Watching “The Best Man”: Old Movie, New Feminist Lens

Last night I watched The Best Man. What is significant about it is that watching the film with an eye towards representations of Black women, I knew that there were going to be major distinctions and differences that I would see now that I didn’t see before.

The first difference is in the opening when Sanaa and Taye are in the bathtub and she confronts him on his desires to take the next step towards commitment in their relationship. She gets upset, and gets out of the tub. The camera then remains on Taye’s character. This has the impact of forcing the viewer to experience the moment from his eye’s, not hers. This is important, because the focus of the camera tells us who the director thinks is important in a scene.

The second difference is that I noticed that the Black women fell into representations of “controlling images” that honestly could have come out of a Tyler Perry movie.

There was the “good Christian woman who deserved her man”: Mia/ Monica Calhoun.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was invested in her career more so on getting married, so she was seen as someone who “didn’t need a m an” and was “damn near a lesbian”: Jordan/ Nia Long.

There was the attractive, materialistic and shallow Black woman who emasculated her man/partner: Shelby/ Melissa DeSousa.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was smart and sweet, but held in a holding pattern by her gentleman friend: Robin/ Sanaa Lathan.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie but it was interesting that the Black women characters were very similar to the representations of Black women in Tyler Perry movies.

In the book Beyond the Black Lady Lisa Thompson helped me to think about how women in general were presented in the film, Nia Long’s character in particular. Thompson writes,

 “The middle class black woman (or Black lady) represents a problem to be avoided; she is too indendent, too intelligent, and too self sufficient. The men declare her a threat and romantic outcast who resonates to them in the same register as “the lesbian”.

Thompson then goes on to connect the dots regarding how middle class Black women are represented in films during this era. She writes,

Popular African American romantic comedy like “The Best Man” and “Soul Food” consistently reward women who pursue tradtional female roles. They present the desperate social circumstances of professional black women as the result of misplaced priorities and aggressive personalities. In essence, these films uphold and further the cultural stereotype the black lady as cold, prim and passionless. They also, in light of bleak marriage rates for black professional women, send an alaringly conservative message and signal a backlash against the recent academic and professional successes that women have enjoyed.

So, “The Best Man”. Old movie, feminist lens.

Thoughts?

 

On Being Honest and Saying No.

I finally laid it down with SD on Friday. He saw me and wanted to sip and I said sure. But we needed to talk first.

I basically said listen, I need to get off this ride. I adore you, we have a lot in common but you come at me like you want to have your foot wedging a door open. You see, last time I saw him, he didn’t speak, then rolled up a few minutes later taumbout, yeah I just wanted to say hello. I was like the fuck? In his defense we did just start back speaking, but I’m like #comeoneson. Be vulnerable. Or stop.

I know me/us, its only a matter of time before something out of pocket jumps off.  #History. Uh. No. I said “I am a gift. We all are. The difference is that some of us see it and walk with that understanding.”

He listened then said his work comes first. Boom. I am grown. I can accept that. I’m on that Bleek Gilliam. My work comes first too, most the time. So I get it. In fact, I have 4 fifteen hour days ahead of me this week.

At the same time,  I ain’t gonna be bopping around thrusting flirts at people I got history with. Energy is powerful and it moves, honey.

I light weight can’t believe I actually said it.

Why? Because the liminal space is comfortable, sorta. Or maybe that’s not it, it is familiar. Ok. #boom. I just knew that I needed to take responsibility for my role.

So I said, I need to make sure I am comfortable and that I feel safe, so if I see you, I may or may not speak. Honestly, after that. I felt free. And it makes sense because the next day, at brunch, I ran into #Aquemini.

Keep the path clean.

The Original. #Aquemini.

And peep game, when I asked @afrolicious on Friday, what was going in the spiritual dimension of Wisconsin, she mentioned that well, things happen in that dimension first then we see them on the human level. I know I just looked at the phone and was like she be taking this #blackgirlsarefromthefuture ‘ish to a whole other level. However. I was suspect until….Saturday confirmed for me that she was right when I ran into the original #Aquemini at brunch…….you don’t know about my biggie wars. In fact it was quite pleasurable. Talk about becoming Janie

Do you believe that when one door closes another one opens?

Why people stay in your system until you ready to let them go?

How do you muster up the courage to have conversations you would rather avoid?

A Love Letter to Ms. Fancy.

A few weeks ago I woke up and realized that I am the person that I wanted
to be when I was thirteen.

At thirteen my closest friend was Fancy and we were in middle school together
in East Oakland. We were nerdy, and skinny, not what the streets want, no?

If the library had it we read it. I was partial to all the Judy Blume’s,
Beverly Cleary’s, Sweet Valley High’s and when I found Walter Dean Myers
I was home.

We traded library books and Sassy issues the way 8 year old boys traded
baseball cards.

We rode that Emporium Capwells basement in downtown Oakland like
a Long Island Outlet mall the day after Christmas.

It was through my friendship with her that I saw how people treated
brown skinned Black girls. In some ways we learned how to negotiate
our femininity together.

By 15, we discovered Berkeley’s Telegraph avenue, clothing stores, book stores,
used record stores, natural hair, sewing
and fashion magazines. While I liked
The Source
magazine, more than Seventeen, we both shared our love of the glossies.

In many ways I became myself in that era, or at the very least the ground was being
set for me to claim it in high school.

She was always more of an alternative head than me, putting me on to Neneh Cherry
and being the first Black person that I ever knew to bump Alanis Morissette.

Our goal was to become Fresh Girls.

Fresh girls were natural, maybe wrote graffiti (or was at least cool with the crew
with the most ups), were smart, had cute clothes,
some of which they made
and their own style.

After middle school, I left Oakland to go to high school in ‘Frisco,
and a little after that she moved back East. We had a plan for her to move
to NY to model and design clothes and I would go to college and
design clothes, sell vintage clothes or write and just be AROUND hip hop.I move to NY for school and she got married and had a baby, and for a hot minute
I was like dude, what happened to our plan? Being young and immature
I had a resentment.

Now that I am older I realize that all women have to make choices about
baby dreams vs. career dreams, especially when we live in society that needs
children, yet refuses to support the people who are implicitly charged with raising
them.

I also now realize how much of a gift it is to think of something at 14 and actually
be able to do it 4 years later.

Back then I wanted to be nappy, be around Black art, eat good food and read
a lot.

Three weeks ago I realized that I am in fact this person.

I get to be nappy, write about Black women and pop culture (and my relationships)
and have the
things that I say be taken seriously by my blog readers and my professor’s
and this is awesome.

I googled Ms. Fancy a couple of weeks ago and found out she wasn’t that far from me.
In a twitter conversation with @prisonerswife I talked about how I wanted to say
something, but I didn’t want to come out the blue and the last few years of my life
have taught me to leave well enough alone when it comes to people. I try to live by
if it don’t fit don’t force it. This isn’t hallways successful. I try to realize that people
will be bothered when they want to be, otherwise I should leave them be.

@prisonerswife responded saying something along the lines of, “people say things
like that just because they don’t want to step up” and I was like, “I’m pretty much a courage
bear. If God wants me to be in contact with her, we will cross paths.”

Ms. Fancy Facebooked me Tuesday.

Merry Christmas. Woot.