on tcm tonight!

My Favorite Person [Connor Murphy x Reader]

Title: My Favorite Person
Pairing: Connor Murphy x Reader
Fandom: Dear Evan Hansen
Requested: by the lovely @rinzix
Summary: College!Friends with benefits | You’re thankful to have a friend like Connor, for more reasons than one, but you’re fun may soon be coming to an end, and Connor isn’t feeling like himself
Warnings: mentions of sex | Connor has a potty mouth | mentions of mental health relapses and recovery | brief allusions to domestic violence | first person reader
A/N: This was such a wonderful, fun prompt and it reeaallly got away from me, so I apologize in advance. Essentially, the summary is I will probably never let Connor Murphy be happy. As always, it’s really rushed and I didn’t proof read. Enjoy?


It never starts the way I expect it to.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining. It just doesn’t work out the way it does in the movies, ya know? I’ve never gotten a text at eleven pm asking me to sneak across the campus to his conviently empty dorm room, never received anything remotely similar to a booty call. It started on accident, like everything else Connor Murphy does. He doesn’t understand the sort of pull he has on people.

Connor Murphy was an absolute octopus, first off. I woke up early–much earlier than he ever would–underneath a pile of pale, lithe limbs that seemed to tangle around me in a number of places. I was sticky–definitely sweaty from sleeping too close to Connor, who apparently fell asleep on top of me like some kind of animal, but I also felt an uncomfortable squish between my thighs that reminded me of the drastic turn of events that happened last night.

To be perfectly clear, this wasn’t the first time we had done this. The first time had been planned–an accidental mishap that had spiraled out of control, beginning with texts (“Hey, would you mind to model for a piece I’m working on? I can’t find any decent reference poses online.”) and ended with some not so appropriate banter (“Are we sexting? Is this sexting? I mean I’m horny but like it’s gotta be smoother than this, right? Shit, do you have nudes??) that had snowballed into an agreement: we could fool around, platonically, because being in college and being ridiculously horny all the time and balancing a decent relationship was one thing too many.

Still, our first few times had been planned: I’d come over for pizza when Connor’s roommate was out, we’d play video games and watch a movie, and, at some point, Connor would lean over with little to no warning and kiss me much too roughly, taking me off guard–it usually either dissolved into a fit of giggles or ended up with me on my back staring up at the smooth column of his throat, watching his pale adams apple dip briefly as he groaned into my hair.

The sun was up, shining obnoxiously through Connor’s too thin quilted curtains, filtering across our tangled bodies. My shirt was still on, thankfully–I had no idea when his roommate would be back–but Connor was entirely nude (save for a pair of tie-dye tube socks, I can’t believe I slept with him while he was wearing that), sprawled on top of me, all pale skin and angles. From here, I could see the knobs of his spine pressing against the thin, pale skin of his back where my hand rested. One of his hands was fisted tightly in the fabric of my shirt, just over my stomach, and the other was dangling off the edge of the  bed, his thin wrist almost comically looking as if it would snap.

The smell of him was overwhelming, of course, it always was. I could still taste him if I ran my tongue across the backs of my teeth. I’d need a long shower to scrub away the smell if I wanted to think coherently today–Connor was definitely my favorite person, the only real  friend I’d made at school so far, but the very smell of him was going to make my brain short circuit.

We needed to have a discussion, needed to stop doing this every time we hang out. A limit. I sighed, remembering. We were going to have to have a talk anyway.

Reaching up gingerly, I ran my fingers against the knots on his back, tracing the triangles of his scapula and cupping the back of neck to run my fingers through the curls. His hair needed washed, badly, but I didn’t mind, just continued to soothe, feeling him sigh in his sleep against my neck. I grinned, feeling his nose press more firmly against the juncture of my neck and shoulder.

"Why are you awake?” He slurred, lips wet where they brushed my skin. His limbs went taunt, stretching before rolling over off of me, his arms slinging against his eyes.

“Ugh, can you cover up?” I groaned, sitting up and pulling a blanket to pool in my lap, trying to look anywhere but Connor. “It’s daylight now, it’s too vivid.”

He just chuckled, running his hands to scrub at his face in an attempt to wake up, pushing tangled curls out of his eyes, grinning at me. “Sorry, geez. Didn’t hear you complaining last night.” Nonetheless, he yanked the blanket over his lap, rolling over to look at me with a smirk.

“How’d you sleep?” He asked, tapping my forehead with his thumb, before leaning over to kiss me there. He didn’t move away, just hovered over me on an elbow, and surrounded by his scent left me vaguely dizzy. I’d miss it when I left here, I knew.

I scrunched my nose, letting him know that the affection was unnecessary, but he kept leaning over, pressing another kiss to my temple.

“I don’t remember,” I sighed honestly. “You kinda kept me up till two am.”

“What time is it now?”

“One.”

“Christ, sorry,” he laughed, sitting up immediately and pushing his hair back. “Guess I tired you out, huh?”

“Don’t get cocky. We were talking until twelve thirty, you only last half an hour, bucko,” I said, crawling quickly out of the bed and tugging on my panties.

“Ouch! Didn’t hear you complaining,” he chuckled, pulling his hair back into a ponytail holder. He was planning to let me shower first, then.

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, and I could tell that was the end of the discussion. We had a habit of skirting the topic during the daylight hours–if we talked about it, then we thought about it, and if we thought about it, then–well, you get the picture. “I’m gonna shower.”

——

By the time I’m out, my hair combed in wet strands sticking to the back of my neck and dressed in a clear pair of panties and one of Connor’s bigger shirts, Connor is sprawled on the bed, fully dressed, staring at a worn copy of T.S. Eliot poems, the green cloth binding fraying between his lithe fingers. The steam from the shower followed me in the room, making it look like a hazy 1970s Polaroid, accompanied by the warm light trying desperately to filter into the room through Connor’s quilted curtains.

He’s brushed his hair, I noticed, and there’s a lingering scent of cologne in an attempt to mask the smell of him–of us, if I’m being entirely honest–without showering. I nearly snorted aloud when I saw what he was wearing.

“That’s my shirt, you know,” I choked out between laughter, unable to believe that Connor fucking Murphy is wearing my tie dye crop top with a pair of ratty grey sweatpants. It was big on him, with a little pink embroidered heart stitched messily over the chest. The sweatpants rode high on his square hips, so all I could see was the slope of his ribs into the flat plain of his stomach, his belly button barely peaking out over the elastic waistband of his boxers, which rode a little higher than the sweats.

He looked up from the book, grinning lethargically, letting me know he was still barely awake. I probably should’ve let him sleep longer, but I needed to leave soon, and I wanted to tell him goodbye.

“I know,” he sighed lazily. “You left it here last time. It’s really soft.”

I bit back my smile, crossing the room to sit beside him. “Fair enough,” I conceded, tucking back a piece of hair that was beginning to slip from his ponytail.

“You’re wearing my shirt,” he pointed out, pouting his bottom lip.

“I forgot to bring a clean one,” I lied.

“You know you have extras here,” he said, suddenly frowning and returning to his book. I paused, unsure what had caused the sudden mood shift, and wanted to be careful moving forward in the conversation. “I mean, you can always borrow mine, I don’t care or anything–”

“You don’t want anyone to see me wearing it, I get it, I’ll switch back before I leave,” I said reassuringly, scooting away half an inch to give him space. It was easy to overload Connor–it wasn’t his fault, I really did understand. Sometimes social interaction was too much, especially when I’d spent almost twenty four hours with him, and we’d been so intimate.

“Fuck, I don’t care about that,” he hissed, flipping the pages of his book much too rapidly to be actually reading them. “Do you care about that?”

The second statement was shorter, softer, almost as if he didn’t want me to hear. It made me nervous–Connor had been doing better, a lot better. Throwing himself into school, into art, made him better. He wasn’t recovered–it was hard to tell if he ever would be, and I’d only ever seen a few of his episodes, but any form of relapse that I couldn’t help him control was unwanted.

“Of course I don’t care, Con,” I said softly, reaching up to soothe his hair softly, feeling him stiffen and relax beneath my fingertips. “Jeez, we’re in college. I couldn’t care less what people think.”

He nodded, eyes creased before closing, his lips pressed together in a frown. “Right, right, you’re right, sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” I muttered, feeling nervous. He certainly wasn’t in any mood to hear my news. Something was on his mind. “You good?”

“Huh? Yeah! Great, don’t sweat it!” He some how managed to morph his deer in the headlights expression into one of enthusiasm.  It was more than concerning, and I hadn’t noticed when he’d developed the ability to swallow back his feelings. I didn’t know why he felt like he needed to. “What’s the plan for today, kiddo? There’s a Clark Gable marathon on TCM tonight, I know you like that black and white crap.”

Shit. I swallowed thickly, realizing I needed to tell him, and now. I was hoping it would wait until at least after we had food in us, or at least until Connor was awake enough to reign in his emotions and think with a level head.

“When’s your roommate getting back?” I asked instead, scratching at the back of my neck and not meeting his gaze. I felt him squint angrily at me, aware of my avoidance. “Don’t want him to walk in on anything unseemly,” I laughed.

Connor was still watching me, I felt it, with a pinched, calculated expression. “We don’t have to fool around tonight,” he said softly. “We can just hang.”

His voice was that soft, melancholy tone again that made my heart constrict. He wasn’t feeling good, I realized. He clearly thought that I was upset with him–I wasn’t, but I realized with a jolt that my news certainly wasn’t going to help his sudden self conscious streak.

I shifted on the bed again, feeling his eyes on me as I delayed, and I could practically see his inner turmoil. I should stay here with him. He wasn’t doing well. But, I’d promised….

“Um,” I mumbled, pushing back my wet hair with my hand. “About that. I, uh, have plans for tonight.”

His eyebrows took a quick hike into his hairline, his slate eyes wide, before he horrified me by neutralizing his expression again before I could read him properly–he gave me a small smile, one that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Oh,” he said hoarsely. “That’s chill. You could’ve just told me that.”

I smiled gratefully back at him, reaching out to rest my hand on his knee. “You’re sure?” I asked softly, tracing a pattern out on the grey cotton knee of the sweatpants. He swatted my hand away, and I felt a sudden dip in my stomach. He was upset.

“Yes, geez,” he grumbled. “I am perfectly capable to spend a day without you, you know. I probably need to check in with my folks, anyway.”

“You’re sure?” I asked again, leaning back, a bit more skeptical. Connor saying he wanted to check in with his parents was the boldest lie I’d heard in a long time.

“Yes, Christ, shut it,” he hissed, flopping onto his back, the crop top riding comically up on his stomach, and, without thinking, I leaned forward quickly to press a wet kiss to the cluster of freckles on his ribcage, earning a loud swear from Connor, followed by a slew of giggles, his thin hands pushing at my hair to pull me away from his ticklish sides.

“Stop it! Stop! Christ–st–” he sat up abruptly and tangled his hands into my hair, yanking me down against him, his bare chest trapped between us, soft against my palms.

What had started as a gentle joke, just a silly peck, escalated as it tended to. It was slow–Connor’s laughter dying quickly in his chest, his breath hitching in the back of his throat instead. I opened my eyes to glance down at him, his eyes closed, his eyelashes flickering against his cheeks. I pulled back, just for a moment, amazed to find his lips parted, head tilted back, obvious that he expected me to move my lips to neck. I just chuckled, pressing a soft kiss to the cleft of his chin.

“Not this morning, Con,” I whispered, kissing behind his ear.

“Just kissing,” he whispered, letting out a shuddering breath into my hair. Eyes still closed, his hands tightened in my shirt in an attempt to keep me against him.

“You know it won’t stop there,” I laughed. He pouted beneath me.

“But–I’m not wearing a bra. I’m all ready to fool around!” Connor snorted, hands digging harshly into my sides as he laughed.

I smothered my laugh against his jugular, fighting to control my breathing, before pushing myself up against Connor’s chest.

“Not now,” I sighed sadly, giving him a closed mouth kiss against his lips, watching his eyes fade as he chased me for another kiss.

“Okay,” he sighed. “Sorry, my fault.” Throwing a hand over his eyes, he groaned, tangling his fingers in his pretty, pulled back hair.

