Why Did I Go to the Movies?

5 Apr

**Spoiler Alert** I’m reviewing a craptacular movie you don’t have any business seeing, so you can thank me later.

Why did I go to the movies? That was the question I asked myself repeatedly as I watched Tyler Perry’s most recent cinematic travesty, Why Did I Get Married Too? I had put a moratorium on Tyler Perry movies in 2008 or so, when watching them had become so offensive, so tired, so boring that I just told myself (and anyone who would listen) that that fool was not getting any more of my hard-earned money.

But there I was on opening night with every other black person in a thirty-mile radius watching a movie with no plot, no character development, and seemingly no point.  I write “seemingly no point,” knowing good and hell well what the point is: TP wants me to know my place, which is either prone or behind some man. That he made clear in every overblown, poorly-acted melodramatic scene in his hot mess of a movie.

Let me back up a bit. Why Did I Get Married Too? is the sequel to Perry’s 2007 film, Why Did I Get Married?, a mediocre dramedy about a group of affluent 30-something college friends who spend a weeklong vacation together pondering the movie’s titular question. Of course, the trip reveals that all the marriages are on rather fragile ground. One couple is dealing with the aftermath of their son’s death. Another marriage is plagued by alcoholism (albeit illustrated as comic relief) and infidelity, and so on. The facades of their upper crust lives come crumbling down only to be rearranged neatly by the movie’s end.

Why Did I Get Married Too? picks up three years after the last film left off. The marriages seem stable, but—uh oh!—things are not what they seem and so we spend the next two hours hurtling at full speed towards the great, vast emptiness that is a TP plot.

I don’t have the time or the energy, quite frankly, to detail all that is wrong with this movie. So, I’ll stick to a couple of my major concerns. Perry, along with T.D. Jakes and the fool that does those Pastor Jones movies, is speaking to a demographic of women—working-class, Christian African Americans who identify as heterosexual—who do not have movies specifically marketed to them. Indeed, vitriol is usually what is directed their way. I get that. However, in film after film after film (which are really the same film repackaged), he simply reinscribes patriarchal notions of marriage, family, and womanhood. TP claims to offer redemptive narratives, but what he really tells black women is that all you need to be happy is a good man (and lots of money, which said dude will provide).  In order to get a man you need to be submissive and focused on your man’s needs. If you are too mouthy, too career-driven, too bossy, well, you are just a ball-busting bitch and you deserve what’s coming to you.

Let me give you an example.  Dr. Patricia Agnew (played by Janet Jackson) and her husband Gavin (played by Malik Yoba—oh how far we have fallen from New York Undercover) seem like the “perfect couple.” At the end of the first film they have seemingly recovered from the death of their only child and have rebuilt their relationship. However, during the second film it is clear that the reconciliation was temporary at best. Patty, as she is called in the film, is a hypocritical health professional, a psychologist who counsels others on relationships, but whose own marriage is crumbling because of her own behavior. Gavin appears as a sensitive, sincere man who wants to spend time with his wife, while Patty is an icy control freak who unceremoniously announces their divorce to all of their friends at dinner. During their divorce proceedings, she intends to withhold $800,000 worth of earnings from her book sales (note to self: write self-help book, stat), a fact Gavin finds unreasonable because he has supported her throughout her career.

Again, as with his previous movies, TP depicts a career woman as cold and unfeeling, one who is undeserving of her virtuous male partner. This characterization is ratcheted up when Patty goes to Gavin’s job and acts a damn fool. Now, she’d already gone Elin Woods on his ass and broken everything up in their house with a golf club. But anyway, she arrives at his architectural firm with this ginormous cake. She prompts his colleagues to sing “Happy Birthday” and they oblige her. Then this man wearing a bedazzled mini-dress jumps out of the cake. Patty, who is dressed in a man’s style suit by the way, starts yelling a variety of homophobic expletives—for example, “If you want to be a bitch, then here’s your bitch!” gesturing to the man in the cake. Gavin storms out of the office, into his car, and then gets hit by a truck and dies. No, I did not make any of that up.

There’s so much going on with that scene, but let me say this. First, TP is a damn fool. Second, he’s a misogynist. Third, he’s a homophobe (although I could’ve sworn I saw him at Traxx one time, must’ve been his twin). And fourth, he’s a fool! Besides his utter failure as a writer and director, this shit is wrong on a whole variety of levels. His films need to be boycotted by and large, and films that have sense, that have feminist sensibilities, and that depict black folk in all of our diversity need to produced and distributed.

