A Refreshing Dressing Down of Political Correctness in the USA

Cord Jefferson's American Fiction mocks cancel culture & PC, with a stellar Jeffrey Wright as Monk, facing cultural wars. A must-see satire.
American Fiction (2023)


America Fiction
Cord Jefferson

by Federico Pontiggia

Beware, we might have the prologue—and the manifesto film?—of the year. At Boston University, Professor Thelonius Ellison, nicknamed Monk (a superlative Jeffrey Wright), outlines the semester’s program when a student raises her hand to express her discomfort with what’s written on the board: The Artificial Nigger, the title of a story by Flannery O’Connor. Monk acknowledges but doesn’t back down, explaining it’s a course on Southern American literature and, despite its unpleasantness, the context must be understood, and history cannot be changed. The girl, who is white, remains unconvinced, confirming her inconsolable discomfort with the N-word, prompting Monk, who is African American, to gently chide her: “With all due respect, Brittany, if I’ve gotten over it, I’m sure you can too.”

Nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Wright for Lead Actor, Sterling K. Brown for Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score), Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, American Fiction, brilliantly mocks cancel culture, woke ideology, gender stereotypes, and other vigilant niceties. Monk is the prophet of this courteous and ironic libertarian war: an enlightened teacher, he battles against the cultural sensitivity, or rather susceptibility, of his students; a refined writer, he struggles against the inevitable categorization of his books into the African American section. We, the viewers, revel in his battle against windmills, but the best is yet to come:

Since his latest literary effort can’t find a publisher for not being “black enough,” Monk produces, in a single night, a book that couldn’t be “blacker,” filled with sloppy prose and African American clichés for “white” consumption, which finds boundless and unconsulted success, followed by an inevitable Hollywood adaptation.

To reinforce the meta-criticism, the author of the newly named novel, Fuck, hides behind a clever pseudonym and the identity of a wanted outlaw, leading to delightful consequences for the socio-cultural system: American Fiction, based on Percival Everett’s Erasure, cleanses the good practices and bad conscience of the United States, where right and wrong, instead of spiritual categories or moral options, are now mere sanctions of political correctness.

Accompanying Monk’s artistic journey are family troubles, with a gay brother (Brown, hilarious) and a mother (Tracee Ellis Ross) suffering from Alzheimer’s, and relational ones, with a new and possibly lasting love (Erika Alexander). American Fiction is a miracle of writing, with Jefferson gently dipping into bitterness and condemning the hypocrisies of the virtuous.

Available on Prime Video, with the MGM lion roaring for Amazon, you should watch it to understand how one can, with ironic and merciless wit, whip the public and democratically virtuous virtues of the here and now. Style is essential, elegance non-negotiable, and Jefferson, born in 1982 in Tucson, has plenty. Never farcical, often hilarious, always graceful, he claims ultimate endings, and a fiction inexorably devoted to reality. And, we believe, devoted to truth.

Il Fatto Quotidiano, March 9, 2024


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More

Weekly Magazine

Get the best articles once a week directly to your inbox!