American Fiction: Satirical Take on Woke Culture Earns Oscar Nods

By MIchele Manelis

American Fiction - Amazon Prime
American Fiction is streaming on Amazon Prime this month
Considering the pervasiveness of woke culture, which has permeated even the hardest-wired of politically incorrect places on the globe, this biting satirical dramedy, American Fiction, couldn’t have come at a more propitious moment for the film.

Set in contemporary Boston, this parody follows a long-serving English professor and frustrated author, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), who is advised by his agent that his latest novel isn’t successful because the material isn’t ‘black enough,’ given the zeitgeist of wokeness, to resonate with his audience.

Meanwhile, overnight literary sensation and author du jour, Sintara Golden (Issa Rae) — whose hit book, ‘We’s Lives in Da Ghetto,’ hits every cliché about the urban black woman — has somehow been imbued with massive street cred for its eye-rollingly Ebonics and Ghettoese-laden prose. In response, Monk, incredulous and choked with indignation, sets out to pander to the lowest common cultural denominator and write the Mother of All Blaxploitation novels, giving the people precisely what they want, and then some. He writes under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh and titles the book, ‘My Pafology’ (later to be renamed using a numbingly commonplace four-letter word), using every Black stereotype White people imagine to be the definitive Black experience – a world garishly flaunting gangsters, drugs, police violence, miscreant rappers, and deadbeat dads.

To Monk’s utter dismay, his blatantly sardonic take on the Literature of the ‘Hood is met with rave reviews. He becomes a cultural phenomenon, with a huge bestseller on his hands. Eventually he must promote the book and adopt a persona befitting his tome, as well as hiding his real persona, that of a college professor.

In his personal life, Monk has a lot on his plate. For one, he’s struggling with personal issues pertaining to his family. His mother, Agnes (Leslie Uggams), struggles with health issues, and his younger brother, Clifford, grapples with his sexuality as a gay man. Other supporting cast members include his sister, Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross), and his love interest, Coraline (Erika Alexander).

Journalist-turned-screenwriter Cord Jefferson, who has collaborated on such shows as Succession, Master of None, and The Watchmen, makes his feature film directorial debut with American Fiction, which is based based on Erasure, a 2001 novel by Percival Everett. His take on the typical white liberal’s naivete and misinformed view of the ‘authentic’ black community is nothing short of hilarious.

The film has garnered five Oscar nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards, following multiple nods and wins at other award shows, including the Golden Globes.

A thought-provoking, irresistible combination of smarts, laugh out-loud funny, and a lot of heart, American Fiction is a must-see. Streaming February 27.


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