A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
History is important. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and paved the way for people who represent us -- but what if those people have been erased? Look for them and hold them up. When telling someone's story, be mindful of the narrative you think they -- not you -- would want even if it interferes with your own objective. Friendship is also important, but your opinions and values may not always align. As long as the baseline of love and respect are in the foundations -- your relationships will withstand. If they don't -- that's OK.
Positive Role Models
Director, writer, and lead star Cheryl Dunye provides a great role model as a curious, creative, and sensitive filmmaker. As she journeys into the erasure and representation of Black women on film via the "mammy" trope, she presents the importance of knowing your history and being sensitive to people's personal stories when digging up the past. Cheryl also places herself in the first person -- letting us into her truth as an African American lesbian. In doing so, she is providing a representation of someone who is unquestionably out, proud, and positively inquisitive about their identity. The owner of the video store is a Black man running an honest and decent business.
Both in front and behind the camera, the movie excels in its representations of marginalized people and their intersections. The main cast are all women and all are lesbians who collectively defy stereotypes with their different styles and attitudes. It also has a majority Black cast aside from the love interest who is a White woman. All are nondisabled.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters flirt and have light conversations about their love lives throughout. An intimate scene shows two lovers up close and personal and bare nipples, breasts, and buttocks are shown. It is a consensual, loving, romantic scene.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Occasional language includes "s--t," "porn," "nookie," "f--k," "clit piercing," "d-ke," "crack head," and the "N" word.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes, and drink beer and wine in a nightclub. A rolled up cannabis joint is shared in one scene.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Watermelon Woman is a smart, sexy, and poignant movie from 1996 that blends racial commentary, mockumentary, realism, and romance. Written, directed, produced, and starring Cheryl Dunye, it's known as the first feature length movie to be released by an out Black lesbian. Semi-autobiographical, Cheryl's character treads gently on political ground as she investigates the representation of Black women in movies which -- through their neglect -- highlights institutional racism. Lighthearted in tone, the film has flirtatious banter and an intimate scene that shows two people having sex where bare breasts and buttocks are shown. Occasional language such as "s--t," "f--k," the "N" word, and "d-ke" is used without aggression between lesbian characters who also occasionally drink in bars and share a rolled up cannabis joint. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
An underground cult classic, this romantic comedy-drama has found a wider audience due to the work of Black women and LGBTQ+ cinema being more appreciated and sought after within mainstream culture. Released in 1996, The Watermelon Woman is hailed as the first feature film to be directed by an out Black lesbian and is now often referenced as an example of sharp, witty, intelligent, and provocative filmmaking that sweetly blends documentary, fiction, comedy, and romance. Dunye is instantly likable as she takes us on a journey through her own personal history (yes that is her real mother, Irene), adjacent to an archaeological dig through the history of representation of Black women, (no Faye Richards is not a real person but the sentiment of looking for the untold stories or uncredited Black women actors is, paradoxically, a reality). Cheryl's gentle storytelling allows room for a scrumptious romantic thread that hits all the beats of a stylish romcom exploring interracial dating. All these ingredients, in a slender 90 minutes, make for a thoughtful and satisfying watch.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Movies with LGBTQ+ Characters
Movies with Inspiring Black Girls and Women
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate