Virginia is for Lovers?

Melissa Angell covers film about Historic Virginia romance

There are few movies that can candidly portrayal the harsh realities of interracial couples in the 1960s. Loving does so effortlessly, capturing the audience through turbulent scenes of awe, grief, and hope.

The film highlights the marital strifes endured by protagonists Mildred and Richard Loving. Their wedding was conducted in Washington D.C., a legal retreat for interracial couples in the period. However, upon return to Virginia, their marriage is deemed “no good here” by the local Sheriff. The couple is hauled off to jail for the night, in violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, commonly referred to as an anti-miscegenation law — that which enforces racial segregation within marriages and intimate relationships.

The audience is left powerless, watching as Mildred and Richard are kicked out of their state and are ordered to separate. Yet, they do just the opposite. The biopic follows the couple as they fight not only for love, but also for justice, years after they were wrongfully thrown in jail. Mildred is hopeful, Richard is doubtful — but nonetheless, the two persevere from court to court, appeal to appeal, until they bring their case all the way to the top: The U.S. Supreme Court.

Their case changes history and sets a new precedent for racial marriage equality in the United States, ruling that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Without the Lovings, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today.

The film’s impact is striking, highlighting the difference between the ordinariness of each character, and the significant effect they together have on the world. They share the appeal from their genuine characteristics and love for one another. Richard a gruff, hard-working farmer, is everything far from a good ol’ Southern gentleman — yet, the audience can’t help but fall for him. How could you not? His brute mannerisms make his devotion to his wife all the more beautiful.

And Mildred? She is both strong and courageous, ascending from the cult of domesticity that many women of the time were ascribed to. Sure, Mildred still rose to the task of running a household, but she went above and beyond by contacting Robert Kennedy regarding their situation. Her elegance is reflected in her stature, but ultimately, her ruthlessness is her most desired trait. It is Mildred’s endless perseverance that compels their case to the press and helps the Lovings convince the Supreme Court of the validity of their love. As a couple, Richard and Mildred empower one another, highlighting their best qualities.

If the plot isn’t enough to allure you, the cinematography sure will. The delicate frames of lush Virginia fields oppose daunting shots of the Supreme Court, all of which are vividly presented. The close-ups of Richard’s piercing eyes and Mildred’s creased brow help viewers imagine being present and feeling the same emotions as the couple in the room, sitting alongside them in their cells, and standing with them outside of the Supreme Court.

Loving reminds us how grateful we should be to live in a society where we aren’t incarcerated for laying down with someone who is shades darker or lighter than ourselves. Yet, it should also remind us that these stigmas have not vanished–racial tensions toward heterogenous marriages still maintain a place at the dining table. And the United States and the rest of the world have yet to ensure equality for LGBTQ+ couples.

We still have a lot of work to do to level the fields of marriage equality for everyone. To think that interracial couples today don’t fight discrimination is as foolish as claiming that we live in a “post-racial” America.

Most importantly, and by far the best takeaway, is that Loving doesn’t romanticize interracial love. Rather, it reminds us that the most ordinary love brings the greatest burdens. Our passions are wrought with strife; that’s what makes them worth fighting for.

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Melissa Angell is a third-year who dry cleans her backpack