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Black Actress Review: Just Wright – Big Boned Gurl Gets Good Guy Balla

Posted on | April 22, 2011 | 22 Comments

I like Queen Latifah (Dana Owens), so I am willing to sit down and watch her movie(s).

Long Descriptions Ahead

Did I like Just Wright? To be honest, I dunno. Sometimes I’m too busy thinking about its message to appreciate whether it was fun to watch or not.

What message? Oh, the Good Employed Hard Working Non-Glamorous Big Boned Unselfish Black Woman versus the Shallow Unemployed Shopaholic Flighty Glamorous Beautiful Slim Selfish Man Eater.

Two of the Black Woman Archetypes

Here’s a simpler description of the main characters: Mammy versus Gold Digger. How’s that?

Queen Latifah, as you might’ve suspected, plays Mammy. Gold Digger is obviously Paula Patton. Common plays the Good Guy Balla. Pam Grier was delightful as Queen Latifah’s mother. Phylicia Rashad played Common’s mother.

I don’t think these roles were done on purpose. It’s so automatic that it’s nearly impossible for any film to get away from certain portrayals of black women. They fall into the slots effortlessly. I suspect that Queen Latifah was aiming for a hard-working-sista-sorta-Cinderella type story. The effort is appreciated, since her character is always cast as the best friend, BFF type, certainly not as the object of desire.

Oh, For the Want of Good Old Fashioned Lust Desire

Except that the problem with the movie is that there’s no chemistry between her character, Leslie Wright, and Common’s Scott McKnight. Excuse me for saying this, but Common is one of the meanest looking guys around. No matter how nice he tries to act, his face and voice doesn’t erase that vibe. I don’t know him, I don’t have anything against him, but it’s just how he comes across to me.

This Is How The Game Is Played

I’m also ambivalent about Morgan Alexander’s character (Paula Patton). I don’t see her as the bad guy. She’s beautiful. She’s learned that it enables her to get what she wants from nearly any man. Her character has decided that her looks are worth trading for a wealthy man.

And the problem with that is what?

Nearly every Hollywood flick with a white woman in her position celebrates her desire to marry a wealthy, educated, Good Guy Balla, millionaire, and all-around-nice-fellow. Is it because a white woman is entitled to a wealthy guy that this negative stereotype (of a gold digger) is rarely used to denigrate them? (Think about Tiger Wood’s wife. They didn’t meet by accident. And that scenario applies to a lot of meet-ups between women and wealthy men. S’okay?)

Back In the Real World

I’m glad no one said anything about Leslie’s weight, but I felt the film created an unreasonable expectation. Not only are there very very few Good Guy Ballas, but if they didn’t marry Morgan, they would still reject Leslie and move on to the next “arm piece / candy / gold digger”, and a number of them would be white women. Yet popular (rap) culture continues to denigrate black women seeking a provider, protector and father of her offspring.

Wow, how weird that must be, a black woman wanting what every normal woman around the planet usually aims for.

Why is what’s good for other women considered a bad move for black women?

Man Hunting Is Normal

I don’t see Morgan as the bad girl. She knows how to look her best to attract a man. She’s an expert at the bait and hook. I’m not mad at her. Thankfully, her character didn’t plumb the depths of depravity to ensnare a man. Scott was freely willing to marry her. He found her to be someone worthwhile and lovable in the weeks he dated her.

Also, I see Morgan’s behavior as no different from a man whose flawlessly beautiful fiancee (arm piece) gained weight and became horribly disfigured. He’d take off as well.

Leslie’s character is a goodhearted person, but I wasn’t convinced that the unpolished, sports nut, “home girl” routine was enough to bond her to Scott. Nursing a man through sickness yields gratitude, not love. I see that he nursed her at one time she became sick, but as we can see he predictably, and quite easily, dumped Leslie the moment Morgan returned.

In this film, I wished that the premise began and ended with Leslie learning how to “get a man” from Morgan. She didn’t have to be duplicitous, but Morgan understood the “rules” way way better than Leslie.

Because what if Scott didn’t see the light? Leslie would have been alone again, although in a better job. Morgan would have been Mrs. Scott McKnight as she planned.

In Real Life, the Morgans of the World Usually Win

I have no objection to the idea of the film: let things work out for the Mammy or overweight plain Jane this time, but reality almost always rewards the gold digger or ambitious man-hunter. We can see that with our eyes everyday. And the pro-Good Employed Hard Working Non-Glamorous Big Boned Unselfish Black Woman message that this film relays creates a problem.

