Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

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The Story

I mostly wanted to see this movie because it was so talked about and a number of friends had really enjoyed the film. A female friend of mine called me one day and asked if I had seen the film and I told her that I hadn’t and wasn’t planning to and she went off on this rant about how she really wanted me to see it so that we could dialogue about it and that she wanted “to be loved like that.” I knew I would have to eventually see it if for no other reason than for the two of us to have an intelligent discussion about it. I also was extremely curious about this Black love story.

Where’s The Love Story

I kept waiting for the love story and never found it. I saw a Black man looking for his wife and, for me,

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that was not at all mind-blowing. I’m not sure if that is because I am a Black male or if that is because I have grown up with images and models of Black men who loved women and were dedicated to the women they married.

I don’t know.

My friend and I discussed this the other night. After a few minutes of us ping ponging points because she stated that this was the best depiction of a Black romance in the last decade and I argued that I thought even Tyler Perry movies displayed more romantic and loving Black relationships than this movie did. But then she said something that I think went to the heart of what she saw in Django and Broohilda’s story. She said that there was a desperation in his desire to get to her that caused him to day dream about her and do whatever he had to do to get to her. I listened and I said that I understood her point but who aspires for desperation? For me, there wasn’t enough expression of tenderness in his desire for her to make me believe it was absolutely about love.

Intention is Important

She was not the only person to say that they were impacted by all Django went through to get his wife back and the fact that she was in his thoughts constantly. However, I do not believe that this is always about love. People are complex and contradictory. Simply because we each have our own opinions and perspective that shape our reality. Therefore, what a person may appear to do for one reason may mean something entirely to them internally. Why is the most important question and it is a question only that person can answer.

People can have a number of motivations for the things that they do which may contradict the actions that they do. For example a person may feel that stealing is wrong, but there may come a time that they will steal (to feed their children or for their own survival). In the movie Django becomes something of a slave hero because he takes down some cruel slave owners. However, the question is: why does he do that? It’s obvious he isn’t doing because slavery is wrong and he is trying to take down any and all slave masters. He is doing because these people get in the way of his quest to find Broomhilda and/or because they enslaved or tried to enslave him. Therefore, I question whether or not his quest for Broomhilda is because he loves her or if it is because it is his wife and no one had the right to separate them. I think this nuance makes a difference.

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The Representation of Black Love

Representation is an important thing for Black people in America. We have to be very critical of the images that are portrayed in regards to us in any context. These images impact not just non-Black people’s perceptions, but our own as well.

For example, the archetype of the Black Mammy: the full figured, big breasted, fat cheeked Black woman who is an expert at domestic duties and motherwit was developed during the antebellum era despite the fact that historical data show that most of the Black women who worked in these roles were young, under-developed Black girls. However, because this archetype persisted in film and television, by the 1900’s reality had followed suit.

The representation of Black love and marriage presented in Django is problematic on an intellectual level. While it is always wonderful to see a Black woman and Black man in a positive loving context, it is still deserving of some critical analysis. That said, Django and Broomhilda’s relationship has an extremely patriarchal undertone.

Django is the angry, arrogant, emotionally distant, reckless, and violent tough guy out to take back what belongs to him: his wife. He is too determined to give up and he is too strong to show any mercy or kindness.

The majority of Broomhilda’s appearances on screen are silent and submissive. She is the silent fantasy that drives Django on his journey. She is the fragile feminine creature who is held hostage as a ransom against Django’s fury. She is the prize that awaits him on horseback as he kills the last of the bad guys inside the house.

Broomhilda is the docile damsel in distress who (aside from the mentioned run away attempt that she makes from Candie Land before she realizes that Django is alive and is there) waits for the man to come and rescue her.

It is understood that this movie is not about slavery but simply a nostalgic western tale set in the antebellum era. So, ofcourse, some of this guy saves girl thing is to be expected. I am not knocking the fantasy of such a relationship, I am speaking more to that fact that so many Black people were smitten with the depiction and made real life connections with what is clearly a very fictional and somewhat stereotypical relationship.

The Point

Django and Broomhilda’s love story is entertaining at best. It wasn’t unconventional or interesting. It was a standard western romance with brown faces. I would rather have seen a brown faced version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

That was an interesting and insightful love story. Both the husband and wife are strong, independent, capable characters who, judging from their fight scenes, are equals in terms of skill and intelligence. At the end they join forces and stand back to back shooting down the people that opposed their marriage because they’d rather die fighting together than for one of them to escape while the other sacrifices themselves as a distraction. Nice.

I would not say that the story is not about Django and Broomhilda; I think it is. I would say that it is not inteded to be a love story; I think it is. I just don’t think it was a beautiful, moving love story worth raving about. I do not think that it offered anything for anyone to pattern their desired romance after. If anything it is simply a camp western romance that can be enjoyable, but must be accepted with an understanding that it is not meant to be realistic and offers no realistic insight into the nature of relationships.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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Ralph Richard Banks wrote an infamous book titled “Is Marriage for White People?” In his book Banks seeks to address the issue of marriage decline in the Black community.

Banks offers quite a bit of research and produces sound stats regarding Black marriage. However, Banks’ interpretation of the data is skewed by his clear bias against Black men as suitable partners. He emphasizes the disparity between education, income, and class for Black men and Black women. For Banks (and he supposedly speaks for Black women as well), while there are Black men who are single and heterosexual, they are not marriageable because they are in prison or do not earn as much money as their female counterparts (which is ofcourse is because they are less educated). This results in Black women being “half as likely to marry as white women and three times as likely never to marry.” He cites that Black women are also less likely to marry outside their race than any other demographic including Black men.

20130110-052301.jpgBanks offers one solution for Black women: marry outside your race. Really Banks?? That’s the answer?? Banks’ entire book reads like a Tyler Perry play in which all the Black women are beautiful, fair skinned, long haired (or have long hair that has been cropped), educated, and successful and all the Black men are ghetto, hood, blue collar, uneducated, and unpolished. At least in Tyler’s narratives the men are usually decent enough to still be considered marriageable, Banks offers no such optimism.

The problem with this conclusion that Black women should abandon Black men is that it does not directly solve the issue of low Black marriage rates. The other problem is that the criterion used to determine a Black man’s marriageability is based on the material and economic contributions these can bring to the partnership. I would like to believe that there are other possibly more important things that a man can bring to a marriage. If by chance the most important factor is money, then it is no wonder women are objectified. A person pays for things not a person.

As the discussion on how to save Black love continues, lets hope that voices like Banks fade into the background because they are counter productive, cliche, and irrelevant.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man