I momentarily lifted my ban on TP movies because I remember thinking, “This is bad, but not that bad” while watching Why Did I Get Married? I have even used the film in a course I taught on contemporary depictions of black love and it was great tool to get my students to apply what they had learned from reading bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, and Joan Morgan, because Lord knows if anyone needs a feminist intervention it’s TP. This sequel, however, has no redemption. It is empty and void and cannot be saved while there’s still time.

The scary thing about TP is that he’s got folks hooked and hoodwinked. Why Did I Get Married Too? raked in 29 million dollars this past weekend, coming in second in sales to Clash of the Titans. Somehow, he’s even bamboozled his way into directing Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls–talk about releasing the Kraken. Let me close my rant by saying that I am committed to a crunk feminist takedown of TP. No, not physically. Talk with your dollars. Don’t see his films. Support independent feminist filmmaking. Shoot, be an independent feminist filmmaker. Have conversations with TP groupies about why his shit is wack. This is our world and we can change it. We have to change it.

28 Responses to “Why Did I Go to the Movies?”

  1. crunkista April 5, 2010 at 7:30 PM #


    Thank you so much for helping me save my hard earned money and letting the crunk world know that TP is a damn fool.

  2. susiemaye April 5, 2010 at 7:32 PM #

    I do what I can for the revolution.

  3. z. April 5, 2010 at 7:35 PM #

    woot woot. great read.

  4. Mark April 5, 2010 at 7:49 PM #

    Just to clarify, I believe she says, “If you want to be a bitch…here’s your man, bitch!” I think you were overwhelmed by the fact that she called him a bitch a good 10 more times by the time he got to his car.

    Otherwise…what you said!

  5. GB April 5, 2010 at 8:46 PM #

    Great post…”Why Did I Get Married Too?” = epic fail!

  6. Candice April 5, 2010 at 9:10 PM #

    So… you don’t like the movie because the character roles are too “traditional”?

    Patty was a successful black woman married to a successful black man, who’s antagonist was her emotions. I’m confused, so I’m asking, what would have been a better movie for you? “Perfect Patty” with no problems, no issues? Or yet ANOTHER movie about a black man being shown in an evil light?

    I’m just saying… if a movie was about 4 happy black couples, and one gay or lesbian couple with no problems, no issues, no touching on dynamics of male/female relationships… no… nothing… there wouldn’t be much of a movie.

    My 2 cents

    • My 2 cents 2 April 5, 2010 at 11:32 PM #

      I agree !

  7. susiemaye April 5, 2010 at 10:13 PM #

    @ Mark: You are right. I definitely was getting a sensory overload with Janet’s tirade.

    @GB: Epic fail, indeed.

    @Candice: Thanks for your two cents. I think you have indeed misunderstood my post. I’m all for portraying vexed relationships between men and women (and men and men, and women and women, and whatever other configuration folks come up with). Conflict, strife, compromise are all major parts of relationships and I don’t think that should be watered down for film. One of my favorite films is Love Jones. While it is not without its flaws, I think it’s a good example of showing relationships, warts and all, without simply being reductive about gender stereotypes.

    What I’m contending is that demonizing one example of personhood is not the way to go, whether it is identifying all black men as lazy/evil or what have you or identifying black women of a certain class as cold bitches. Throughout TP’s works he has the same shrewish black (and sometimes Latina) career woman who is an ungrateful harpy. See Diane in Why Did I Get Married?, Sanaa Lathan in The Family that Preys, all of Gabrielle Union’s homies in Daddy’s Little Girls–the list goes on. Are there women out there who act a fool and are destructive in their relationships? Absolutely. Should there be movies about them? Absolutely. Should that be the only or main portrayal of black women? Absolutely not. I take issue with those sorts of reductive portrayals of black humanity, period. There can be a whole lot of movie without that foolishness. Because TP is the director du jour, I see the same portrayals over and over again, however.

    What would make this a better movie for me? A whole lot, but let me say this. What are Patty’s motivations for her behavior? Is her emotional estrangement a result of her child’s death? Gavin’s behavior? Some childhood trauma? Drug use? Pressures at work? Some combination thereof? What has been going on between Gavin and Patty specifically? We see them getting a divorce, but there’s no narrative arc to let me know what’s been going on, I just see her acting crazy. That’s not enough for me as a viewer.

