We start off with some of the Winchester’s past racially insensitive parties including a “Cowboys and Injuns” party, a “Wetback Cinco de Mayo” party, and the current blackface party all thrown by the campus magazine, Pastiche. Before Lionel Higgins and the crew crash the party scene we rewind back to some of Lionel’s less fortunate moments in life. One, is his awkward experience with the barbershop. When he arrives at a white barbershop he’s met with stares and when he visits a black barbershop he’s met with intimidating characters including a guy who states, “ya’ll know I don’t cut fags”, in response to another gay man. The homophobic incidents continue with a high school Halloween party. The boys insult Lionel’s costume with homophobic phrases like the played out “pause” and tell him that his Geordi La Forge outfit is gay. I actually thought this was supposed to be some rival gay group that had it in for Lionel but then I realized they were supposed to be the straight guys bullying him. These type of phrases are still being used in everyday conversations. It says a lot about how ingrained homophobia is in our society and how insecure “straight” boys/men are with their sexuality.
Lionel receives the, “Dear Black People” party invite and proceeds to let Reggie and the group know about the event. They lead an epic crash of the event and soon after Lionel writes his article entitled, “Ebony and Ivory: Total Disharmony”. The next day, the black students in Armstrong Parker seem to dig the article; Lionel is even invited to sit with Reggie’s crew. Instead Lionel sits with Troy and his two passive black friends. In response to Sam’s radio show, one states, “Do we have to listen to this race baiting dribble?” (really nigga?) I guess his short term memory blanked out the actual racist party the night before. Anyway, the two friends argue about their conservative ways including one having a “framed picture of Reagan” and the other having a photo of Stacey Dash which he replies is “Deon; nothing after Clueless matters!” Then, a table with what seems to be a group of gay students exchange glances with Lionel. This was a minor hole in the chapter; the interaction between Lionel and other black gay students would have been interesting. Troy assures Lionel that he will attract a lot of girls from the article and his two friends begin to throw around the same gay slurs Lionel heard when he was younger.
Troy is heard getting it in in the next room. Lionel starts to put his headphones on but takes this opportunity to get it in in his own way. The lights dim, the walls fall and Troy is seen doing his thing; Lionel pictures Troy speaking straight to him but before he can finish his visualization, Troy concludes. Poor Lionel. The Winchester Independent group and the head journalist in charge, Silvio, are introduced. He tells Lionel that even though his story on the blackface party is front news it’s not hard news or well written. He also asks Lionel about his inclusion of intersectionalities with him being black and gay; this throws Lionel off. “Gay?” he says. Silvio advises Lionel to find his label and that he, himself identifies as a Mexican, Italian, gay, verse top, otter, pup. Similar to Lionel’s statement; I know what all of those words mean individually but not together. Silvio invites Lionel to a speakeasy that the theater kids are throwing. At the party, Lionel meets Connor and his friend with benefits, Becca. They invite him back to their place. Childish Gambino’s, “Red Bone”, plays in the background. “Stay Woke!” Lionel listen up! Connor talks about the white students’ inability to know and understand the country’s history with minstrel shows. “White people are the fucking worse”, Becca responds. Then some freaky shit pops off. I could tell by the nod from Connor that something was up. This scene demonstrates how some white people can acknowledge racism but still play a part in it i.e., fetishizing black bodies and touching black hair without permission. So things are getting steamy until Lionel exposes their little game. It’s revealed that Connor is using Becca to not look full on gay and Becca is not really into their freaky experiment that’s been going on for TWO years; she storms out without any underwear on and Connor reassures she’s off her meds.
Lionel leaves to the newspaper office where Silvio reveals the blackface party invite had been sent by someone other than Pastiche. Lionel goes through the secret transcripts of interviews where he figures out Sam was the one behind the hacking. Lionel does not want to break the news but Silvio insists, “We can’t control what people do with the news we can only report it.” Messy. This is basically Lionel’s perspective of the blackface revelation. His conflicted feelings show that his career in journalism might be a little rocky down the road.
Lionel finally asks Troy to cut his rising fro. Troy asks about his hair setting which Lionel knows nothing about. I can relate because my barber never told me my setting, he just fades the back and the sides low so I have no idea what my settings are either. Lionel reveals that he is gay as Troy walks out of the room; Troy doesn’t hear Lionel. It seems Lionel will hush up about the reveal but he repeats himself and Troy exhales a little, says, “cool” and returns to Lionel’s hair. A slow motion scene of Troy cutting Lionel’s hair without a shirt on is a beautiful sight to Lionel and the viewers watching. Lionel now has new, up close, and personal visuals to do his private dirty deed which he does and afterward stares back at the audience. End scene!
I love how the topic of homophobia is explored within the black community and how it occurs at different levels. You had the black adult men in the barbershop, the black high school students, and the conservative black students who all used gay slurs like it was second nature. This, added with physical assault and neglect affect the LGBT community immensely. I’m wondering how Lionel’s journalism career will play out in the future. He has a level of integrity and ethics that seem to conflict with the position. His intersectionality does not only include his sexuality but his race as well. He’s showing that the lives of the black students are more important than a campus article. Like I stated earlier, the scene with Connor and Becca symbolizes the sexualization of the black body; later on we see the couple target another black victim. That scene also highlights another issue with men denying their sexuality as a whole. Troy’s acceptance of Lionel’s sexuality was great; I feel like there are many Troy’s out there. In the past decade or so there’s been a shift in acceptance of the LGBT community so Troy’s reaction is not so farfetched. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many instances of rejection and abuse towards the community in this day and age.