Parents' Guide to

American Fiction

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Potent take on America's obsession with Black stereotypes.

Movie R 2023 117 minutes
American Fiction Movie Poster: Jeffrey Wright poses in a suit and tie; a cartoonish jacket, baseball hat, and necklaces are drawn on top

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 1 parent review

age 17+

The fictions we tell ourselves

Like the title ( “American Fiction”) this is great movie about the fictions we tell ourselves in our current culture. For adults and older teens who are trying to make sense of our culture wars on racism and being “ woke” this is a must see movie. And it’s fun. It is an Oscar worthy film that every adult who is interested in “ woke culture’ and our societal debates about racism should see. It’s a Kaleidoscope of funny, ironic, romantic, racially provocative, sad and moving scenes. The racial questions in this movie easily generalize to other issues, but the main focus is on the racial stereotypes of black people in Hollywood and the media. The plot is basically about a Black novelist who is forced to reexamine his integrity when he writes a fictional book under the guise of being a gangster. His well written literary books aren’t selling because they are not “ black enough”. But his new book, entitled FUCK is a best seller. The movie deals with racial stereotypes and mocks the DEI industry and the the politics of race in the U.S, especially in Hollywood. But the making goes both ways, and There are important family issues on display here as well, as he deals with his elderly mother Alzheimer’s, his sister’s divorce and death, and his brother coming out as gay after his wife found him in bed with another man. The movie’s dialogue is incredibly well written, but is profane and sexual. I don’t remember any nudity, but the gay brother has lots of drugs and casual sex. It’s an incredibly creative movie, and it includes three different possible endings so the viewer can pick out which most appeals to them.

This is a funny, very adult “ conversation” on the media and Hollywood, and raises important questions about being a black American. At one point in the movie, the main character says that he doesn’t believe in race. Does he mean what MLK would have? His agent exhorts him: “The problem is that everyone else does... White people think they want the truth, but they don't. They just want to feel absolved.” This is one of the most thought provoking movies I have seen in a long time, and besides it was really fun! The film is based on the book Erasure, by Percival Everett, and is also a story about family. This is the most emotionally moving part of this story, and reminds us of what’s most important. Redemption is apparent as he repairs important relationships. In one moving scene his gay brother says to him “people want to love you….you should let them.”

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This is a funny, acerbic, and sadly true dramedy about the state of various aspects of the U.S. entertainment industry and what many believe "the authentic Black experience" to be. Director-writer Cord Jefferson's script is one that many Black creators and consumers can likely relate to: On the one hand, it's great to have your work accepted by the mainstream, as that often leads to money and more opportunities. But, on the flip side, what does it mean to be accepted if, to do so, you must sell a stereotypical version of yourself and your culture? American Fiction dives deep into that conundrum while skewering White liberalism in the process and noting how too many people who claim to be "woke" are really still asleep when it comes to actually listening to Black voices. (Indeed, one scene in the movie literally has a woman say that she feels it's important to listen to Black voices while ignoring the opinions of the Black people in the room.)

The movie's ending might leave some viewers feeling dissatisfied, but its open-endedness could lead to a lot of thoughtful discussion. No matter how it ends, American Fiction is a dynamic work that acts as a release valve for Black people who are tired of seeing the same stories get told over and over again in the media.

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