I have a confession to make. You might want to sit down for this: I am a young Black woman and I enjoyed the filmThink Like A Man.
Whew. Feels good to get it off my chest.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard that there was a film slated for 2012 based on the book, I did the obligatory eye roll and didn’t expect much. The past few times I made the grudging trek to the theatre to see movies with predominately Black cast — primarily so that I could keep my membership in the Black community — I was mildly disappointed. I say mildly because I have sadly grown to expect very little from Black movies. In real life, I find my community to include a wealth of comedic talent, natural artistic abilities, an eye for concepts that are abstract and often complex, and yet … on screen it seems that we often fall flat.
Nevertheless, Think Like a Man (TLAM) was everything you wanted a romantic comedy to be. It was witty, keen, and resonated for me as a young unmarried woman in her late 20s. I kept whispering to my best friend, “This is hilarious … This is so on point … This is so true!” He agreed.
But of course, EVERYONE doesn’t agree. Rahiel Tesfamariam, the founder and editor of Urban Cusp (a website I deeply respect), posited that TLAM served up “patriarchy with a smile.” Rahiel writes:
… Harvey, Tyler Perry, T.D. Jakes and countless others are making millions branding themselves as cultural gurus who understand the plight of black women.
Only a patriarchal mind set would constantly paint women with stereotypical, pathological brushstrokes and serve it up as digestible truth. As if real-world paternalism wasn’t enough, we can also have it to look forward to in black cinema.
She goes on to outline the four stereotypes of Black women found in the movie: the single mother, the promiscuous Jezebel, the never-satisfied control freak, and the emasculating powerful executive.
The problem here, though, is the article forgets the purpose of a romantic comedy. Have you ever seen a good rom-com where the women and men in the movie don’t have some serious flaw? That’s the whole point! Let’s break down these alleged stereotypes:
1. Single Mother – I’m not sure if “single mother” is a stereotype or if it’s a reality for many women, of all races. I’d be more inclined to believe that Regina Hall’s character was a stereotype if she were irresponsible, unable to care for her child, and dependent on welfare. But she wasn’t. She was the mother of one child who balanced healthy friendships, relationships, and a career. She was a single mother you’d be proud of!
2. Promiscuous Jezebel – Meagan Good’s character, Maya, just doesn’t fit this stereotype. She’s only shown sleeping with one man prior to her onscreen counterpart, Zeke. If anybody was seen as promiscuous, it was the man she was sleeping with who failed to remember her name and left the morning after. Was she more trusting than she should have been? Possibly. Promiscuous. Not sure on that one.
3. Never Satisfied Control Freak – I’m having trouble with the premise that Gabrielle Union’s character fell into this stereotype. She wanted the man she was dating to improve his career and commit to her…. Where’s the control freak part? Furthermore, when attempting to remodel their apartment, she asked for his input prior to making any decisions and only proceeded after he passed the reins over to her. Yeah, calling her a control freak is quite a stretch here.
4. Emasculating Powerful Executive – Here is where I can concede that there was a possibility that Taraji Henson’s character, Lauren fell into a stereotype, just not the one that Rahiel pointed out. What stuck out for me wasn’t Taraji’s power role, it was her ridiculous expectations for a man. She expected him to have a certain kind of career, pedigree, and power. The sad part is, while this is a stereotype, it’s one that I see in real life, much too often.
I’d be more inclined to believe that men are stereotyped in the film more than the women. You have:
1. The Reckless Rebounder – Kevin Hart’s character, Cedric, is the recently separated man who leaves a good woman he loves and embarks on a tour to get back on the dating scene and do nonsense in strip clubs.
2. The Playa – Romano Malco’s character, Zeke, is the ultimate player who wines and dines women, sleeps with them, then disappears.
3. The Mama’s Boy – Terrence J’s character, Michael, plays the ultimate cliché, the adult male who can’t quite let go of his dependence on mama.
4. The Normal White Guy – Gary Owen’s character, Bennett, is the White friend who has it all together and is in a happy marriage.
Unfortunately, though, calling out TLAM’s stereotypes of men doesn’t appear to fit in Rahiel’s overall theme that Steve Harvey and the film’s producers are serving up patriarchal ideals.
One other criticism lobbed at TLAM, not only by Rahiel but by others, is the lack of a spiritual message or any discussion of faith. In her commentary at The Washington Post, Rahiel says:
Matters of faith have historically been so deeply embedded into the black American psyche that’s its practically dishonest to reflect black women navigating concerns about love, family and careers without any substantive “God talk”…. Maintaining centrality in the character’s lives by providentially coaching them through life’s most important decisions, Harvey symbolically played the role of God.
Wow. Considering Steve Harvey’s frequent and often Tebow-like references to God in his comedy and on his radio show, I’m sure he’d be offended by the statement. As a Christian, though, I understand why matters of faith may have been strategically left out of the movie. A good portion of the movie centers around the “90-Day Rule,” in which Harvey posits that women should not have sex with a man until after 90 days of dating, because a good man who respects you will stick around for that long to “get the cookie.” The Christian perspective as outlined by the Bible, however, is in direct conflict with this advice. Sex outside of marriage is simply not an option for committed Christian couples. Steve Harvey knows this. And there clearly are contradictions inherent in his “God talk” and “relationship guru” personas. I cannot defend him on that. But this film is a separate matter, and I think viewers should judge TLAM for what it is, not what we want it to be.
How exactly could a movie with such a heavy focus on Steve Harvey’s 90 Day Rule also expect its characters to rely heavily on spiritual themes or guidance? If the characters did that, then they’d toss the book and its advice in the trash, and we would never have had a premise for this hilarious film that gives us something relevant to talk about with our friends.