It’s not a bad thing for black women to be quasi – and certainly not full bore – Shallow Shopaholic Flighty Glamorous Beautiful Slim Selfish Man Eaters who plan and pursue the kind of man they want to marry who has wealth, a good future, and education, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, Just Wright continues to points us in the direction of staying plain, heavy set, unglamorous, with a “keeping it real” demeanor, and not making any effort or plans to be attractive and attract the “right kind of man.” She’s working on chance, hope, and possibly prayer; black women deserve better than that.

Good luck alone wont work. It certainly isn’t helping us now. Life rewards the proactive, and more often than not you have to look fly, be positive, as you pursue your dreams and desires.

Phylicia Rashad
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22 Responses to “Black Actress Review: Just Wright – Big Boned Gurl Gets Good Guy Balla”

  1. Zabeth
    April 23rd, 2011 @ 3:04 PM

    I thought this movie was cute when I saw it. What I didn’t like was Common’s robotic acting, LOL. But I agree with you, women could learn A LOT from Morgan’s character.

    GoldenAh: I think Common’s good in limited roles. A few lines here and there, because his expression never changes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yeah, I was definitely feeling Morgan. I see that Paula Patton has a movie coming out soon – Jumping the Broom or something.

    Overall, I give the film sort of a thumbs up. Seeing all those black actors in a film where we’re “normal”, it’s all good to me.

    Thanks for the feedback, Zabeth.

  2. Daphne
    April 23rd, 2011 @ 7:16 PM

    I saw the title of your review, and decided to watch the movie before I finished reading the post. I previously wasn’t interested because of the unrealistic nature of Leslie getting the guy in the end.

    As an aside, I didn’t think Common had much chemistry with Queen Latifah or Paula Patton. I’ve seen other movies where Queen Latifah had a romantic interest – Taxi (Henry Simmons) and that movie where she wore the bad wig and she thought she was dying or something and went on a vacation (LL Cool J). I don’t feel like looking the movie title up, lol. She seemed to click with Henry and LL, so it must have been Common!

    GoldenAh: The movie was Last Holiday. I always gotten this vibe from LL Cool J that he really likes sistahs whether big, small, in-between, light or dark. And he did a great job of conveying that intensity towards Queen Latifah, as he’s done with other black actresses.

    Henry Simmons? Hmmmm. I have to look up Taxi.

    Common looked like he wished he were somewhere else….
    ๐Ÿ˜€

    Anyhoo, dare I say, I liked Morgan in the movie? Maybe it’s because of the way Paula played the character, but I didn’t hate her. I didn’t agree with all of her strategies, or her non-bill paying ways, but at least girlfriend didn’t appear to sleep with him just because he renovated her to’ down vehicle. Of course, we didn’t get to see the relationship between Morgan and Scott. It was just assumed that, because she was “da gold digga” and concerned with her presentation, she would have nothing in common with Scott, or wouldn’t be good to/for him.

    What I thought was interesting was that Scott knew both women about the same amount of time (around 3 months). But of course, when it was Morgan who was the fiancee, it was a problem – moving too fast. When it was Leslie, because she went above and beyond in her job (because hello, she was paid to be there – how was she any different than the blonde PT, referred to as a potential ho, who Morgan was concerned about?), and had some common interests, it was all good? See, that’s why I’m bugged by rom coms – those darn anvils.

    GoldenAh: LOL. I liked the way Morgan replaced the blonde with a quickness. A player recognizes a player.

    That’s right! At one point, Scott basically told Leslie to mind her own business and stick to her job when Morgan left. And you are on point, how is Leslie different from what everyone presumed the blonde would do?
    ๐Ÿ˜€

    I don’t know – the only person who looked bad, IMO, was Scott. He was the special non-arrogant, “man who didn’t let the NBA change him,” snowflake. YET, he passed Leslie right up as soon as he Morgan returned. They had JUST spent the night together, okay? And like you said, Morgan STILL was about to be married to the man, even though she abandoned him when the going got tough.

    Speaking of abandoning, maybe if Morgan and Scott were married, and she left him, I’d felt more sympathy for Scott. But given that the man didn’t seem to have an identity outside of being a star player (in his own words), Morgan had a darn good point when Leslie confronted her.

    Now I know I was supposed to love Leslie. I liked her well enough. But it was hard for me to respect her, especially after taking a man back who dropped her like a hot potato at the first sign of an upgrade. He treated her even worse than Laz Alonzo’s character at the beginning of the film – he didn’t sleep with her THEN pull the “you’re my homegirl” card.

    I can’t even imagine a film where Morgan was advising Leslie (even though it would be awesome). Wimminfolk, especially many black women, would have been outraged! Cause that ain’t “feminist,” y’all.

