Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

The Movie Barbershop and the Black Image

Last week I wrote about Rosa Parks and some aspects of her activism that many people were probably unaware of.  Although I had planned to write about Paul Robeson that same week, I instead devoted two posts to Mrs. Parks because a stamp was issued in her honor last Monday on what would have been her 100th birthday.

Today I would still like to mention Mrs. Parks, but only briefly, within the context of the film “Barbershop.”  There’s a scene in this movie where about 14 people, including barbers and customers, are in a Black barbershop talking about civil rights. One of the older Black barbers, Eddie, says that Rosa Parks didn’t do anything “but sit her Black ass down” because she was tired. Eddie tells the group that she “dam sure wasn’t special” because a lot of folks had done that prior to her and were also jailed.  He says the thing that sets Rosa apart was the fact she was an NAACP secretary who knew Dr. King.  Eddie tells his listeners that Blacks need to stop lying about Rosa Parks.

Comedy or not, it was disturbing to see this movie carve out time to denigrate and diminish Mrs. Parks, and it was distressing to witness how the film portrayed Black women in general. “Barbershop” devotes considerable time to Black women being angry or strictly sex objects, and scant screen time to men treating them tenderly.  Time is alloted, however, for heterosexual men to interact tenderly with each other. Here are some examples of how Blacks are portrayed:

A Black man (Calvin) starts to leave home.  He does not kiss or even touch his pregnant Black wife (Jennifer) so she motions him over and kisses him.  I believe he briefly touches her face but he mostly keeps his hands at his side although he does smile and kiss her belly. She initiates the physical contact.

A young man gets his hair cut at Calvin’s barbershop and stiffs him, but he returns later to pay his bill.  He tells Calvin he got a job that will allow him to provide for his baby girl.  Calvin refuses to take the money and he touches the young man’s shoulder, lightly punches his chest, straightens the young man’s tie in a fatherly manner and smiles.

Calvin and Jennifer are sitting on the couch and she’s drinking hot tea.  They converse. He neither smiles at her nor touches her and when he exits the house he doesn’t kiss her goodbye.

Calvin bails his friend Ricky out of prison. Calvin smiles at him and they embrace and slap hands.

A white man drives up to the barbershop with his Black girlfriend.  They exit the vehicle, he passionately kisses her goodbye, grabs her butt and lodges his finger in the crack of her rear end.

A shapely Black woman enters the shop to pick up her young son. She bends over and all eyes are on her butt.

Terry goes to the home of her boyfriend Kevin and she discovers a woman under his bed. Terry becomes enraged.

Kevin goes to the shop to talk to Terry.  She breaks up with him.  He tells her she “ain’t even all that fine.  You’re just average.”   He says he was just with her because she was good in bed.  She pushes him in the face a few times and when she turns to leave he attempts to slug her but a man socks him.

A black woman takes a bat to what she thinks is her man’s car and she knocks out all of the windows and bashes his car in.

A man leaves a card and flowers at Terry’s locker.  They talk for about a minute in private.  She tells him the card made her feel “all gentle.”  They exchange smiles but don’t enter into a relationship.

There are at least seven Black women who make an appearance in this film and at least 12 men.  Given those odds, one would think there would be at least one decent Black love relationship where the couple affectionately interact.  Too many screenwriters employ a Black-male Black-female issue formula and a Black bro-mance formula. This film is no exception.


Waiting to Exhale Sequel

I recently learned that a “Waiting to Exhale” sequel might be in the works.  The original film, based on the best-selling novel, chronicles the friendship of four Black women living in Phoenix, Arizona.  The movie was enthusiastically received when it was released in the mid 1990s.

I was among the throngs of women who watched Gloria, Bernie, Savannah and Robin spend time hanging out at a club and discussing the men in their lives. I enjoyed the laughter the women shared and their trappings of success, and I hope that the sequel will include those things as well.  I also hope it includes a man taking one of these women on a date.

There are four Black women and not one scene where a man takes any of them on a real outing. Robin beds three different men, yet the closest she gets to going on a date is when her new lover takes her to a house party and immediately deserts her to go do drugs.  Neither of the two men Savannah sleeps with take her anywhere.  In many movies, when Black males date white females, Black males take them on dates.

All of these Black women are portrayed as sex starved.  None are cherished on screen, except in one brief instance, and none are tenderly touched unless it’s a prelude to sex or some sexual context.

A Black man named Marvin moves into Gloria’s neighborhood and the movie implies they have a romantic relationship, but the film doesn’t show it on screen. Beyond their initial introduction they’re in three scenes together.  Marvin’s washing dishes in one scene and his back is to Gloria most of the time so he doesn’t touch her.  The only time Marvin affectionately touches this Black woman is shortly before he seduces her.

Considerable time is devoted to these women having sex, especially with married men, and time’s alloted to Black men and Black women being at odds.  In one scene, Robin’s new man curses her out, calls her a “bitch” and hurls a piece of fruit at her.  A negative Black male-Black female interaction scene runs about 3 1/2 minutes long.  In contrast, Gloria and Marvin share one lighted-hearted moment as sort-of-a-couple and it runs about 30 seconds.  The one healthy Black male-Black female relationship is given so little time

The only woman that viewers consistently hear a Black man speak about in the most loving terms is a white woman. She’s the wife of a Black attorney who’s away on a business trip.  He talks about her at length in three different scenes.  Although this relationship is true to the novel written by a Black woman, I don’t know if the author/screenwriter is the one who gave short shrift to positive Black male-Black females interactions in the script or if it was the director or someone else.

I’d like to see these women again but I hope a man cherishes at least one of them, and I hope that a white woman doesn’t receive the lion’s share of a Black man’s affection in the sequel.