“Don’t be sorry,” I mumbled.

“Later,” he smiled against his fist, slate eyes staring up at the ceiling with amusement. “Later. Christ, no one told me my libido would get a second wind after fourteen.”

“You’ve always got your hand,” I reminded with a chuckle, rising from the bed to stretch. Distance, I needed distance to think. He wrinkled his nose in disdain.

“Yeah, no thanks, not the same.”

There was a beat of silence, where I caught Connor watching me from the bed, before turning away with a pinched expression. It triggered an oddly sick feeling in my stomach–I shouldn’t feel guilty. I shouldn’t. This was just fun, Connor was just my friend, nothing more.

“So, uh,” he coughed. “What was your plan for tonight?”

I stiffened, turning around to sit on the edge of the bed with my back to him, beginning to braid my hair. The bed dipped suddenly, and Connor’s leg was flush with mine, the other folded behind my back, and Connor’s fingers wove into my wet hair, beginning to plait it silently.

“I have a date.”

His hands stilled, just briefly, and I felt myself relax when his fingers began again. He hadn’t taken a single breath.

“Oh?”

“Yeah.”

“Who with?” Cold. Uninterested. I growled low in my throat.

“Not sure. Some guy my mom set me up with–they’re pissed I don’t have a boyfriend, you know,” I reminded, and Connor just grunted in affirmation.

“You have no idea who he is?” Connor groaned in disgust. 

I shrugged. “He goes to school here–I think his name is Jared? He’s a business major. My mom is very impressed.”

Now, Connor really paused, his fingers abandoning the braid to snap his hands down into his lap.

“You know him?” I asked.

“Jared Kleinman?” Connor hissed, not looking at me.

“I think?” I said skeptically, unsure what about this kid had Connor in such a state.

“He’s an ass,” Connor growled. “An absolute asshole, bully, short-stack, scum bag, and you can’t go out with him. You can’t go out with that jerk off, trust me, okay? As your friend, I forbid you.”

I’d been taking everything Connor said seriously up to that point–it took a lot to make Connor that verbose, let alone that enraged–he’d been working on getting better, he really had–but his final statement made my eyes snap open, throwing my body off the bed.

“You forbid me?” I hissed, spinning with a wicked laugh. “I’m not your girlfriend, Connor. You can’t stop me from doing shit, okay?”

His eyes widened–in shock or shame, I wasn’t sure–sliding back up onto the bed. “I didn’t mean, fuck, I’m just trying to look out for you, okay? He’s bad news. He was–fuck, he was such an ass in highschool, okay?”

“And people can’t change, right?” I laughed crudely, watching the muscle twitch in his jaw. I’d pressed a button. Good. His eyebrows furrowed down over his glare, and I saw his hands clench and unclench in his lap. He’d caught my eyes flickering to them, and immediately looked helpless, wiping them on his jeans.

“I’m not having a fit,” he promised. “I’m not gonna hit you, I fucking swear to–”

“I know,” I lied, softening my posture and  looking away from him. “I know, Con. You’re not gonna hurt me again.”

Truth be told, he might. Relapse was easy–I knew, I’d seen it in teaspoon sized doses, whether be him throwing me against the door with too much force or be it a fist coming to connect on the wall behind my head after I gave a particular nasty comment. Connor had never hit me, not hard, but he almost had, and he’d said a few nasty things, broken some things of mine.

We were friends because I trusted him, because I didn’t want to leave him just because this felt hard. But I wouldn’t let Connor talk to me like that again, I’d promised myself. It meant a time out–no sex, no talking, not until he could calmly apologize and talk through what he was feeling.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed, scrubbing his hands over his eyes–he’d forgotten to paint his nails this week, I noticed, but his wrist had flowering patches of indigo and lavender peppered along his arm like blooming bruises–they were just left over from his last art class Friday. He really needed a shower, I realized.

“Don’t be sorry,” I said again, leaning against the bathroom’s doorjamb in lieu of joining him on the bed. If I sat on the bed, I’d want to touch him, and as much as he deserved reassurance, he didn’t need the positive reinforcement. He had to learn I was a finite fixture. “That Jared kid–he said something to you, right? In school. You didn’t like each other.”

