Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Did I Go to the Movies?


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via The Crunk Feminist Collective by susiemaye on 4/5/10

**Spoiler Alert** I'm reviewing a craptacular movie you don't have any business seeing, so you can thank me later.

Why did I go to the movies? That was the question I asked myself repeatedly as I watched Tyler Perry's most recent cinematic travesty, Why Did I Get Married Too? I had put a moratorium on Tyler Perry movies in 2008 or so, when watching them had become so offensive, so tired, so boring that I just told myself (and anyone who would listen) that that fool was not getting any more of my hard-earned money.

But there I was on opening night with every other black person in a thirty-mile radius watching a movie with no plot, no character development, and seemingly no point.  I write "seemingly no point," knowing good and hell well what the point is: TP wants me to know my place, which is either prone or behind some man. That he made clear in every overblown, poorly-acted melodramatic scene in his hot mess of a movie.

Let me back up a bit. Why Did I Get Married Too? is the sequel to Perry's 2007 film, Why Did I Get Married?, a mediocre dramedy about a group of affluent 30-something college friends who spend a weeklong vacation together pondering the movie's titular question. Of course, the trip reveals that all the marriages are on rather fragile ground. One couple is dealing with the aftermath of their son's death. Another marriage is plagued by alcoholism (albeit illustrated as comic relief) and infidelity, and so on. The facades of their upper crust lives come crumbling down only to be rearranged neatly by the movie's end.

Why Did I Get Married Too? picks up three years after the last film left off. The marriages seem stable, but—uh oh!—things are not what they seem and so we spend the next two hours hurtling at full speed towards the great, vast emptiness that is a TP plot.

I don't have the time or the energy, quite frankly, to detail all that is wrong with this movie. So, I'll stick to a couple of my major concerns. Perry, along with T.D. Jakes and the fool that does those Pastor Jones movies, is speaking to a demographic of women—working-class, Christian African Americans who identify as heterosexual—who do not have movies specifically marketed to them. Indeed, vitriol is usually what is directed their way. I get that. However, in film after film after film (which are really the same film repackaged), he simply reinscribes patriarchal notions of marriage, family, and womanhood. TP claims to offer redemptive narratives, but what he really tells black women is that all you need to be happy is a good man (and lots of money, which said dude will provide).  In order to get a man you need to be submissive and focused on your man's needs. If you are too mouthy, too career-driven, too bossy, well, you are just a ball-busting bitch and you deserve what's coming to you.

Let me give you an example.  Dr. Patricia Agnew (played by Janet Jackson) and her husband Gavin (played by Malik Yoba—oh how far we have fallen from New York Undercover) seem like the "perfect couple." At the end of the first film they have seemingly recovered from the death of their only child and have rebuilt their relationship. However, during the second film it is clear that the reconciliation was temporary at best. Patty, as she is called in the film, is a hypocritical health professional, a psychologist who counsels others on relationships, but whose own marriage is crumbling because of her own behavior. Gavin appears as a sensitive, sincere man who wants to spend time with his wife, while Patty is an icy control freak who unceremoniously announces their divorce to all of their friends at dinner. During their divorce proceedings, she intends to withhold $800,000 worth of earnings from her book sales (note to self: write self-help book, stat), a fact Gavin finds unreasonable because he has supported her throughout her career.

Again, as with his previous movies, TP depicts a career woman as cold and unfeeling, one who is undeserving of her virtuous male partner. This characterization is ratcheted up when Patty goes to Gavin's job and acts a damn fool. Now, she'd already gone Elin Woods on his ass and broken everything up in their house with a golf club. But anyway, she arrives at his architectural firm with this ginormous cake. She prompts his colleagues to sing "Happy Birthday" and they oblige her. Then this man wearing a bedazzled mini-dress jumps out of the cake. Patty, who is dressed in a man's style suit by the way, starts yelling a variety of homophobic expletives—for example, "If you want to be a bitch, then here's your bitch!" gesturing to the man in the cake. Gavin storms out of the office, into his car, and then gets hit by a truck and dies. No, I did not make any of that up.

There's so much going on with that scene, but let me say this. First, TP is a damn fool. Second, he's a misogynist. Third, he's a homophobe (although I could've sworn I saw him at Traxx one time, must've been his twin). And fourth, he's a fool! Besides his utter failure as a writer and director, this shit is wrong on a whole variety of levels. His films need to be boycotted by and large, and films that have sense, that have feminist sensibilities, and that depict black folk in all of our diversity need to produced and distributed.

I momentarily lifted my ban on TP movies because I remember thinking, "This is bad, but not that bad" while watching Why Did I Get Married? I have even used the film in a course I taught on contemporary depictions of black love and it was great tool to get my students to apply what they had learned from reading bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, and Joan Morgan, because Lord knows if anyone needs a feminist intervention it's TP. This sequel, however, has no redemption. It is empty and void and cannot be saved while there's still time.

The scary thing about TP is that he's got folks hooked and hoodwinked. Why Did I Get Married Too? raked in 29 million dollars this past weekend, coming in second in sales to Clash of the Titans. Somehow, he's even bamboozled his way into directing Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls–talk about releasing the Kraken. Let me close my rant by saying that I am committed to a crunk feminist takedown of TP. No, not physically. Talk with your dollars. Don't see his films. Support independent feminist filmmaking. Shoot, be an independent feminist filmmaker. Have conversations with TP groupies about why his shit is wack. This is our world and we can change it. We have to change it.


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