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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Oscar-nominated ‘American Fiction’ explores plight of Black authors

Titular character balances financial incentive with producing inaccurate Black narrative
Actor+Thelonious+Ellison+plays+Monk+in+the+film+American+Fiction
Courtesy of MGM Studios
Actor Thelonious Ellison plays Monk in the film ‘American Fiction’

“American Fiction” closed out 2023 strong, having nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and the coveted Best Picture at this year’s upcoming Oscars. Absolutely worthy of all these accolades, this film follows Jeffrey Wright’s Thelonius Ellison, who goes by Monk, an English professor whose publications are often overlooked by both publishers and readers.  

  

When encountering another author’s book that is widely acclaimed but leans heavily into traditionally Black stereotypes, Monk is suddenly impassioned to write. He pens a satirical extreme version of one of these popular yet stereotypically “Black” novels to demonstrate how demeaning and ridiculous they are; however, in doing so he quickly rises to fame as audiences completely miss his message and unironically fall in love with the book.  

  

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The entire cast is absolutely spectacular with Wright standing out in particular in his performance of Monk. His acting has incredible depth and layers as his character is torn between his hatred for his book’s fame and the desire to keep the stunt going for money to support his family and his mother with Alzheimer’s.    

  

One scene stands out in which he gives an intentionally fake “Black” performance to someone interested in his book while acting increasingly nervous, subtly enough to be misinterpreted by the person he is talking to but just enough to let the audience know his growing fear over his mother’s current condition.   

  

“American Fiction” excels most in diving into the conversation of how systematic racism can affect Black art. Monk’s original work is often seen as not “Black” enough to be marketable to an audience, especially a white one. He sees this as a major problem, as all the stories by Black authors that are praised lean into demeaning stereotypes.   

  

Monk knows he can write in this way and receive accolades he wishes his own original work received, but he struggles with the morality of continuing this inaccurate narrative. While we see most things through Monk’s perspective in the film, several voices in his life offer rivaling perspectives on his stance, and the audience is rightly never given a clean answer as to who is right in these discussions.  

  

Beyond his accidental claim to fame, Monk is also struggling with handling new financial burdens placed on his family. This quickly becomes an incentive to hold onto his newly found fame, but it also means that he is interacting more with his family than ever before.   

  

The movie does an excellent job of developing his family members and the interpersonal relationships that Monk shares with them. Ultimately, “American Fiction” is an incredibly thought-provoking drama with excellent characters that deserves to stand as one of the best movies of 2023. And with a recent wider release, now is a great time to give this a watch.   

  

“American Fiction” is available to watch in theaters or on Apple TV+ now.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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