Marlon T. Riggs perverts homophobic rhetoric in his 1991 short film.
Hi! I’m Gio (he/him) also known as MediaMartyr17. I am a Black Queer student, writer, and podcaster. You may recognize me from my appearances on The Nerd Corps or from Share Club Pod, a weekly podcast that I co-host with Michelle aka QueeenWeeeb. Though it has only been a year, The Nerd Corps has enriched my life and I will never be able to thank Raúl and Brad for the level of community they have brought into my life. With that being said, let’s get into my first written review as Writer/Ho Host at The Nerd Corps.
Anthem (1991) continues Riggs’ celebration of the revolutionary act: Black men loving Black men. In less than 9 minutes, Riggs combines poetry performance, house music, and intercut imagery to dispel the belief that homosexuality is not Black, a sin, and un-American.
First, Anthem connects gay pride with Black pride to dispel the belief that homosexuality is a sin. The framework of the film is built on the principles of Black liberation through lines like “I must remake my history”, “Rearranging syllables is revolution”, and “A chain of tongues unchained”. Because of chattel slavery, Black people in America have lost a lot of what connects their heritage back to Africa. A large part of Black liberation is focused on taking ownership of the language and land that was forced on us while reclaiming our history and our connection to African tradition. This is further cemented in Anthem by an image of the African continent in the of the Pan-African flag with a pink gay pride triangle behind it. Riggs perverts the language of Black homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as inherently Black.
Secondly, Anthem connects sex and religion to dispel the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Acts like using Vaseline or spit as lube or putting a condom on your lover’s penis are described as intimate parts of a sacred rite. The lovers make vows to each other similar to the sacrament of marriage (i.e. “I place my ring on your cock where it belongs”; “I give you my heart, a safe house”). Riggs perverts the language of Christian homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as holy worship.
Finally, Anthem connects love and American ideals to dispel the belief that homosexuality is un-American. The intimacy shared between two black men is described as an acknowledgement of the other’s freedom. They pledge to each other: “Long may we live to free this dream” as a rendition “America the Beautiful” is sung in the background. Black men loving Black men is conveyed as an extension of the American dream, especially when access to that dream has been denied to Black men since the inception of the United States. But when the lovers “kiss, we confirm the new world coming.” Riggs perverts the language of American homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as patriotic.
Marlon T. Riggs masterfully flaunts Black men loving Black men as inherently Black, holy, and patriotic worship. I look forward to watching more Marlon T. Riggs in the near future