A CHORUS OF CRITICAL VOICES!
A chorus of critical voices is what you get when you ask some of the brightest critical minds in the social media arena to collaborate with you. I asked some of my favorite critical thinkers to weigh in on a video (below), and to give me their reflections on the dynamics in the video. There is no single authoritative voice, but rather a chorus of voices adding their unique critical perspective to the conversation. Here are there reflections.
“What do I see?
I see the dynamics of power and control at play. In the scene with the married couple there is an underlying portrayal of control as she notices her husbands gaze at the brother across the theater. Its as if the image of her hand and wedding ring symbolize a force to pull him back in. It represents for me the false belief that a relationship, especially marriage, can change someone’s innate feelings. We even see this dynamic in religion when it relates to sexuality. The notion that a “relationship with god” can change and control ones desires through a form of power.
As for the rape scene, power and control is more overt since rape is indeed about power. Both scenes display for me an equally deleterious dynamic of power and control. While the rape is horrendous and incomparable to the other scene, where I see the two parallel is in power and control over the body. In both cases there is sense of forced control of one person by another. Though not equal in experiences, the rape victim will have physical and psychological trauma as will the one who feels “forced” by society to render his sexuality and body under the control of what is deemed “normal.” – @ZakiyaTheGenius
“This scene has a lot of things operating in terms of visual representations connected to larger discourse. First, the opera lyrical is a take from Shange’s “Lady In Purple” who was talking about connectivity amongst Black women (to my understanding). It seems odd that Perry chose to connect Black women in relationships with men on the low and rape. For me, this connected to a larger conversation on homophobia and prison culture. In my opinion, it is controversial to paint DL men as similar to rapists. There was also the clock element in the rape vignette that connected to patriarchal masculinity, as if the morality of the rapist needed to be challenged by his inability to prolong ejaculation as opposed to challenging how women’s bodies are constructed and controlled in society.” – @JohnnyGoLightly
“Time slowly winds as the innocence and purity of her body is stripped away. Tears of betrayal and deceit stream line down her face as the eyes of the down low brother wander into the distance. Running eye shadow creates a blurry vision; the smell of burning food conjures up an internal feeling of wounded flesh. The soulful, melodramatic sounds of the opera singer’s voices flow in an even tune. The women have become the backdrop to man’s desire-desire to control, desire to humiliate, and desire to fulfill his waning need to be a man; all without feeling an ounce of regret. The man has played the role society has given him… and the women have become the backdrop of man’s desire.” - @BlkAth3st
“This beautiful and painful scene from the film reveals a narrative about abuse. At once, there are four conflicts happening: two Black women are undergoing a crisis, one via the physical & emotional as she is raped by a man she believed to be kind. The kindness she has shown him has been betrayed and “thrown back on her face”. The second Black woman is allowing herself to be emotionally humiliated by her husband’s passes at other men, perhaps because she knows no other way to deal with the paining shock of learning her husband loves other men. two Black men, burdened by their desires and delusions, have gone down a path of self-destruction. One has decided to rape a person he’s befriended in the sanctity of her own home. The roots of rape are deep and self-destructive, and harm the victim as well as the assailant. Another Black man, dishonest about his need for the company of other men, is allowing his secret to be sacrificed to the knowledge of his wife without knowing it.” - J Douglas Turner
“This whole movie left me emotional and full of questions about black women and our places in narratives about our body and our experiences—specifically in the American cinematic narrative. I find this rape/opera scene is the one that sticks so close to the viewer and it is for lack of the better term the climax. Yet, I find it a bit sensational, if not exploitative. On one hand we find rape explored for mass media consumption and mass moralizing, on the other hand there is nothing in the movie that warns women that have been raped—who attended this movie, that they could possibly be triggered. We cannot care about real life black women and their experiences with sexual violence enough to warn them that a movie violently portrays a rape scene that could possibly trigger them.
Triggered. Before I moved to NYC, I read tons and tons of stuff on rape, but nothing I read spoke of the psychology of victims in a way that gave me the understanding that they could be triggered to re-live their trauma through our rape narratives. My friend Amanda—ever aware of how stories can re-traumatize women –has taught me to always be aware of what I say or put out by example. If it is a possible trigger she always warns the reader of her Facebook page or even someone listening to a story.
So with this new awareness I revisited the first time I saw this scene. I imagined myself back at the theatre and there I am a woman who has never been assaulted so violently going through an emotional journey with this character. But, I get to leave unscathed and some other woman could have been sitting in her seat frozen in real fear, reliving the worst experience of her life. No one warned ME about the trigger, so it’s safe to say that no one was warned.
And then there is Janet Jackson and her husband. Our culture dictates that a woman should be partnered to her equal, if her equal is a gay man, does that mean he will give her AIDS? Does that mean their relationship/love is less valid? I understand that he betrayed her by having unprotected sex with his same sex partners but the movie did not focus on women protecting themselves from black men (not gay men/not white men) because even when they do things like kill our children, rape us, are emotionally unavailable to us we have to forgive them and rebuild our lives. That’s victim blaming.
How much healing do we need if every day we encounter this violent shit?—street harassment and following is common enough for me as a black woman.
This scene reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mines about whether its racism or sexism that keeps us back and though we are oppressed under both, I find sexist oppression to be the most offensive. Black culture dictates that we call each other brothers and sisters in the struggle—but you would dare lie and rape and destroy your sister. White people are strangers to our experience—as they are too busy fashioning the racism that accompanies it, but to think of all black women have sacrificed so much for black men, that is what makes this scene so heart crushing. To watch the trust be once again destroyed between people that have more in common in their experience in white supremacy that they should be able to understand each other’s oppression.
SN: THOSE OPERA SINGERS GAVE ME LIFE. WHY DO I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT AFRICAN AMERICAN’S IN THE “UPPER” ARTS? HISTORY IS SO FUCKED UP. HISTORY HIDES TALENTED BLACK PEOPLE SO THAT ONLYTHE PRIVILEGED WHITE/MONIED CLASS CAN ENJOY THEIR ETHEREAL TALENTS. UGH. TYLER PERRY DID THAT PART RIGHT.” – @Tristlande