In short, expecting a movie that does not purport to represent Christian values and themes to include references to “matters of faith” is a bit odd.
Think Like A Man is a keen, entertaining film with characters that I recognize from my daily life, but I believe many people expected it to suck — and probably for good reason. Unfortunately, when you start with low expectations, there is opportunity for self-fulfilling prophecy to take hold. You assume the movie is going to have you up in arms, so you find a way for the movie to, well, have you up in arms.
Give it a chance, if only for the lively discussions afterward.
Last weekend, New York became the 6th state to legalize gay marriage. Attempts to legalize same-sex marriage failed two years earlier. Governor Andrew Cuomo made campaign promises to legalize gay marriage in New York and his political strategy was successful. The law passed with a 33 to 29 vote. New York joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia in granting same-sex marriage licenses. Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington have same-sex union laws. Colorado, Wisconsin and Maine grant limited rights to same-sex couples. With more states examining their legal stance on same-sex marriage, it is clear that this issue will not be going away anytime soon.
Researchers have found a more affordable material for cleaning water in developing countries: sand. The sand is mixed with dispersed graphite oxide and then used to purify water. Many countries around the world need access to clean drinking water and the World Health Organization claims that “just 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa and 50% of the population in Oceania use improved sources of drinking-water.” According to water.org, 1 in 8 people do not have access to clean water and 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease. Continued research in hydrology will improve the lives for millions of people around the world.
Since the 2001 terrorists’ attacks, the United States government and Transportation Security Administration have beefed up homeland security with newly created agencies and processes. Unfortunately the attempts to make Americans “safer” have often resulted in a loss of privacy and constitutional rights for U.S. citizens. This is the case with Jean Weber’s 95 year old mother. Weber was travelling with her cancer stricken mother from Florida to Michigan. Weber’s mother was among the “3% of passengers who are subject to pat-downs.” The TSA agent told Weber that her mother’s undergarment was “wet and firm, and they couldn’t check it thoroughly.” She was forced to remove the adult diaper in a private bathroom, but her mother did have to travel through the airport without undergarments. TSA officials stand by their agents’ actions, but Americans won’t continue to stand for this type of humiliation and disrespect under the guise of protection.
Jonathan McReynolds is not your average gospel artist. He’s not backed by choirs, or trying to keep up with the latest auto-tune or dance craze. He comes to the stage with an acoustic guitar and seemlessly interweaves India Arie’s lyrics into his single, “No Gray” that begins, “Lord, I’m split in two, part of me loves the world and the other loves you…” He goes on to confess his “luke warm” committment and comes to the conclusion that he will have to choose. This is the sort of open honesty I have yet to see in gospel artist. They are either super holy or trying so hard to be mainstream that thier message is lost. I am so excited to see McReynolds flourish! He’s going to be huge!
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal star in Bad Teacher, which opened nationwide in theaters this weekend. The tagline for the film is “Some teachers just don’t give a F,” which isn’t far from the true story of Vanderbilt University’s scientific study where they offered cash rewards to teachers that had classes with high test scores. At the conclusion of Vanderbilt’s study, the incentives were not enough to raise the test scores. But, what is this saying about our education system? Is this film a fair interpretation of our education crisis? Are there more factors at play?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that unemployment is at 9.1% (May 2011). While this is lower than the 10.1% we experienced in October 2009, it is still much higher than the 7.8% unemployment rate the country was at when President Obama took office. With several jobs obsolete because of technology and cheap labor overseas, smart jobs may help rebuild the U.S. economy. Smart jobs come with titles such as technician, specialist or analyst and they involve manipulating materials like plastics and chemicals. Although similar to factory work, smart jobs require more brain power than physical labor. Over the last 5 years there has been a 56.8% gain in the job category “Renewables and the Environment,” 29.8% gain in the “Internet” and 29.1% gain in “Online Publishing” (wired.com). Brush up on your tech skills because future jobs will require them.
The most important technology riddle in business of late has been what is more valuable: Twitter or Facebook? Although fans on Twitter are more likely to buy from brands they follow, Facebook offers advertisements to 550 million members worldwide. Facebook is referred as “push marketing,” allowing brands to push content or services through incentives and rewards for interaction. Twitter is referred to as “pull marketing,” where fans seek out brands, start discussions, and use the service as a customer support service. Both are necessary for now, and neither seem to be going away anytime soon.
8 TV THE BET AWARDS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WHY?
The Good: Jill Scott always knows how to class up any event.; Kevin Hart’s roast was hilarious!; and Beyonce’s performance of her new song “End of Time,” has the possibility to be a timeless anthem. The Bad: I wish that Rick Ross would keep his shirt on and that Kelly Rowland would stop devaluing herself to the status of a stripper, and WHY does BET feel the need to combine strip teases and gospel music in one event? Black people!!! Get it together.
Paula Patton will play the female lead in Mission Impossible 4, alongside Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner. The film opens December 16, 2011, but the French trailer recently leaked online. Patton was last seen in Jumping the Broom, but looks like she is returning to her roots with this film; she starred alongside Denzel Washington in action thriller Deja Vu. The English trailer should premiere next week. Watch the French trailer below!
I love a man that takes risks, and Kevin Hart has been on a campaign to be a household name. He currently stars in an eBay, Ford, and Nike commercials; his comedy tour, Seriously Funny, has sold out shows, and yesterday he was hilarious at the BET Awards. Hart has shown diversity in his ability to market various brands, be relevant in the Black community, but not be afraid to poke fun at the Black entertainment industry as he did last night at the awards with his roast. Hopefully, his baby mama drama won’t plague his career.