Let’s Talk About “Beyond the Lights”

Like so many of you (who have heard of Beyond the Lights), I was not sure if it would be worth the 2 hours and $13. However, it’s a love story starring a bi-racial artist and an African American aspiring politician that’s written/directed by the person behind the classic Love and Basketball. So of course I watched it.

For those of you who don’t know. It’s a movie about Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a pop-star who attempts to jump off a building, but is literally saved by Kaz (Nate Parker), a noble police officer who wants to save the world through public service. From there their love grows.

And I loved it. Oh, how I loved it. Do you understand that Beyond the Lights represents everything I want to accomplish as a storyteller?! Here’s why:

  • It’s character driven. The plot isn’t completely original, but the characters are well-written and well-acted in this case. As we get to know them throughout the movie, their actions and reactions make sense.
  • It’s a love story. I love love stories and I hadn’t seen a really good one in a while. This was a good one.
  • It’s a love story starring non-white people. I don’t like this concept of telling a story where the characters “just happen to be black” because I feel like that aspect of one’s identity shouldn’t be ignored, even if it’s not the point of the story. I think this movie does a good job being a love story first, but also acknowledging the unique backgrounds of the characters. For example, the main character Noni is biracial (not uncommon), but she actually has a white parent – Minnie Driver – who plays a major role in her life (surprisingly uncommon)! I mean it’s so obvious and easy to have a bi-racial person depicted with a white parent, but how often do mixed people actually see themselves represented in that way?
  • The music was awesome. It was sooo on point, and helped tell the story. That’s the thing about fiction, it has to make sense. You can’t just have any song playing in the background and at any moment, every detail has to help move the story along—and in this case it did.

I encourage you to check the movie out!!  Or at least the soundtrack! 🙂




Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Feminist Platform

Yesterday I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk on feminism. NOT because Beyonce told me to (although I admit I did learn about the Ted Talk because of her music video featuring the author). Before Bey, I only knew about Chi’s first Ted Talk about the danger of a single story.  But the one I watched yesterday had nothing to do with writing. It was about feminism. It was an incredibly insightful, accessible and on-point discussion of feminism.

I find it interesting that Adichie’s work as a novelist put her in a position to be an authority on feminism. Interesting but not surprising.  Anyone who sits down and writes a 300-page work of fiction has thought about something a lot. Adichie happened to come to conclusions about the expectations placed upon women (and men).  But all novelists, I believe, inevitably develop a strong opinion on a person or group or society because to write their books they are forced to deeply consider things like what motivates people to do what they do.  Or, what in someone’s background would make them act a certain way.  What experiences would force a person to change?

Somewhere in the midst of these noveling thoughts, Adichie started having feminist ideas and eventually chose to share them with the world.  Not just through art, in an abstract sense.  But also through a Ted Talk, in a direct, intellectual sense.  Without necessarily studying feminist theory, she evolved into somewhat of an expert because she thought about it deeply while writing her novels (I assume). She became an authority not just on writing, but on something completely different.

This made me realize that all authors probably become sort-of-experts on whatever they choose to focus on in their work be it human behavior, politics, relationships, a specific culture, a specific race, or anything else.

There’s a lot of discussion about how, in order to get published, you need to build a platform.  But what about the platform you build after you’ve been published?  What about the issues you’ll have the opportunity to discuss when you’ve reached a stature that leads people to actually listen?  I wonder, when Chimamanda wrote her first novel did she think she would become an authority on feminism?  Does she wish she had?

Anyway, both of Chi’s Ted Talks are definitely worth viewing—seriously. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t speak to show you how smart she is; rather, she discusses the topic in way that you can easily understand. Below is the Ted Talk on the danger of a single story.