  8. Mb April 5, 2010 at 10:26 PM #

    Girl!!!! I laughed out loud reading this!!! Out loud! And I’m pretty sure that was him at Traxx ;). Oh I live for this post! I really do!

  9. carla April 5, 2010 at 11:06 PM #

    That so many black people find TP’s work not only entertaining but emotionally stimulating and intellectually satisfying is so discouraging to me. Most of his stuff is borderline ridiculous, the remainder is pointless and dumb. I love my people, but is our sensibility really this dull? What about subtlety and nuance and insight? If TP were making films/plays for non-black audiences, we wouldn’t even know his name. He would’ve been laughed off the plantation by now.

  10. Bobbie! April 5, 2010 at 11:10 PM #

    Very well said. And thank you for clarifying it for the sistah who didn’t get it the first time. I am so disappointed in TP, but it seems he is a one-trick pony. His movies remind me of the black, Christian morality plays – overacted and no substance. I had hope for him. I am frightened about what type of a hot mess we will see with Colored Girls. Lord today! I am scared to even think about it!

  11. Candice April 6, 2010 at 12:28 AM #

    I see. Well from my understanding of both films, her nickname was “Perfect Patty” because she was known for having it all together. And she had it together until she refused to grieve the loss of her son. Gavin blamed her, but all this was allegedly “fixed” in the first production. It seems as though her meltdown is repressed feelings. I didn’t see a shrew… I saw a depiction of an emotionally charged woman. You wanted an in-depth look at Patty and Gavin. I can respect that. And I wanted to know what happened with Diane and that Phil guy. After all that, I know there were some other talks. And where did Trina go? And did Patty get couseling in that year before she started eying that rich cute guy? After all, now she’s killed her baby AND her husband, lol.

    But there were 5 storylines. Four couples and then Mike. So… given that everyone had a bit of shine in the movie, I think TP did well with 1.5 hours.

    That being said, TP has opened a door for African American actors to be seen on the big screen (more than one or two at a time). Black actors that exist in successful homes, who “mostly” speak proper english, and are literate functioning adults. Every movie has a villian or an antagonist. If there is a black movie, with a black cast… the antagonist will be black. It will be a black woman, or a black man.

    The negatives of a character doesn’t always mean that the character is bringing down black women. Or meant to hurt our image. I feel that we have every right to be stupid, intelligent, greedy, sneaky, loud, cheap, snooty, and evil as the white women on screen. If it was an evil black man, people would say it hurts black men. But by applying every negative to ourselves as a stereotype, and refusing to support black works, it does nothing but limit us rather than help us. Say you had 1 million readers, who didn’t go to see any angry black women. All that does is limit the roles that black actresses are cast. Because no one would put any black women on the screen unless they were smiling, BORING, roles.

    Guess it’s just a point of view. I think Tyler did okay. The fact is obvious that he is a black man, and produces dramedies for black women. TP is solidifying his niche, and a place for black actors to be seen. With him kicking the door wide open, rather than down his artistic expression, why not encourage some black women PRODUCERS and DIRECTORS other than Oprah to challenge him. Not to down him. If there is a void, I believe we should focus on filling it instead of trying to force someone else to fill it.

    Now if you can just organize some of these “crunktastic” people to take down these McDonald’s chicken nuggets croonery mess, I’d gladly jump on board.

    Longwinded… let’s just say I’m at 6 cents now.

  12. crunktastic April 6, 2010 at 6:40 AM #

    @Candice, let me add to SusieMaye’s sentiments which I wholeheartedly share, that one of the problems with TP, is that the villains are ALWAYS black women. Since TP claims to be telling Black women’s stories, telling us that the reason we can’t get a man is because there’s something innately wrong with us is a huge problem. Think about it: that’s his story in every movie. F’ed up, evil Black woman finds Prince Charming who teaches her how to love herself and get over her evilness. These are the emotional lives of Black women, according to Tyler Perry. And I, for one, absolutely reject that, because for every crazy Black woman I can name, I can name 5 who are totally sane and tight as hell. And finally, um, the gay-bashing scene was uncalled for, narratively and otherwise, and betrays way more about TPs issues than he cares to admit.

