29 October 2008

minding my own beeswax.

hey gayle,

my cynicism has a purpose. i know it does.

i read the secret life of bees before i went to go see it. i had had the book on my shelf for a while, but the way i earn my bread had precluded me from engaging in any leisurely reading for, like, two years. when i saw the cast on oprah the other day, i decided that i should spend my upcoming vacation day reading the book, for i was sure someone i knew was going to ask me to come with them to the movies to see this thing. (and yes, i dry heaved through queen latifah's over-hetero antics--again. the queen lusting after the men in egypt? is that what i just heard while brushing my teeth? bitch, please.)

the blurb on the back of the book seemed harmless enough. blacks and whites getting together and loving each other despite the mores of their society. how lovely. i plowed my way through it. the story was ok. knees in grits? nice. i'd never heard of that one. and though black beekeepers seemed fertile ground from which to sprout magical negroes--paging bagger vance--kidd seemed to get close to that line without entirely crossing it. either way, the book was rather predictable. perfect for a little midweek leisurely reading. and, it read like a movie.

the film, like the book, features all the usual suspects: racist southern red-faced spitting white men, black substitute parental figures, singing blacks, angry, social activist blacks, and, of course, the simple-minded, yet heart as pure as gold southerner (full disclosure: i kind of love forrest gump). except of course, unlike the novel, in the film the people are younger and better looking.

i hated this movie. well, not entirely. dakota fanning was good. i'm not a movie buff, but calling her the next jodie foster sounds about right. they kind of look alike. alicia keys wasn't bad; she definitely portrayed a female version of the "huey newton complex" (a term i coined meaning, hella light-skinned, hella militant) just fine. the more i see her on screen, the more i think j.hud is a natural.

so mostly, i hated queen latifah. as soon as she appeared on screen, my hand went into my afro, and i slid down in my seat. it seems as if she's gone from "ladies first" to portraying every possible stereotype she can muster. is she getting back at me? for this? and this? if alicia "hell's kitchen" keys can kinda sound southern, or at least make a good attempt, why do you dana "dirty jersey" owens, sound like a house slave? ("we'se makin' honey!"). i guess the moral of ms. owens' career is: you might default on dignity, but coonery will (still) get you paid.

perhaps it was just me, but her image radiated the following message from the screen: by way of my cleavage alone, i will impart wisdom on you, young white girl. if it wasn't her 60s natural looking like someone just put some leave-in conditioner in her head and kept it moving, it was her "sermon of the black madonna." inspired by the oprah winfrey school of monologues, her speech elicited some of the weakest call and response i've seen this side of the color line. though, i can't blame her for that. your bad, gina prince-bythewood. i expect better church scenes from negro directors. i fully believe i could've gotten more from my actors. and i'm a heathen.

i left the movie having learned two things: 1. even child abusers can be redeemed through the presence of blacks; and 2. integration was really about young black boys accomplishing their dream of boning white girls without getting beat up. (i feel warm inside.) i left the movie and the book with the following, more general question: why is white parent absenteeism so... cute?

perhaps it's residue from my whole obama/moynihan gripe, but i read that book and the movie trying to figure out why stories about white orphans make such heartwarming tales. harry potter? annie? oliver? angels in the outfield? those may not leave you depressed. hell, you might just leave the theatre humming a tune. but losing isaiah? the color purple? hell, the bluest eye (i know it's never been a movie)? watching a movie partly premised on lack of black parental rearing will make you wanna slit your damn wrists. oh wait. i forgot about like mike. that movie will give you the warm fuzzies. thanks, lil bow wow.

that said, i could be completely wrong about this. i just can't shake the feeling that most of these movies about orphan black kids need to get adopted by brangelina. if not, i'll have to rely on tyler perry for my happy endings. yep. it's a hard-knock life.


MB said...

yes! having not scene it (he he he) I agree with your analysis. My parents had no time for the black boy white girl plot. My dad is like what 60's south is this where they could have gone any where together let alone not know the consequences . . .

C.L. Jones said...

First I was like--damn, well maybe not. Then I was like well damn I have to see it just based upon your criticisms alone.hmmm didn't know there was a book. I'll keep you posted.

Margot said...

i was all inspired when i left the first post, but being computer illiterate i didn't send it properly so i'll try and repeat...after reading your blog i decided that although you were an excellent and thoughtful writer that i am so very proud of, i was around in the 60's and i relate completely to the 'just Black enough for whites to be comfortable with, and lighter skinned! I've been there! But I'm still happy and I'm still hopeful with the Obama election. I just think we've got to start somewhere! Love you summer!!

z.bediako said...

please write a book, so that i can put it next to my Jordan,Walker, and Lorde books.

I literally laughed out loud, and its almost 3am here @ " so mostly, i hated queen latifah. as soon as she appeared on screen, my hand went into my afro, and i slid down in my seat. "


Okay, so I watched the movie on the internet at home. yeah... not paying money to see a film about four black mammies. I surely am not. And what gets me about this whole film is how so many of the critics are trying to set this film a part from the other movies where Black mammies. As if this is somehow any different. As if the Black Mary some how changes the script.
It doesn't.
I loved the secret life of bees when I was in high school and had no yet discovered womanism. But now it seems I can barely enjoy anything without scrutinizing over the depiction of Black woman.

The Queen has surely descended. I can hardly bring myself to look at her face anymore.

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