    GoldenAh: It would have been a lot of fun if Morgan decided to school Leslie, with her already married to a Good Guy Balla. But you’re right, that would have gone against the notion of us being da strong black wimmins.

    At least the two ladies didn’t have a nasty cat fight. Those two didn’t even have a conversation about Scott. Leslie should have been able to say to Morgan – I want him too!

    Instead, Leslie gets the sloppy seconds treatment, because chicks like her are supposed to be thrilled with crumb snatching! That’s as good as it will get. Grrrrr. I don’t think so, ’cause I didn’t see anything that Scott did which makes him trustworthy.

    At the end, I felt Morgan didn’t lose a thing….

    I really liked your observations on this film, Daphne. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. JQAbroad
    April 24th, 2011 @ 3:40 AM

    Before I express my opinion, I’ve been a lurker for quite sometime and this post got me wanting to say something.

    So I saw the movie I believe last summer when it came out. I enjoyed it simply because it was something different and a man wasn’t dressed as a woman, ijs,lol.

    However you ladies do make a good point about how things would have happened. But i want to focus mainly on the fact that Scott got back with Morgan. This happens often with men who just got out of a relationship with someone they really loved. I’d advise women to stay away from these men, because they are vulnerable at this point. They want to show the world, espeically their ex that they can move on without them especially onto another woman, and he ain’t missin’ her at all (the song comes to mind).

    truth is he does miss her and probably in the back of his mind, if she ever walked through that door again, he would go back. How often do women stand there wondering why he would go back to a destructive relationship that quick? Queen’s character unfortunetly was a stand in until he got himself back up on his feet. He may have had feelings for her and yes he slept with her, but him sleeping with her didn’t promise her anything. He certainly didn’t put a ring on it like he did with Morgan.

    What can women learn from this? stay clear from men who just got out of relationship. Don’t nurse him back to health, it does you no justice. Find a man who has taken a good break from dating and is truly serious about being in a relationship. I would also learn from Morgan’s character on how to snag a man. Of course not everything from her, but make yourself presentable and not too available.

    Just wanted to put my 2 cents in =)

    GoldenAh: Welcome, JQAbroad! I see that you are in South Korea! That’s awesome. I like to visit places, but thoughts of staying beyond 2-3 weeks – I can’t hack it. You go girl. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Very good advice about the “rebound man” and it’s interesting to note, because that’s what the first guy had the decency to tell Leslie what he was going through. Scott’s situation made me think of men who go about dating women while still sleeping with the ex-wife.

    I really liked how Morgan behaved after meeting and dazzling Scott, and Leslie / Queen asked her, “How come you didn’t give him your number?” or something to that effect. Morgan answered, “If he wants me. He will find me.” That is so true!! When a man wants to get in touch, he will find you. I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times.

    What I liked the most about Morgan is her self-confidence.

    Thank you for your insights JQAbroad, they are appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Christelyn D. Karazin
    April 24th, 2011 @ 6:41 AM

    Interesting you posted this, because something similar sparked a pre-World War III skirmish on my blog. I never saw the movie, so I can’t really speak to it–I’m just going by your description, and here’s a point that I observe from (some) black women: They want Mr. Perfect, who is over six feet, gorgeous, and Master of the Universe. But Mr. Perfect is more than likely looking for Miss Perfect. And while Miss Perfest may not be striving to be Mistress of the Universe, she’s working the Goddess of the Universe angle to her advantage.

    I can understand an underlying resentment, and perhaps jealously that the rest of us “mere mortals” have with this scenario. But what troubles me is when I hear black women complain about having to “twist themselves into preztals” (eat right, lose weight, dress to impress, read a book, get a life, learn what all those forks are for during a five-course meal, use makeup to compliment your best features, be classy) to land a man, but in truth, it’s what many other females of different races do by default. In capitalist terms, if you want to compete in the global marketplace you need to enhance your own allure. I’m dumbfounded when some black women want to stay exactly where they are, keep doing what they’re doing, eat what they’re eating, but still feel ENTITLED to Mr. Perfect. And frankly, that mostly just happens in the movies. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    GoldenAh: I’ve read some of those discussions on your blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve dated hot and studly. These guys can be so cute, but sometimes there’s just no one “home”. That total perfect awesome dude package doesn’t exist except on TV. Plus I prefer average looking smart guys. Brains are my turn-on. Although I truly enjoy looking and drooling at beefcakes. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Now, a guy can be perfect in a woman’s eyes if she lets herself adore him: his bow legs, large nose, and jug ears could end up being features that work for her. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think our young (and older) ladies need to understand that when we suggest they look “nice”, fab, or glam – we mean for them to do it for THEMSELVES. The purpose is to BOOST SELF-CONFIDENCE. It feels great to look hot and turn heads! You smile more. You look approachable. Men sit up, take note, and might even approach. And it doesn’t take much. I don’t think any of our blogs are recommending buying Prada, Gucci, or any of that high-end crap just to look feminine. It should feel fun. It’s about emphasizing our wonderful and unique assets.