Connor laughed mirthlessly, filling my stomach with lead. “Yeah, you could say that. He’s one of those weasely kids, ya know? With just shitty underhanded comments they get out of Mad magazine. Gets under your skin.”

It was too easy to picture, embarrassingly so, I thought, watching Connor now with his eyes downcast and his mouth pursed, I could still see him, just a year ago, and some punk kid whose comment landed on its mark. He probably sent Connor into fits.

I tried too hard not to picture Connor those nights, crying disgustingly in the shower, banging his head too hard against the tile, replaying over and over in his head what that little shit had said to him.

I didn’t want to go out with him. I hadn’t wanted to to begin with. But, I had to. I’d promised.

“I’m really sorry, Con,” I sighed softly, thunking my head against the doorjamb in punishment. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“Don’t be,” he laughed bitterly again. “’S over now.” He held his arms open, silently asking me to come back down to him, just to make up. “Just because you’re sucking his cock now–”

He froze, eyes bugging out of his head, staring at something on the ceiling I couldn’t make out from here. My stomach churned uneasily, and the tips of my ears got uncomfortably warm. Connor sat up slowly, bracing himself on his arms, staring at the wall with a horrified expression. He was vaguely green around the collar of my shirt.

“You wanna stop. That’s why you told me. You wanna stop.”

I swallowed thickly. “Con–”

“Christ, kid! What happened to relationships and sex and school are too much? We said–”

“It’s out of my hands!” I gasped, Connor’s glare finally snapping to mine, melting me into the floor. “I don’t want to go out with him–you know my mom expects me to–”

“Fuck, I know, you’re parents want you to be a fucking baby factory with a rich husband, I know, okay?” He groaned, shoving his hands into his hair and dislodging the ponytail holder, his dark hair cascading around his shoulders, his whole expression pinched.

I flinched, shutting my eyes, wishing desperately to be somewhere else. He didn’t mean it, he was angry–it didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

“It’s just to appease my mom,” I sighed quietly, disgusted to realize how wet and broken my voice sounded. “Just to say I have a boyfriend, to keep her out of my hair. Otherwise she’d be down here every week, and I’d never be able to see you–”

“What if I pretended to be your boyfriend?” He said suddenly, making my gaze snap to his, despite my discomfort. He was staring seriously at me, and I felt sick to realize he was sincere.

“Trust me, Con, you don’t wanna do that.”

To subject him to that kind of scrutiny would be unfair. Connor was my favorite person in the world right now, and, despite coming from a good family, my mother would be less than thrilled to hear I was involved with an art major with a juvenile record.

He snorted. “I know I’m no Jared–”

“Don’t,” I glared. “Don’t. I’m sorry, but yeah, we can’t have sex for awhile, okay?”

“Fuck,” he hissed.

I felt sick–like crying. “I’m sorry if that ruins our friendship for you. I thought you might be able to tolerate spending time with me when I’m not getting you off.”

Connor’s horrified expression let me know he hadn’t actually thought of that, but it didn’t mean he hadn’t known.

“Hey,” he said softly, rolling off the bed to stand, his hands out stretched as if he was scared to spook me. “Hey, that’s not–hey, don’t cry.”

“Fuck off.”

“No,” he growled, coming forward to wrap his arms around me, still wearing that stupid crop top, pressing his face into my neck. “Fuck, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” he murmured, his lips brushing my jaw. “You come first, you always come first. I’d rather have you than sex, you know that, right?”

His fingers scraped under my shirt to press against my skin, pulling me tighter to him, his fingertips tripping with friction.

“I know,” I sighed, going limp against him and wrapping my arms around his neck–it felt nice just to be close. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Fair enough.”

He pulled back, reaching up to cup my face, his fingertips burning where they thumbed my cheeks, wiping away the stray tears. He stared down at me so intently, and I realized he was still scared.

“Before your lame ass date, you wanna get some take out?” He asked with a crooked grin, leaning in to kiss my forehead quickly.

“Fine, but you have to change,” I giggled, pulling away despite his protests to grab my purse from his desk.

