Monday, July 20, 2009

How Do They Do It? Pt 1

This post got so long, I'm going to have to put it up in parts!

One of the things I was determined to do during my brain break was engage in a little escapism, via the television. Now, I have a problem watching TV or movies outside the theater--I lose the thread of what's going on, I can't concentrate, I have an overwhelming urge to get up and do something else (I'm the same way about telephone conversations).*

Anyway, back on track--me--escapism--TV. Honestly, there's not a lot on. I found myself simultaneously craving the MJ coverage and being further saddened by it. Anyway, I thought there might be some comic relief in Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns on TBS.

Full disclosure--I didn't come to the series unbiased. I have my issues with Tyler Perry--most recently, I was so profoundly angry about the Sanaa Lathan character in The Family that Preys.

Which brings me to my first "How do they do it (and get away with it)?" question. The absolute aversion to educated, succesful black women in The Family that Preys and in T.D. Jakes's Not Easily Broken was breathtaking. I mean, I wondered who in the world had paged Sapphire!

To show how absolutely revolting Andrea (Sanaa Lathan's character) was, Perry went into overdrive. She was mean, selfish, derisive of her husband, and, the ultimate sin--a white man's whore!!! She cheated on her black husband with a white man and bore the white man's child. I don't think he could've made her any lower.

The real issue seemed to be that she had some sort of perceived power over her husband because she had a better job and more money**--but apparently, that would have been too easy to say. Andrea was totally out of her place as a woman and her world was corrupted by that.

Same thing with Clarice (Taraji Henson's character)in Not Easily Broken. There's actually a Dave (Morris Chestnut's character, Clarice's husband) monologue during which we find out that what's wrong with the world is that men have lost their place as protectors and providers, a position usurped by women who don't realize they need men. Clarice browbeats and scorns her husband; her mother is constantly there to affirm that Dave is not good enough for her daughter and they almost push him into the arms of a white woman, a mother--a role Clarice has resisted (evidence of her selfishness). It is not until Clarice's mom is revealed as a bitter meddler, Clarice meekly asks for her husband to come back, and Clarice changes her mind and becomes pregnant, that all is made right within the Dave and Clarice universe.

There was also the recurring theme in both films of irrevocably damaged black women--the women who are so hurt by one black man they can never again "appreciate" another one. Andrea was traumatized by the abandonment of her father, Clarice's mom had been abandoned by her husband. Because they didn't just get over it, their lives were ruined.

I've seen clips from Madea Goes to Jail, and Perry's insistence that women get over it was evident--one incarcerated woman was beginning to tell how she had been hurt by her stapfather and Madea interrupts to tell her, basically, that it didn't matter. Now, I think they were in a therapy session, the woman was trying to process something she had found traumatic, and she is told to get over it. So, there is this disconnect--being told to "get over it" but having the means by which one might "get over it" (therapy, talking, sharing, processing) dismissed.

I can't speak to anyone's church experience but my own, but this is part of the reason I had to distance myself from my attended-my-whole-life church. The Eve-and-Jezebel sermons, as my sister calls them, got wearying. It began to feel like an attack--pews filled with black women being told all that is wrong with us, with most of it rooted firmly in our efforts to survive and thrive. We transgressed by forgetting what our (subordinate) place should be. I don't know how Perry, Jakes, or my pastor get away with maligning so much of their audiences, ignoring criticism, and forging on in the same way--I guess because it works? I watched two episodes of Meet the Browns, didn't I?

Nothing about this critique is new, I know. I'm just working through these ideas as I try to explain, honestly, how I went into viewing "Meet the Browns" with some bias, while simultaneously admitting I have found the "Brown" character funny. Tomorrow, I really will get to the series, I promise.
*As a side note, at my doctor's office, I had to do this depression checklist and one of the things listed was the inability to pay attention to television, to concentrate, etc. And I burst out crying right then because I felt like, "Oh my God, it's not just me." It's been hard to read a book, write as much as I should, etc, for the longest time! After I explained that my tears were actually ones of relief, my doctor asked me about any past diagnoses of ADD, too, but she and I will have to explore that more.

**At the end of the movie, when that power thing is flipped and Andrea is living in a run-down apartment and having to accept money from her ex-husband, that is acceptable. She deserved it, after all.

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