    The transition to Mz Glam Fab Beautiful won’t happen overnight, so they can take the pressure off and do one thing at a time: hair, nails, makeup, weight loss, and other stuff week by week….

    As for their responses, I don’t see it as entitlement mentality. I think it’s push back coming from frustration and fear. There are ladies who say they’ve done everything, short of walking about nekkid, and the men look right through them, or only a one-tooth Gomer Pyle wants to chat. Fear yields this scenario: what if she gets Mr. Perfect, and he’s really a hot blistering 10 on all fronts? What does she have to offer? Does she feel worthy? Maybe it’s better to do nothing, not get into a relationship, instead of coming up short, and getting hurt. I believe it’s a self-esteem game, and at the end of the day, there’s not much we can do about it. They have to resolve that issues themselves.

    As for those who believe they will get Mr Perfect-10 while being a Less-Than-Stellar-3, well now … there are no words…. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Nice to hear from you, Christelyn.

  5. Queen
    April 24th, 2011 @ 8:56 AM

    Wow, This is a really good breakdown. I have seen this movie and I thought it was cute, but not realistic and the things you pointed out Betty confirmed that. In real life like you said he would have been grateful to Leslie, probably still fixed-up the car for her (employee bonus), but would have looked for another Morgan. Like the movie working girl with Melanie Griffith. I am sure some of you have seen it, but at the end of the movie Harrison Fords character (Jack) puts his career on the line to make sure Melanie’s character (Tess) gets the proper credit for an idea that Tess’ boss (Katherine) stole from her and tried to pass off for her own. We know in real life 9 times out of 10 Jack would have backed Katherine even if he knew the truth about it being Tess’ idea rather than commit career suicide. That is reality.

    GoldenAh: I liked Working Girl, that was a fun flick, and Harrison Ford was just doing his heroic thing. You’re right, in real life he wouldn’t have jumped in front of the career ending train coming down the tracks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Leslie’s rule of thumb should have been: after I’m done with this job helping you out, if you really want me, come see me proper, and date me. That sleeping with the client thing wasn’t right and it wasn’t love. It was wrong. That’s a message I don’t think black women need to run with.

    I woud have preferred an emphasis on Scott treating Leslie like he did Morgan.

  6. Queen
    April 24th, 2011 @ 9:11 AM

    I think on both sides of the coin people want certain things and feel entitled to them without making the effort to improve themselves to get those things. You have just as many men who want a supermodel on their arm and they look like Lil Wayne or george castanza of Seinfeld. Guys should make every effort to make themselves attractive as well, but all they need really is their money and status that is the equalizer (Would Donald Trump get the play he does if he were not wealthy? with that combover I would say NO). The door swings both ways, but for women the effort to do all they can to look attractive is crucial because we are not judged by the same standards that men are judged by in this game and the “mammy” in real life never gets the baller, the “morgans” do. It may not be “fair” but that is how it is.

    GoldenAh: Here’s the thing too, have we ever really looked at the wives of above average, well-to-do, or powerful men? Most aren’t that good looking, but they are well dressed, feminine, elegant, classly looking, and whatever adjectives we want to toss up. It’s not about looking like a supermodel, groupie-ho, or the latest celebritard.

    I feel the entitlement discussion comes about because some of the ladies are missing the emphasis on a happy medium. No one is suggesting they become flawless for a George Coastanza-type. Although I always thought he was cute. Man, I gotta do a hot-but-fugly post!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    From experience, I find that the above-average guy isn’t the critic some women fear he might be, it’s the insecure low-status guy who’ll give you hell about your clothes, hair, and weight.

    Great to hear from you Queen!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. Daphne
    April 24th, 2011 @ 2:11 PM

    At least the two ladies didnโ€™t have a nasty cat fight. Those two didnโ€™t even have a conversation about Scott. Leslie should have been able to say to Morgan โ€“ I want him too!

    Thank goodness these two did not scrap over Scott. That’s one thing I appreciated about their friendship.

