Entertainment and Arts

‘American Fiction’ A Brilliant Satire of the Publishing World

By: Russ Matthews

The world of publishing can be a veritable hodgepodge of inexplicable successes.

Everything from books of exceptional literary finesse to the pulp fiction that readers choose as they run between flights during their travels. Writer/director Cord Jefferson brings Percival Everett’s novel Erasure to the big screen. They thrust viewers into this unpredictable business model to prove that success is not always based on talent or logic.

Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) has been in a decades-long slump as a writer and it has begun to impact his career as a professor. His books are admired for their literary prowess, but most fail to top the best-sellers list. As the African-American author visits a writer’s conference in Boston and is confronted with the financial state of his mother, he decides to write a satire that mocks the current trend of blacksploitation literature that he has come to despise. He writes the manuscript under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh and encourages his agent to run the book past publishers. Despite the mockish tone and purpose of his writing, the book becomes an instant hit and puts the author in the awkward position of acknowledging the acclaim or attempting to prevent the public from being aware of his association with the book.

The quality of the writing becomes evident within moments of the opening of this film. Granted, Jeffrey Wright and the rest of the cast are fantastic throughout the whole movie, but their performances are undergirded by a story that builds slowly into a grand crescendo that makes this film hit unexpected high notes. Each subtle twist leads to a beautiful mixture of hard-hitting emotion and hilarity throughout the storyline. Surprisingly, Percival Everett’s commentary runs up against the typical social agenda and mocks the ridiculous nature of people’s perceptions of culture. While there are aspects of the film that take swipes at the treatment of the African-American culture, the majority of the screenplay exposes how pandering to one community within society can actually hurt more than help. There are mature elements that need to be considered, but this film does need to be on the must-watch list for those who love a well-written and magnificently performed narrative.

American Fiction was an unexpected treasure that proved to be a slow burn that does its best to burn down and mock the industries it represents. Every publishing house and film production house needs to listen to the message of this cautionary tale that warns against overcompensated race relations at the expense of the communities it seems to be representing.

REEL DIALOGUE: Christianity, racism and discrimination

For students of the Bible, it is not difficult to see that racism runs counter to the message that can be read throughout its pages. The hatred depicted in this film and the actions taken by many worldwide is not a representation of Christianity or Jesus’ message. He died on the cross to redeem men and women of every race, colour, and ethnic background. The world’s Saviour lives today to show the eternal value of all people, regardless of nationality, race, development, appearance, or ability. His followers must embrace this aspect of the Bible’s message and live accordingly while sharing this truth with the world without prejudice.

Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. John 7:24

If you would like to discuss the topics of this film reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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