‘Pariah’ is no loser

By |2018-01-15T23:38:44-05:00October 11th, 2007|Entertainment|

Who do you become when you can’t be yourself? This is the question director Dee Rees explores in the film “Pariah.” Make no mistake: It doesn’t offer a definitive answer. It’s far too complex an issue to wrap up in a half hour.
No matter what we call ourselves – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same-gender loving, straight or anything in between – there’s no “right way” to express these identities. Sure, there are plenty of stereotypes (lesbians have short hair and work construction, gay men love Barbra Streisand and wear short-shorts, etc.), and some of us probably know people who fit these stereotypes perfectly. But that doesn’t mean these people have it down.
Just as likely, however, we know plenty of people who don’t meet these narrow definitions of what a, say, lesbian is. Too often, LGBT folks find themselves juggling various identities in order to please different people in their lives. And this is where Alike (Adepero Oduye), the main character in “Pariah,” finds herself.
The film, which is slated to be made into a full-length feature, opens with Alike in the front row at a strip club with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker). At first glance, there’s no way to tell that Alike and Laura are female. They’ve got on ball caps, baggy shorts and T-shirts, and they clearly like the gyrating women they’re seeing in front of them on stage.
On the way home, however, Alike ditches the hat and pulls off her baggy shirt to reveal a tight-fitting girly T-shirt. These are clearly not the clothes she feels comfortable in. But these are the clothes she has to wear around her family. She is still in high school, after all, and still living under her parents’ roof.
But balancing two identities, the one she lives out in the world and the one she pretends to be at home, is exhausting and, eventually, proves impossible. Unfortunately for Alike, this impossibility has tremendous consequences.
Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen when it comes to LGBT films. However, films about black lesbians, particularly masculine black lesbians, are few and far between. “Pariah” manages to avoid the pitfalls of the coming-of-age genre while intelligently portraying a slice of gay life within the black community.

9:30 p.m. Oct. 16
Main Art Theatre, Royal Oak
Girls’ Night OUT!, Reel Pride Film Festival

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski
D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.