Editorial on Trouble in Mind and American Fiction

Editorial on Trouble in Mind and American Fiction
By Marketing Assistant, Samantha Boutureira

I couldn’t help but think of Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress as I was watching the Oscar nominated film American Fiction directed by Cord Jefferson. 

Wiletta, the protagonist of Trouble in Mind, is in a similar position as the lead character Monk in  American Fiction. I was struck how both are tasked with confronting forms of casual racism masked as understanding, compassion, and care. Both of these pieces, while exceptionally funny, entertain these critical conversations about race inequality, the way that black people are used as tools in the entertainment industry, and how profitable it can be to exploit people of color. 

American Fiction follows Monk, an author dealing with a multitude of family issues and a growing anger towards the American book market and the way they profit black entertainment that is stereotypically “black”, one-noted, and offensive. To combat this he writes a novel under the pen name Stagg R. Leigh, utilizing every single trope he could possibly think of in the hopes of showing that to publishers and making a mockery of this genre. Instead, the book is wanted by several highly successful publishers and he begins to become the object of his own hatred. 

Throughout the movie, there is this outlandish level of support from a white audience towards this book and it is lauded as raw and progressive, as this movie aims to criticize the commodification of black stories. 

Just think about how Trouble In Mind, a play written in 1955 finally premiered on Broadway in 2021, and now we’re seeing more theaters around the United States and abroad tell stories like this one. This type of condemnation of the celebration of only tragic BIPOC stories is only now being spread to a wider audience, though artists and writers have been trying to relay this message for such a long time. 

I hope for a further influx of media like these two pieces, and that stories like this continue to be told in film, theater and beyond.