stories require the presence of all Four Throughlines. In order to make a convincing or coherent argument, the Author needs to include all the different points-of-view one can take in regards to a particular problem:
- I have a problem
- You have a problem
- We have a problem
- They have a problem
Over the centuries, Authors found a shorthand to these perspectives through various throughlines:
- I have a problem became the Main Character Throughline
- You have a problem became the Influence Character Throughline
- We have a problem became the Relationship Story Throughline
- They have a problem became the Objective Story Throughline
If the Author manages to successfully encode these four perspectives, the final work will feel complete and without well-rounded. Leave one out and an Author risks incoherence and/or Propaganda.
The recent Okja from Netflix fails to provide three of the four perspectives. The end result is a beautiful, yet clearly one-sided argument against animal cruelty. One-sided arguments call activists to action–they don’t win Oscars.
Moonlight is not propaganda.
The Weight of a Throughline
Though a complete argument requires the presence of all four perspectives, the weight given to each rests solely within the taste and fancy of the Author. Here, craft and talent dictates the proper setting for each Throughline.
Writer/director Barry Jenkins deliberately set out to tell the story of Chiron and his relationship with boyhood friend Kevin against the backdrop of South Florida. If one were to set percentages for each throughline in Moonlight, the breakdown would read:
- Main Character Throughline 75%
- Relationship Story Throughline 15%
- Influence Character Throughline 7%
- Objective Story Throughline 3%
Our initial analysis accurately identified “little to no” Objective Story Throughline, yet that third-person perspective is present. As light as it may seem, it still maintains and provides that important point-of-view from above.
In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue
Being Black and Impoverished in South Florida encapsulates the kind of conflict They experience within Moonlight. The commentary that “In moonlight, black boys look blue” presents a problematic Universe each and every one of these characters face within the Objective Story Throughline. The external state of affairs and the broken institutions of family, education, and community challenge the Audience to witness intolerance from a distant, third-person perspective.
The Throughlines of Moonlight
Internally, and passionately, Moonlight offers a personal experience of intolerance from within the Main Character Throughline. Whether Little, Chiron, or Black, our experience as an Audience member is one of challenging an intimate exploration of a dysfunctional Psychology. Who Am I? represents the focal point of Chrion’s journey, motivating him to find his own personal resolution of acceptance and tolerance.
Challenging Chiron to alter his point-of-view manifests within the shared perspectives of both Juan and Kevin. Both offer an example of looking out for oneself: Juan from the point-of-view of defending and respecting yourself; Kevin from the perspective of doing whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe and closeted. While seemingly on opposite sides, both stand for greater Protection. Their shared Influence Character Throughline perspective materializes through various problematic Physics: learning to swim, learning to take a hit, and ultimately learning that one can only do the best one can do with given their situation.
Rounding out the argument of acceptance overcoming intolerance is the Relationship Story Throughline. The romantic relationship that develops between Chiron and Kevin represents the heart of the story and offers an opportunity for the Audience to experience intolerance through our encounter with a state of Mind. More than simply what Kevin or Chiron feels individually, their relationship itself finds conflict through love. The drive and desire for the relationship to exist and prosper gives insight into what we all encounter when saddled with bigotry and narrow-mindedness.
More Than a Tale
Our original analysis of Moonlight concluded with:
While captivating and engaging, the film failed to make a convincing argument as to whether Chiron’s choices were a good thing or a bad thing, and whether or not they led to success or failure.
Kevin and Chiron finally found a way to be together and Chiron himself found a way to lift the burden of refusing to accept himself off his shoulders. Chrion’s decision to open up and admit his feelings for Kevin was shown to be both “a Good thing” and “led to Success.”
If perception tarnishes the state of a person, a greater appreciation of their true nature grants better understanding. The same holds true for a work of Art–by recognizing the formation and structure of its original intent, an Audience comes to understand the work in a different light: they appreciate the Author’s heartfelt desires and need to be heard in a way they never could simply speaking in person.
Stories–complete stories–connect one heart to another. The granting of the Best Picture Oscar to Moonlight simply confirms and officially recognizes the artistry and talent of this connection.