Think Like Someone Who Enjoys Good Romantic Comedies

Think Like Someone Who Enjoys Good Romantic Comedies

I have a confession to make. You might want to sit down for this: I am a young Black woman and I enjoyed the film Think 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.

It’s Vickie Winans Time

 It's Vickie Winans Time for urban faithHere’s this week’s rundown of pop-culture stories. Lots to talk about, so let’s get started.

BET Gives Us “A Time” to Let Loose

Even though comedians like Katt Williams, Chris Rock, and Cedric the Entertainer keep us laughing on their popular HBO or Comedy Central stand-up specials, we’re hungry for some clean comedy we can watch with the whole family. Thankfully Vickie Winans, who has long been a successful gospel music artist with No. 1 hits like “As Long As I Got King Jesus” and “The Rainbow,” is bringing family-friendly comedy to BET with her new show, A Time to Laugh. Set to debut in January 2010, the show has already begun filming a scheduled 30 episodes. BET, which has found recent success with gospel-influenced programming such as the hit show Sunday Best, describes A Time to Laugh as gospel stand-up with dynamic dancers, musical artists, and fast-paced Bible story improv from a fresh urban contemporary perspective.

It certainly will be good to see more of Vickie Winans. After an extended absence from the music scene following the death of her mother, Mattie Bowman, and a difficult exit from the Verity Records roster, earlier this month Winans released How I Got Over, her first album in three years (see video for the first single below). We’re not sure yet whether A Time to Laugh is exactly what we had in mind when we said we wanted “Christian comedy,” but we’re still looking forward to seeing what Sister Winans has to offer on BET.

‘Act Like a Lady’ on the Big Screen?

When Steve Harvey released his dating book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, it seemed like the world couldn’t stop talking about it. Tyra Banks invited him on her daytime talk show to share his relationship revelations, and Oprah brought him on her show twice, including an appearance before an all-female audience where he counseled various women on the ways of love. UrbanFaith even offered its more skeptical assessment. With insight into the male psyche like “Men are driven by who they are, what they do, and how much they make” and hints on what men want (Harvey claims it is “support, love and ‘The Cookie'”) the comedian-turned-pop-relationship-expert found instant success with his book. Now BV Newswire reports that filmmaker Will Packer (This Christmas and Obsessed) is adapting the book into a full-length film. It’s too early to even begin discussing the plot, but we hope they’ll turn it into a documentary. Steve Harvey is so hysterically funny, and with the number of women at their wits end as to what men want, it would be great to see him set loose, training a group of women to think like men.

‘Idol’ After Paula

Now that Paula Abdul is officially stepping down as a judge on American Idol, we’re kind of looking forward to what’s in store for the new season of the show. Without Paula’s positive and, let’s be honest, generally unintelligible commentary, how will the show survive? We doubt she’ll be easily replaced by just another “nice female” voice, as fans might be suspect of a judge who’s already been pigeon-holed into the canned role of good cop. On the other hand, a stronger, more critical voice may feel too harsh against the biting words of Simon Cowell and the “yo’ dawg” musical analysis of Randy Jackson.

Until Fox can find a permanent replacement for Abdul, they’re temporarily filling her chair with a slew of celebrity guests like Katy Perry, Victoria Beckham, and even a rumored appearance by new Real Atlanta housewife and singer Kandi Burruss.

One thing we know for sure is that the American Idol formula for success has been compromised. If the dispute was really over money, Fox may regret failing to move some of Ryan Seacrest’s $45 million over to Abdul, if only to keep the show interesting.

Life After ‘Purpose’

It may be no surprise to you that Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has sold over 25 million copies, making it by Publishers Weekly‘s count the best-selling hardback book in American History. Since its debut in 2002, it has been a must-read for a global audience of believers and non-believers alike when trying to make sense of their lives and come to terms with their faith.

Now Warren is ready to piggyback on nearly a decade of success with plans to release a new book, just in time for the 30th Anniversary of his Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. In a recent video to his church members, he explained, “I’m in book writing mode right now. I’ve gone back into hibernation to write the follow up to Purpose Driven Life now, eight years later. It’s going to be called The Hope of the World, and my plan is to release that on Easter Sunday.”

The new book is set to focus on the church and its role in contemporary culture, elevating the purpose-driven “what do I do with my life?” philosophy to a broader “how do I engage with the culture around me?” level. Warren, who also launched the Purpose Driven Connection magazine with the Readers Digest Association in early 2009, has increasingly been practicing what he preaches in terms of engaging culture. Last winter, he had a highly publicized conflict and eventual reconciliation with musician Melissa Etheridge. The two made headlines when Etheridge, known for being outspoken about gay rights, criticized the President Barack Obama for including Warren in his Inauguration plans, despite his criticism of California’s Proposition 8. The singer later apologized for her negative reaction to Warren’s role in the ceremony, saying her assumptions about the megachurch pastor’s character and prejudices toward Christians were reinforcing the exact type of behavior the homosexual community is trying to undo.

That’s it for this installment of Pop & Circumstance. Until next time, please leave your comments below and let us know what pop-culture stories you’re most fascinated by this week.

Think Again

Think AgainIf you are a Christian woman and you are thinking about reading a thoughtful book about male/female relationships, Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment is not the book for you.