“I refuse to change–this color looks too good on me.”

——

“I can’t believe you’re gonna wear one of my shirts on your date with that wank,” Connor groaned, watching me button up one of his shirts over my chest, shaking his head. “He’s gonna try to cop a feel–it’s like he’s grabbing my boob, kid. That’s the worst violation of all.”

I rolled my eyes, brushing my hair back from my forehead. “First off, they’re still my boobs, but I promise I’ll bring the shirt back in mint condition. I doubt I’ll be kissing him tonight.”

Connor grinned around a mouthful of rice–he was cute like that, I realized, cheeks full and eyes crinkled with a smile. His mood had flipped swiftly, thank goodness, despite the fact it had started to pour outside, the sky pitch black despite the fact it was still early in the afternoon.

“Maybe he’ll buy you something nice,” Connor grinned. “I’m sure he’s loaded. If he brings a friend, make sure you hit on him.”

I snorted, but pulled on my slightly dirty skinny jeans anyway. “If he brings his friend on a date, I’m walking out and taking you home for thanksgiving.”

Connor grinned again. “God, that’d be rich.”

Thunder pounded through the room, making Connor’s hair products shake on his desk, causing me to jump back onto the bed to be near Connor.

“Don’t tell me you’re scared,” he teased softly, glancing out the window to see the downpour. “Christ, maybe you should stay in tonight. Last thing you need is to be trapped in some shitty French restaurant with mademoiselle rat face.”

“You’re hilarious,” I said bitterly, watching the leaves paste themselves to the window pane. “But, maybe I should reschedule. That’s not a shitty thing to do, right? It looks awful out there.”

“Nah,” Connor said around another mouthful. “Plus, if you do, we can have one last hoorah–okay, you’re right, sorry.”

I just grinned, hitting him lightly upside the head. “You can finish up in the shower, pretty boy.”

He frowned. “Fine.”

I pursed my lips, glaring out into the storm again. “I should call Jared ask him to reschedule,” I sighed again, feeling only vaguely guilty. I mean, what were the odds Jared even wanted to go on this date? Our parents set us up, for goodness’ sake.

I wondered briefly if Connor had worn this shirt in highschool, if Jared would recognize it.

“I highly recommend standing him up,” Connor said chipperly. “Allow me to hand you your phone–”

Connor froze, still half stretched across the bed, staring at my phone on the nightstand.

“Oh my God.”

“What?” I asked, concerned. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh my God,” Connor said again, this time dissolving into a fit of giggles, yanking my phone off the charger and throwing it on the bed. “I can’t believe this!”

“Connor, if you don’t tell me–”

“He stood you up!”

“What?” I screeched, fumbling for my phone, surprised to see a few missed texts on my home screen.

From: Jared
To: Me

Srry 4 the short notice, do you think we coukd meet some other time? Don’t wanna get caught in the strom

“He can’t even spell,” I muttered in disgust, throwing my phone onto Connor’s bare stomach that shook with laughter.

“This is hilarious, oh my God. It’s so sad, you look so cute and everything! You were gonna put on mascara for that asshole!”

“I’m gonna dump this soy sauce on your shirt, Murphy.”

“Sorry, sorry, geez!”

He put down his plastic fork, reaching across the mattress to stroke his hand across my bare arm. For a minute, I thought he might ask me how I felt, but instead just asked, “Are you up for a round of Battlefront?”

I grinned, beginning to undo pearline buttons of Connor’s nice navy shirt. “I’m gonna kick your ass.”

He grinned, eyes crinkling at the corners and his lips cracking with the force of his smile. “I look forward to it.”

Tonight on TCM starting at 8 pm, MoMA Film presents three movies from our collection. Don’t miss this rare chance to catch The Little Fugitive (1953), Never Fear (1949), and Don’t Bet on Women (1931). 

[The Little Fugitive. 1953. USA. Directed by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin. The Museum of Modern Art, New York]

By Maureen Lee Lenker, who is an avid TCM fan, and a Los Angeles based writer and actress who writes a monthly column, “Dame in the Game,” about women in Hollywood history for Ms. in the Biz.

