Marlon Riggs’ critically-acclaimed semi-documentary, Tongues Untied, is a compilation of raw footage, fiction, and non-fiction narratives that explore the lives of Black gay men in the United States. The goal of the film is two-fold: in it, Riggs celebrates the lives of Black queer men and the subcultures they’ve produced. He also uncovers the inherent racism and homophobia of American society. In Tongues Retied, Riggs further critiques the adverse response to the film, furthering his goal of illuminating the facade of mass culture’s inclusivity. Furthermore, he posits that the limitations and subsequent consequences of mass culture indicate a need to produce counter-narratives. Riggs writes, “Tongues Untied is motivated by a singular imperative: to shatter this nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference” (Riggs 185). He explains that representatives of mass media likened his vision to deviant, pornographic work and worse, a symbol of the nation’s degradation. However, he argues that the response to Tongues Untied is emblematic of America’s inability to accept people who are not white, wealthy, cis, straight, young, Christian, and able-bodied men. Riggs’ work resists America’s efforts to actively suppress and homogenize the experiences of many Black Americans. Thus said, mass culturalists’ response to anything that does not conform to their rigid parameters of Americanness has not change over the years despite the dawn of the internet. There are a number of alternative media sources; nevertheless, mainstream and alternative media networks espouse the same propaganda. Therefore, the response to the uprise of Black Lives Matter is eerily similar and quite predictable. For instance, when Fox News compared BLM to terrorists, audiences were exposed to anti-blackness and the contradictions that entail Islamophobia. Consequently, it is incorrect to believe America celebrates its diverse peoples and cultures when it continually subjects Americans to color-blindness and simultaneously forces us to uphold rigid, Christian morals. Ultimately, Riggs’ film and  analysis is highly pertinent because it reveals the hegemony behind mass culture and the need to create narratives that challenge and dismantle its power.


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