  13. susiemaye April 6, 2010 at 6:46 AM #

    Thanks for your six cents. I hear you, Candice. I don’t think you’ve heard me, though. I am not advocating for boring roles. I’m advocating for nuanced, complicated roles that reflect black folk. I see your point about the multiple story lines not giving us a chance to get all in-depth. And that’s part of my point. How about doing one or two storylines really well, rather than doing five in a half-assed sort of way? How about not doing the same stock characters and plots over and over? I know black folk can handle complications and nuance–we live it everyday.

    Moreover, TP is FAR from the first black director to open the door for others. He’s the first black director who has garnered such mass appeal in our generation. (See Oscar Micheaux, Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, Gina Price Bythewood, and so on). In my opinion, he’s doing a big screen version of those McDonald’s commercials.

    Critiquing his lack of technical mastery is part of filling the void I believe does exist in film making. Writing this blog and the other things the CFC members do–like teach students who may go on to write films or writing scripts ourselves–is raising the level of consciousness, one, and the level of discourse. That cannot be discounted.

    I cannot remain silent, nor should I. TP has done several films, many of which I supported with my money on opening day. If he continues to put out sexist and homophobic stuff, I am going to talk about it and no archaic sense of racial solidarity is going to keep my mouth shut. I will air this dirty laundry. The CFC is a space where folks get to express contrarian views. I’m glad you’ve expressed yours, and I’m going to continue to express mine.

  14. sheridf April 6, 2010 at 7:37 AM #

    And if you don’t read the CFC blog for one day you will miss all the crunkness happening. I had the same idea that Why Did I Get Married? was not so bad so I planned to see part deux. However, I can’t take madness right now and I’m damn broke so I dare not redirect my energy to having to engage yet another problematic TP film. The anxiety that I have over the fact that he has the rights to For Colored Girls is all that I can bear. The 60 Minutes interview with him and and Oprah revealed enough for me to know that TP absolutely abhors women because of his childhood issues with molestation by a grown woman that have not been resolved yet. I wish him some peace and some serious counseling. Until then I’m good. Love Jones continues to reign supreme after like 15 years.

  15. MB April 6, 2010 at 7:41 AM #

    Just wanted to share a quote from TP himself that was on Crunk & Disorderly today. TP said, ““I now have homes all over. L.A., Atlanta where I grew up, New York. But I live alone. In all my adult life I’ve had five serious relationships with women. And I’m not sure monogamy is for me.”

    I think this is such an interesting comment coming from someone who has made his money selling the American nuptial dream to black women when he doesn’t even really believe in monogamy. Why wouldn’t he make a story about that? It would be more complicated and interesting for the usual cheating storyline to be subverted by intentional and consensual non-monogamy.

    And pause for the cause, Patty is responsible for the deaths of her son, her husband and her marriage?! No subtlety there TP. None at all!

  16. Sonya April 6, 2010 at 8:20 AM #

    I support the author’s post and would be happy to join her in boycotting TP until he does right by Black women.

    If mainstream Hollywood made the exact films as TP, Black folks would be beyond outraged. Yet, all too many of us give our unconditional support to him, and artists like him, JUST BECAUSE they are Black and successful — regardless of the quality or the content of their work.

    All I can say is that we can do better.

  17. JPie612 April 6, 2010 at 8:46 AM #

    @carla: My sentiments exactly. I get so angry hearing people talk about how great TP movies are. I even had someone say, and I quote, “I thought Precious would have been a better movie with TP behind it.” I thought I was going to light my hair on fire. The utter level of mediocrity that our people accept is baffling. We have become lazy connoisseurs. When I heard that he got the gig for “For Colored Girls”, a shed a tear for indie filmmakers everywhere. He has completely bastardized the art of filmmaking in exchange for a quick buck. Someone please give me a 3-picture deal so I can compete with this fool. Mr. Lee was right, coonery & buffoonery. SMH

  18. Brandi April 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM #

    Thank you for the post! I have been having this same conversation with the Fans of Tyler Perry twitter page…and I plan on sending this to them. I agree wholeheartedly with the author of this post. I noted to the Fans of TP that he continues to show Black women in the same light as he does Angela and I have to wonder if when white Americans see that movie if they feel Black women, when angry, act like her. I will say Angela’s character one I like to call Stereotypical Angry Black Woman is a staple in most predominately Black movies and TV shows (Waiting to Exhale, Martin) but I felt that he went to the extremes in this movie. Angela in general was problematic. From the airport scene at the beginning of the movie to coming to the set where Marcus works and blasting him on live tv to the scene where she gets her gun and walks in on the gardener having sex in her bed, she is verbally abusive during the whole movie. I wonder if TP really knows the effect his movie not only have on communities of color, particularly the Black community, but also on white communities.