    As for a conversation about Scott, Morgan asked Leslie if she was interested, before they went to that party. And Leslie responded that she wasn’t into the baller types. I actually thought she was lying in that scene – she probably assumed Scott wasn’t interested in HER that way, so she pulled the preemptive “non-interest” in him. Given how Morgan was characterized, I believe she would have backed off of Scott if Leslie had said something. After all, it’s not like he was the only game in town.

    What can women learn from this? stay clear from men who just got out of relationship. Donโ€™t nurse him back to health, it does you no justice.

    Good point, [b]JQAbroad[/b]. I was confused that she was bringing him food like she was his nurse or maid. I get it – the movie wanted to emphasize Leslie’s “goodheartedness.” But in my over-analyzing of the movie (I admit it, lol!), I’m wondering, “Scott is wealthy – he doesn’t have a maid or cook because…..?”

    As an aside, JQAbroad, I also appreciated the “lack of black pathology” about the movie. Although there was some pathological subtext, lol.

    I’m kind of surprised that the movie didn’t do that well at the box office – one would think this would be right up the alley of the Tyler Perry market. Maybe the lack of a Christian theme turned those women off? Of course, I’m only half-serious – despite popular thought, I don’t think Christian (possibly overweight) black women over 30 are what drives Tyler’s box office profit. I think many whites are very comfortable watching Tyler’s productions.

    Instead, Leslie gets the sloppy seconds treatment, because chicks like her are supposed to be thrilled with crumb snatching! Thatโ€™s as good as it will get. Grrrrr. I donโ€™t think so, โ€™cause I didnโ€™t see anything that Scott did which makes him trustworthy.

    At the end, I felt Morgan didnโ€™t lose a thingโ€ฆ.

    Agreed, Goldenah. Morgan would be just fine. LMAO @ crumb snatching. It’s the truth, though. Thanks for your review. I wouldn’t have watched this otherwise, and this is a good discussion.

    GoldenAh: You remind me of why I sometimes have trouble watching some movies (unless I totally turn the brain off), because I’ll see something and go, “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Why come so and so…?”

    But I love me some stupid slapstick comedies…. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for your feedback, because that’s what makes talking about this flick so much fun. ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Truth P.
    April 24th, 2011 @ 5:08 PM

    I know right,
    Where the heck is our Elle Woods?

    GoldenAh: I would love love love a film where a sistah just goes all out – a la Morgan. She’s looking for Mr Right, dating different races of men, and she shows how to do it properly following da “rules”.

    I’ve almost forgotten how Legally Blonde went and I saw the darn sequel(s) too.

    Howdy, Truth P. Thanks for stopping by. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. JQAbroad
    April 25th, 2011 @ 5:08 AM

    I really liked how Morgan behaved after meeting and dazzling Scott, and Leslie / Queen asked her, โ€œHow come you didnโ€™t give him your number?โ€ or something to that effect. Morgan answered, โ€œIf he wants me. He will find me.โ€ That is so true!! When a man wants to get in touch, he will find you. Iโ€™ve had that happen to me a couple of times

    GoldenAh

    true! What set Morgan apart from all the other women who were trying just as hard as she was is that she created mystery. She allowed Scott to know a tinnie bit about her (although she made it up). She knew she was attractive and giving little bit about her would spark enough interest, even when she told him she was not available to him, becuz she’s been there and done that. She created a challenge for him to be different from everyone else, otherwise he would be out like the rest of ’em. Infact she pulled what I call a Cinderella move. She got in there as quick as she left. Her glass slipper was her personality and beauty. And Scott went searching for her.

    Looking at this film it’s a great lesson learned.

    Oh and thanks! I really am enjoying Korea, having lots of fun!

    GoldenAh: Great to hear, JQAbroad. Cheers. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I almost didn’t see this film, I knew the ending (predictable, of course), but I realized the way the whole thing came together would make an interesting topic.

  10. Queen
    April 25th, 2011 @ 12:34 PM

    She created a challenge for him to be different from everyone else, otherwise he would be out like the rest of โ€˜em. Infact she pulled what I call a Cinderella move. She got in there as quick as she left. Her glass slipper was her personality and beauty. And Scott went searching for her.

    OMG Betty that is deep, I gotta remember that. We are so focused on “Leslie” getting the guy that we forget that Morgan actually knows what works to get the guy. Yes Morgan lied but as you said she used it to create a mystery about her and he came a running.

    GoldenAh: Well, JQAbroad made that specific point (I wanna make sure she gets the credit), but yes, it is something we have to keep in mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think the more we examine this film, the unintended information turns out to be the most interesting. ๐Ÿ˜€



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