What Kind of Black Woman Are You?

I thoroughly enjoyed the following comment by Stacey, so I decided to make it a post.

By the way, the post title is a general question, not aimed specifically at Stacey.

The following continues the discussion originating in the Black Actress Review: Just Wright – Big Boned Gurl Gets Good Guy Balla post.

Stacey says:

Ok, I must respectfully disagree with all the pro-Morgan comments here. Just came across this forum and had to respond, seeing as how Just Wright is one of my favorite movies of all time. Morgan was a gold-digger all the through. I just don’t see why she should be praised. I have no respect for women like that. LESLIE is the one who deserves a standing ovation. She worked very hard to achieve her goals–even bought her own house (on her OWN) Leslie had a heart-of-gold. She cared about all the people around her. She didn’t have any ulterior motives. Leslie was genuine, REAL. And that’s why I rooted for her from beginning to end.

I can relate so much more to Leslie than Morgan. Because I don’t feel that I need to bat my eyelashes and manipulate a man to get ahead. Just like Leslie, I want to be able to pay my own way.

I LOVE the way the movie ended. Scott finally opened his yes and realized that Leslie’s “The One”. And I love that Leslie didn’t have to change who she was. I love that she was still wearing her favorite Nets jersey at the end. She didn’t have to convert to some shallow glamour-girl to get her dream-guy. Leslie was fine just the way she was–there was no need for her to change. One of my fav moments of the movie: Scott gazing at Leslie when they were both sitting at the piano(he so wanted to kiss her)…and she was in her robe, without an ounce of make-up on—LOVE it!

And I gotta admit that I actually gained some respect for Morgan in the end(she realized that Scott was in love with Leslie and told him where to find her) Morgan could’ve schemed and plotted (although, it wouldn’t have done any good because Scott was already on his way to find Leslie–he even told Morgan, “I’m sorry, but it’s not gonna work)

Leslie was beautiful on the inside AND the outside. She didn’t care about Scott’s fame and fortune. She was up at 3 in the morn, giving him a pep-talk because she truly cared. The movie ended just as it should have: two people coming together for the right reason–because they truly love and respect each other, because they’re meant to be together. From their very first scene, it was obvious to me that Scott & Leslie belong together. They just fit together so perfectly. And this movie remains one of my all-time fav
rom-coms. KUDOS to Queen Latifah & Common!

 

flowers_can

GoldenAh:

Hello, Stacey. I liked your comment. You’ve given me so much to work with, but I’ll only bite a few portions.

I see what you mean, but this was about a movie that took what was unrealistic and made it into an interesting fairy tale. We were discussing how reality would have played out, and in each and every case Morgan would be the winner.

Morgan is Old School

I really believe black women hear such ridiculous, hypocritical, contradictory nonsense from black males they aren’t sure what they want to be.

Morgan is not a gold digger. There’s no reason to resent, dislike or be angry with her. She’s a realist. Her behavior was very feminine, self-assured, flirty, alluring and mysterious. She knew how to make (and keep) a man interested. That’s very normal and healthy. It is not manipulating a man!!! It is just a subtle way of saying, “Hey, I like you, you can chase me if you want.”

She was what most women were at one time – looking for a husband with the financial means to support his family. I know that’s changed in these times. Frankly, I look at her as being old fashioned. She was doing something that worked in an era where people understood social cues and signals.

Today, everybody seems rather lost about how to behave, even in showing basic manners. We’re lucky if we find a guy who doesn’t insist we pay for the meal, and simply wants to go Dutch. The meal tastes better if from jump he wants to pay and leaves a decent tip for the server. He looks like a good guy if he wants to take care of you. That’s a winner. That’s the best feeling in the world.

Leslie is What’s Up Now With Black Women

As for the “hardworking modern woman” character, Leslie is doing what she has to do. Like most of us, paying our own way is the default mode of life regardless. And that’s fine. We live in an age where it does make sense to have your stuff. I wouldn’t deny that.

