by Gwen Jimmere
I work in an office full of highly educated and intelligent Black people, many of whom are women in their late twenties/early thirties, like myself. I love walking the hallway and not feeling like an anomaly amongst a bunch of balding middle-aged men who I have nothing in common with . My coworkers come from backgrounds similar to mine. They can talk the talk and still talk “my” talk. They look like me; they dress like me. They understand the struggle, but they don’t use the struggle as a crutch. They made it happen for themselves and we get each other. It’s a fantastic space for me to be in.
But the one thing I don’t get are the water cooler convos about various Black films and how we are more often than not being portrayed in a bad light. The Tyler Perry movie of the month always seems to start off the conversations, and somehow we end up talking about Precious and Big Momma’s House. Then it turns into a sidebar about one of the many Black dance films (e.g. Stomp the Yard, You Got Served) and how “we should be doing more than shucking and jiving all the time.” These morning latte-laden conversations typically last throughout the day and in this one instance, I think I just might be the anomaly.
I do not feel a deep personal connection to most films; perhaps that is why I don’t see what the big deal is. Frankly, I think some folks are just too sensitive. Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry dressing up as women does not upset me, and yes, I think it’s funny. So what? It’s only a movie. I watched Precious and loved it. The consensus amongst my friends was the film was an embarrassment to all of Black humanity. That it made us look bad to the rest of society. Personally, I did not feel as if people suddenly looked at me as an overweight, illiterate teen mom; nor did I feel as if I had to walk with my head hung low because the white lady next door had also seen Precious and may have perhaps assumed all Black women were true-to-life reenactments of Precious’ plight.
I don’t see other cultures complaining that their movies portray them poorly. They simply go to the movies, grab some popcorn and watch the film like everyone else. I’ve yet to hear white women complain that Pretty Woman makes them all looks like golddigging prostitutes. Or that Indecent Proposal solidifies a pseudo-notion that white folks will sell out the closest thing to them for a buck. Homosexual men haven’t been protesting that Brokeback Mountain aired out the dirty laundry of down low men worldwide. And David Spade, Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy love talking about and portraying the stereotypical “redneck” and backwoods-living white guy, and their real life counterparts don’t make a fuss.
But not us. We tend to feel such an emotional and very personal connection every single time someone makes a movie that isn’t singing our praises. The reality of it is that life happens. And movies often portray life. They also often exaggerate reality to make us laugh, to make us think or to make us feel a certain emotion.
I’m pretty sure I’ll get some flack for this, but the way I see it, it’s really not nearly as big a deal as most make it. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s just a movie. Let’s relax a little.
Gwen Jimmere is an award-winning and nationally syndicated editor who authored the relationship manual for young women, If It Walks Like a Duck”...and Other Truths My Mother Taught Me. She blogs about relationships, dating, marriage and parenting at The Duck Walk and works in social media/digital marketing.