Posts Tagged ‘romance’

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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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July celebrated the 20th anniversary of John Singleton’a film Poetic Justice. The film is a cult classic for much of the young Black community but it is often underrated for its impact and influence.
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The Story

Poetic Justice dubbed by John Singleton as a “street romance,” offered a much different script for a Black story. Singleton blended realism with romance to create an honest unheard tale of Black romance. The story takes place in South Central Los Angeles. The romantic leads (Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson) are a mailman and a cosmetologist. While, from a mainstream standpoint, these characters seem too ordinary and uninteresting, the effect was just the opposite. Lucky and Justice speak to a world of young Black people who do not lead extraordinary lives with high profile careers, designer clothes, and profound wealth. Poetic Justice gives young Black people a sense of belonging to something that previously seemed universal and exclusive: romance.

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Black Images

One of the things about the movie that affected me when I first saw the movie was the way Black men are portrayed. Singleton offers three dimensional representations in his Black male characters. The central male characters, Lucky (Shakur) and Chicago (Torry), are not perfect characters but they’re also not hypersexualized, thugs, or stereotypically masculine. They are regular young Black men with the interests of Black men.

Additionally, there is a stark contrast between the characters Iesha and Justice compared to the Black female characters that we see today. Neither character has the stereotypical decry about how Black men are no good or not good enough. There is no fictional naïveté about the men that they are involved with; however, there is also no preconceived notions about them either. The two women obviously care for each other despite their many differences and it makes for a believable friendship.

Throughout the movie there are depictions of support and love between the Black characters. Justice’s boss, despite her jaded views on love and no nonsense demeanor, commits several acts of pure kindness towards her employees. On their road trip Lucky, Justice, Iesha, and Chicago stop at a Black family reunion and (because they pretend to be related to the family) they are welcomed into the family with open arms.

These images are some that are rarely scene without an excess of slapstick style comedy or exaggeration. Singleton again emphasizes realism and how’s that it doesn’t take eccentricity to make a statement about Black culture.

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Sex versus Intimacy

One major point to be made about the movie is its lack of graphic sexual scenes. There are two sex scenes that happen in the movie. The first is a sex scene that occurs (without nudity) between Iesha and Chicago. The second is a sex scene that occurs between Lucky and Justice. While the two are shown doing no more than kissing, the sex is implied in the closing of the scene and confirmed in the conversation that occurs on the next scene.

The sex scene between Iesha and Chicago is devoid of an emotional connection. The lack of fulfillment leads the two into an argument that exposes how much the two actually do not like each other and results in a confrontation that ends their relationship. In contrast the sex that occurs between Lucky and Justice is a natural development resulting from the two having grown closer throughout the trip and the intimate conversation in which they both let their guards down and expose some of their inner feelings.

This is important to note because it illustrates that sex is natural and does occur in Black romances, but it does not always have to be graphic and devoid of emotion. It reminds us that there are more reasons for having sex than fat asses and big dicks.

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Black Romance

We often think of love as something so universal that it can be objectively discussed and demonstrated without regard to nationality. this could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, in America, there is relatively little that Black people experience that is not in some way tinted or colored by the fact that they are Black — including love and romance.

Images in the media have often portrayed Black love and romance through a Caucasian gaze, even in Black movies and shows. Very rarely are scripts written that honestly illustrate the reality of Black love. Black love stories (especially for younger people) often do not occur in the ways that we see on television. Partly because of the historical damage that has been done to the relationship between Black men and Black women. That has altered the way that courting takes place and ultimately the ways that love happens.

While I can appreciate fiction and poetic license, I have often seen romance stories (in general) and thought, I have never known two Black people to fall in love like that. Yet, there is something familiar and genuine in the romance that occurs between Lucky and Justice. They each have their own fears, reservations, and past heartbreak that affects the way that they approach one another. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the beginning of the trip. When Lucky attempts to make conversation and get to know Justice. She is distant and cold towards him simply because of her initial impression of him. She thinks he’s a “wanna-be mack daddy” who probably has a bunch of kids and no passion or aspirations. This response leads Lucky back to his initial impression of her. He thinks she is a “stuck up bitch” that thinks that a man is supposed to bow to her. The tension swells quickly and ends with Justice threatening to have him “fucked up” and jumping out the truck while Lucky speeds off. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t love at first sight.

I love this scene because it doesn’t flinch in viewing the honest dysfunction of the relationship between Black men and Black women. The fact that we all too often to overcome our own ingrained biases against one another that results from having to constantly see each other through the filter of society that often paints Black men as irresponsible and lazy and Black women as catty and verbally abusive. Throughout the trip Lucky and Justice suspend their superficial evaluations to actually get to know one another and that does not happen without error, but it happens.

To tell a Black story in this way offers a portrayal of Black love that says its okay if it isn’t love at first sight and its okay if, even in the attempt to be emotionally vulnerable with one another, we make grave mistakes. Lucky and Justice appear to be over when they make it on their designation and Lucky in frustration over his cousin’s death directs that anger towards Justice and blames her for his not being there to save his cousin. Justice in turn feels validated in her original thoughts about not dating and especially not dating a guy from the hood. However, the magic of introspection and forgiveness allows the two of them to reconcile. Now that is a Black love story.

All too often we fail to keep trying and to keep pushing past the obstacles and remain emotionally available to one another. We think of each other as disposable and expect that we should come already packaged and ready for A relationship. I submit to you that there really is no such thing as being ready for a relationship. Relationships and love is like believing in God and joining a church. you can have one without the other and the former doesn’t prepare you to do the latter. Like the many religions and sects and denominations of churches, every relationship has its own challenges and requirements depending upon the two people who are coming together. A person prepares for love and when love happens it will get us ready for the relationship, if we are willing to be converted. That is a much needed story to be told to affirm for Black men and Black women that even love comes easily, romance takes effort.

The Point

What John Singleton accomplished with his film has rarely been reproduced in depictions of urban Black romance. For that reason, Poetic Justice is a cult classic in Black culture. Now more than ever we could stand to see a return such stories. In the midst of the war between the sexes and the discussions about the degradation of the Black family, Black love does exist and Black romances can and do happen.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man