However, even if you combined Morgan and Leslie into one woman, I would prefer that Scott dealt with Morgan’s personality and looks, while Leslie’s characteristics stayed (mostly) hidden.

brokenheart

The Ethical Flaw and Self-Harm

The problem with Leslie is that she was an employee whose job it was to look after Scott. I know if he was a white / Asian / Latino guy, you’d probably see immediately the problem with her cooking, cleaning and sexing him while he’s emotionally unavailable, on the rebound (still in love with Morgan), and working hard to do her job in making him physically / mentally fit to return to work. She may have fallen in love with Scott, but she endangered herself professionally and emotionally. She had a serious lapse of ethics and muddled her own waters while on the job.

Plus, Scott’s relationship with Morgan hadn’t achieved a clean break. They were still at an impasse. Breaking up and constantly making up is normal. There are plenty of couples who even after they divorce still find themselves having sex, cohabiting and doing other things because they haven’t really untied all the strings.

Leslie was setting herself up for some serious hurt while allowing herself to be the in between chick. She was the third wheel. She was the one who made herself available during a time she should have kept some distance from Scott.

In reality, she could be viewed as the man-stealing backstabber.

What If The Situation Was Reversed?

Just Wright  is clever in making Leslie the underdog, and she fits the type of woman who’s relaxed in her own skin. That’s cool.

But let’s switch it up. Imagine her as a guy who makes no effort to bathe, brush his hair / teeth, or groom himself even in your presence when he’s “relaxed”. Would you really find him attractive?

If he was fat, out-of-shape, a bit abrasive, has limited resources, and you were missing your ex-boo who’s smoking hot, though annoying, would you really find him attractive? Would you really consider him for a minute?

If you hired a guy to take care of your household chores, cook, clean or do something necessary and crucial for you, would you consider sleeping with him even though you were still thinking of your smoking hot ex?

We certainly love our double-standards. He should be tall, handsome, fit, rich and a balla. While he should be happy with our hefty, gaudy, rough, unfeminine appearance, because we’re keeping it real, and he’ll love us since we are the biggest fan of his sport. Considering that if he’s a baller, everybody would be a fan. He’d be swollen headed and expect the adoration.

In a sense, that entire angle is a wash.

What Kind of Black Woman?

You know why Morgan is very feminine? Obviously, she’s not working. And whether her character is likable or not, her decision to find a husband is supported by her family. She has time to devote to her looks. She’s making it clear to the men she’s attracting that her looks are a symbol of self-love. She also wants the man to admire the effort she makes in looking good, not just for herself, but for him.

Trying to look attractive for a man is not a crying shame. It is not bad. It is part of the mating dance. I believe a woman can be sexy in a hoody, but it depends on how she wants to wear it. But she has to be comfortable in her own skin.

Leslie is to be applauded for being a “worker”, but that doesn’t entitle her to a wealthy, handsome, tall man as a reward for “good behavior.” It doesn’t work in real life either.

What Men Are Really Like

Most normal, well functioning guys aren’t going to be dating your wallet, house, car, degrees or status. A good number will resent hearing anything about your “stuff” even if he has more than what you have.

For all we know, Morgan has stuff, but she has the good sense to let herself be the prize Scott has to attain.

And that’s the one thing this movie doesn’t really inform us of. Men are predatory animals, and in this story for the romantic angle, a good thing, of course. When Scott, as the wealthy balla, decides to pursue Morgan, he’s not going for her monetary assets or status – he sees someone who interests him, raises his curiosity, likely sexually arouses him and makes him want to PURSUE her.

That’s why we admired Morgan, she understood the game and played it well. Unfortunately, the movie leaves out that entire courtship, which is a shame.

Reality Checks

We understand that Leslie was the movie’s Cinderella, but as stated before, she did it at the wrong time and wrong place, which was not realistic at all.

While it was a fun movie, I was uncomfortable with what it was teaching black women. We have enough stories (from real life)  where the women do it all for the men and end up heart and wallet broken, because they continue to see Morgan as a negative and Leslie as a positive.

That perspective is too skewed and needs to be balanced. It’s okay to be Morgan on the outside and Leslie on the inside, but not to give it all up and away like it’s nothing. That’s been done too many times before.

It’s one thing to be ready to love a man, but a woman has to have him earn it, otherwise he wont think much of it and treat it as such. And don’t we see to much of that already?

And Leslie can shower Scott with all the cooking, sexing, love and affection after he puts a ring on it. 😀

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

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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