  19. Nini April 6, 2010 at 11:35 AM #

    …Is it time to engage Mr. Perry in a discussion about his representations of Black Love, Black Women, and Black Men for that matter (as I can’t remember one who was not beyond typically flawed, except the male characters he plays are usual the moral standard for the rest of the characters…Should he be invited to a forum of artists ot engage in a discourse around how Black Love is depicted in Film, Plays, Literature….what’s the solution….boycotting can only sometimes be a means to an end, especially since his films are now being frequented by more than just working class, and middle class Black women……

    • susiemaye April 6, 2010 at 11:47 AM #

      That’s a great point. I think it would be great to have a symposium or a conference on this. Boycotting is just one step.

  20. Julia April 6, 2010 at 3:06 PM #

    Lots of un-funded Black women film makers out there whose work is far worthier of our hard earned dollars. Film makers who make honest films about real life. I am sick about Mr. Perry’s control over Ms. Shange’s work. He is not of her caliber. He is not a revolutionary, as she is. What the hell happened here? How did this happen? Who sold him the rights? Why isn’t Julie Dash making FCG? WTF? I agree. Ignore Mr. Perry. Send him to his room till he can tell the truth and stop being hateful.

    • Danielle April 7, 2010 at 10:16 PM #

      OMG, Julie Dash for sure!

      I can’t help but think that Hollywood thinks, ‘Give black people their Tyler Perry and they’ll shut up’. After all, Hollywood has ALWAYS been male-dominated. Usually white males, but they can’t deny the buying power black people have… but they sure will cash in on it!

      It’s such a struggle for females to get into the movie industry. It almost seems that we have to do like Tyler Perry’s female characters: shut up and do your best to make the man happy.

      Don’t give up. You can either get bitter or get going. Make this happen! Write it, direct it, produce it. Easier said than done, but better attempted than left undone!

  21. James April 6, 2010 at 5:42 PM #

    Thank you for this great post. I suspected that this was more of TP’s usual drivel but it actually sounds worse than usual. I’ll not be contributing financially to the Tyler Perry cause on this one.

    It is time out for accepting this mess. It is downright hateful and destructive.

    On a final note — y’all some crunk feminists! I ‘preciate ya.

  22. Liz April 6, 2010 at 9:01 PM #

    Woman you better preach! I think I’ve got an intellectual crush on you:) Loved everything that you wrote and I’m similarly compelled to continue to demand that we be respected and represented in our full complexities. Thank you so much! Long live the crunk feminists!!!

  23. Asha April 11, 2010 at 12:43 PM #

    AMAZING… Thanks for this post. I was pissed about the bucks I spent to see this movie. I could have bought a rib plate with peach cobbler for dessert. I think that city chapters of the crunk collective should host in=home screenings of the bootleg version. We have to stay current for our students, after all, and buying bootleg puts dollars in the black community.

    Speaking of dollars, one thing that continues to sicken me about TP commentary is the praise we give him for making it from the backseat of his car to millionaire status. That was our money, not his genius! He had the business sense to pay attention to what turned on black consumers and recycled those stories. When we think of TP’s financial success, we should pat ourselves on the back for the power of the black dollar. Then we should kick our own asses for spending those powerful dollars in such a stupid space– especially when that money could be put to better use at Busy Bee Cafe on Martin Luther King, Jr., where the rib meat falls off the bone.

  24. Ayofemi April 14, 2010 at 9:34 PM #

    I really wanted to give “Why Did I Get Married Too” a chance. However, after seeing it, I agree that we, as Black women, deserve better. The women (not just the Patty character) are painfully shrewish or subservient (the Jill Scott character). I am glad that TP employs lots of African-Americans on both sides of the camera. However, I would welcome characters who are not cardboard cutouts. The one who rushes onto the TV set of her husband’s show is barely removed from a buffoon and the one who is Patty’s attorney is apologetic. I agree and validate the criticism that these characters and the movie’s misogyny and homophobia are totally unforgivable. However, I wish that we could make these observations without attacking TP the man.

  25. marcella May 3, 2010 at 2:30 PM #

    You go, girl! Glad to see someone disagreeing with the standard black take on TP’s movies.

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