With the success of last year’s Selma, the first Best Picture nominee directed by an African-American woman, Ava DuVernay and independent African-American female filmmakers came more fully to international attention than ever before. DuVernay had already made history as the first African-American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival for her 2012 feature Middle of Nowhere, making its TCM premiere tonight (though that success did not translate into the same visibility and access that Selma has granted her).

DuVernay is an outspoken champion of black female directors, recently challenging her Twitter followers to devise a list of films starring a female protagonist and directed by a woman of color. DuVernay regular points out inequities on her social media platforms and calls for change in the entertainment industry.

This furthers an effort she began in 2010 to distribute and promote independent films directed by women and people of color. At that time, she founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AAFRM), now renamed ARRAY. The organization is a distributor as well as a resource collective for independent filmmakers.

Though DuVernay calls the number of female African-American filmmakers out there a “small sorority,” there are a number of women who blazed the path before her, including tonight’s co-host Julie Dash, whom DuVernay has named as a big inspiration.

In “Black Women Film-makers Defining Ourselves,” Alile Sharon Larkin explains Hollywood’s role in excluding people of color from telling their own story:

From the moment that Africans were brought to the Americas and made slaves, we lost much more than our freedom. We lost control of our image. Film and television have been crucial in this legacy of loss, our loss of name and culture, for Hollywood has the power to rewrite, redefine, and recreate history, culture, religion and politics. Hollywood has the power of the spoken word and the visual image and all sounds and dreams.

It’s crucial then that women, especially women of color, have the opportunity and agency to speak for themselves.

In a book on black women’s literature and film, Judylyn S. Ryan describes how true equality requires “a democracy of narrative participation.” Ryan goes on to explain how the work of Julie Dash as a director demonstrates the need for “representation and participation in national cinema and national history.” Ryan points specifically to Dash’s Illusions (1982) as a film that makes this argument by revising the history of classic Hollywood.

           Tonight’s featured film Daughters of the Dust (1991), which Dash fought to get made from 1975 through its 1991 Sundance debut, also speaks to this need for “a democracy of narrative participation.” The film stresses family ties and historical awareness as crucial to the women at its center, even keeping the dialogue in Gullah without subtitles; it emphasizes a historical consciousness that can be heightened by cinema. As Ryan explains, “black women filmmakers frequently return to the past in order to reinscribe the history of Black women’s agency as a basis for constructing future agency.”

           All of tonight’s films focus on this construction of future agency for their black female protagonists. Dash accomplishes it by reclaiming a narrative of the past and figures traditionally marginalized in the historical record. Losing Ground (1982), Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992) and Middle of Nowhere (2012) tell the stories of contemporary black women who already possess agency as a philosophy professor, a girl with college aspirations and a medical student, respectively. Circumstances in their life force them each to go on a further journey of self-discovery to develop a more internal sense of agency.

           Women of color often feel excluded from the feminist conversation because of the tendency of some white feminists to ignore issues of class and race. Audre Lorde critiqued white feminist attitudes in the 1980s: “By and large within the women’s movement today, white women focus upon their oppression as women and ignore differences of race, sexual preference, class, and age. There is a pretense to a homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.”

           Thus, in a programming series that celebrates sisterhood and Trailblazing Women behind the camera, it’s essential to include a night of viewing dedicated to African-American independent female filmmakers—to allow their voices to be a part of the conversation; to reclaim their history and their stories. Only now, they’ve become a part of the historical narrative, the story of women in film, themselves.

Sources:

Cooper, Nekisa (November 1, 2012). “Love on the Outside”Filmmaker Magazine.

 Dargis, Manohla (December 2, 2014). “Making History: With ‘Selma,’ Ava DuVernay Seeks a Different Equality”The New York Times

Larkin, Alile Sharon. “Black Women Film-makers Defining Ourselves: Feminism in Our Own Voice.” In Female Spectators: Looking at Film and Television, edited by E. Deidre Pribram. London and New York: Verso, 1988.

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. New York: Crossing Press, 1984.

Ryan, Judalyn S.  Spirituality as Ideology in Black Women’s Film and Literature, Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2005.