The GSA Screens Pariah


GSA president Jess Bennett

The first GSA Movie Night of the Spring 2017 semester was held on Feb 20. The organization screened the 2011 film Pariah, which is about a young gay black woman coming of age in the Bronx. The screening was held in the Jacob Conference Center in Ewing Hall. The GSA provided pizza before the screening, including a vegan option. An open panel discussion was held after the film, led by GSA president, Jess Bennett.


Due the complication in promoting the event, the screening was relatively low in attendance. Those who were present did not allow this to damper the evening. The small crowd seemed to create a feeling of intimacy among those present. The atmosphere was relaxed. Jokes were shared while waiting for the film to start. People there who hadn’t met introduced themselves to each other. They had short informal chats about majors and plans for after college.


The reactions to Pariah were positive. When the lights turned on after the film, one audience member could be seen wiping tears out of their eyes. The members gathered closer together for the open panel. Bennett began the discussion by asking for general reactions to the film.


The film includes a scene where the religious mother of the main character, Lee, has a violent reaction to her coming out. One person opened the conversation by remarking they always found these kinds of reactions odd. They said that someone being queer is a such a non-issue for them they can’t understand a parent rejecting their child because of it. Bennett responded in agreement, saying, “It is interesting, the violent reactions people have when subjects that are uncomfortable for them are brought up.” Most of the students said they knew people who had similar experiences after coming out.


Another member said they enjoyed that, as a film, it explored what it’s like to be a lesbian in the black community. It was pointed out that most films about the LGBTQ+ community tend to focus on the experience of white gay men. Here the conversation shifted from focus on Pariah itself to talking about representation of queer people of color in film.


Toward the end, the discussion evolved into talking about the way films centered on the queer community are perceived by various individuals. Films like Broke Back Mountain and Philadelphia were mentioned as being regarded as “Gay Cinema.”  The audience appreciated Pariah, a film that to them didn’t seem to be about “queer issues”, but rather focused on someone who was queer. It was remarked this approach helps to positively integrate queer life into American culture. One member added that films like Pariah help to break down the divide between “queer films” and just “films.”