By Justine Ashley Constanza

For some there is nothing more horrific than the idea of returning to high school and reentering the pitfalls of being a teenager.

‘Pariah’ is a poignant foray into the sometimes unbearable nature of teen life. Alike (the incredible Adepero Oduye) is a 17-year old Brooklyn tomboy who spend her nights at a seedy strip club.

One the surface, she may be considered “confused” but it becomes clear that it is the society around her that is puzzled by her inability to conform to gender roles. In truth, Alike is more certain of who she is, how she would like to dress, and what she loves than most people. Though she is a lesbian, her coming-of-age experience (she is used by a girl she thinks truly cares about her) is no different than that of a heterosexual girl. This is a major strength of the beautifully written ‘Pariah’. It diminishes the idea that one’s sexual preference defines them.

When stripped of the disapproving world around her, Alike is like any other girl with a story that many women can relate to. The film is brilliant in that even Alike’s strict Christen mother (Kim Wayans) is difficult to dislike. Though she demonstrates no open-mindedness when it comes to her daughters sexuality, her unbearable loneliness and tireless plea for her husband’s attention allow her humanity to resonate. Alike’s father (Charles Parnell) furiously protects her from those that label her a “dkye” while quickly getting over his own discomfort towards having a lesbian daughter. These conflicts make for scenes that are difficult to stomach but evoke an emotional consciousness. When it comes to modern day NYC, it’s easy to assume that the level of tolerance for those that are ‘different’ is extremely high. Yet what the film shows is that the prejudice towards the gay and lesbian community is still prevalent.