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Friday, 5 April 2013


Mena says: Quite harsh but thats my opinion, what do you think?

There are a lot of things to laugh at in Tyler Perry's Temptation: Kim Kardashian's attempts to move and talk at the same time, Vanessa Williams's fake French accent for no reason (hoh-hoh-hohhh!), the alien dialogue, the blunt-force moralizing, the sheer ineptitude of Perry's filmmaking. (Worth noting: None of Perry's actual scripted "jokes" made the list.) But, that said, it is not a funny movie—it's a frightening one. Temptation is a movie about punishing women. Specifically, Perry is obsessed with punishing women who stray from the good woman/bad woman binary dictated by traditional Christian gender roles. That is the film's entire purpose. I watched it 24 hours ago and my skin is still crawling. And I'm starting to believe that Tyler Perry isn't just artless—he's reprehensible.

Temptation is framed as a story told by a marriage counselor to her client. The client, some white lady, comes in and is like, "I'm thinking about having an affair! YOLO!" And the marriage counselor is like, "Well, let me tell you a little story, lady. About my, um, 'sister.'" (The first of a million spoilers: IT'S REALLY ABOUT HER. SHE IS HER OWN SISTER.)

The "sister" in question is Judith—a nice, pretty, church-going "good woman" who wears ugly high-collared blouses, cooks dinner for her man every night, and only has married-sex in bed with the lamp off. Judith's husband, Brice, is a "good man." He works hard at a pharmacy all day, wears glasses, and is on great terms with Judith's mother. They are "happy." Except that they're totally not (spoiler #2: it's Judith's fault).

The first hint of Judith's discontent comes when she and Brice are heading home from a romantic dinner. A group of ne'er-do-well youths on the street cat-call Judith as they pass. Judith flips the fuck out and has to be physically restrained by Brice, who tells her to calm down, ignore it, let it go. They get in the car and go home. Judith refuses to speak to Brice for the rest of the night, because he didn't defend his property her honor by fighting the cat-callers to the death. He didn't do his manful duty. "But honey, they could have had guns!" Brice says. THEN HE APOLOGIZES TO JUDITH FOR NOT FIGHTING THE YOUTHS. I didn't see the rest of the scene because my eyes fell out and rolled away.

Meanwhile, at the Millionaire Matchmaking agency where she works, Judith meets Harley—the "third largest social media inventor since Zuckerberg!" (so, uh, LinkedIn? Christian Mingle?). Harley immediately fixates on Judith and begins scheming about how to get his penis inside her posthaste. Harley is rich, sexually aggressive (his dialogue highlights the inhuman weirdness with which Perry writes about sex: "Sex should be random, like animals!"), he believes in Judith's career (Brice, by contrast, told her that she should stay at the matchmaking agency for 15 years before starting her own practice—!?!?), and he goes jogging with no shirt so ladies will look at his muscles. "I bet you only have sex in a bed with the lamp off," he tells Judith. (Nailed it!!!) In a clunky counterexample to the cat-calling incident, Harley attempts to murder a doofy bicyclist who accidentally bumped Judith's knee with his bicycle. He is truly the best man ever.

Oh, also Harley is literally the devil. Linemouth.

You can tell he's literally the devil because he says things like, "Let me play devil's advocate," he drives a sinful red sports car, everything in his apartment is constantly on fire, and every time Judith's churchy mom sees him she starts screaming, "HE'S THE DEVIL. THAT MAN IS LITERALLY THE DEVIL." He is literally the devil.

And because he's the devil, he manages to "seduce" Judith, lure her away from her good Christian life with Brice, nose-feed her mountains of cocaine, beat the shit out of her, and turn her into a cackling demon who hates Jesus and never, ever cooks dinner. Back at the pharmacy, Brice discovers that Harley has been running around giving HIV to all kinds of fallen women all over town. This discovery finally awakens his dutiful aggro side, so he runs to Harley's apartment to rescue Judith from Satan-AIDS, and then throws Harley through a window. Then Brice gets a new, better, non-HIV-having wife and Judith puts her frumpy clothes back on and goes to church, alone forevermore.

Cut back to this dialogue between the therapist and the white lady:

"How does the story end?"
"Well, it's still being written."
"Did [Judith] get HIV too?"
"Did Brice?"
"Thank you so much for sharing this story with me I'm going to end this almost-affair and stay with my husband."


Okay. Now. Okay. There are three main areas in which Tyler Perry is fucking over the entire human race in Temptation.

1. Men Do Marriage Like This/Women Do Marriage Like This!

Temptation is a feature-length Chick tract, only with slightly less artistry and nuance. Watching this film as an atheist, it makes absolutely no sense. If you don't believe in the devil, which I don't, Temptation is simply the story of a 25-year-old woman who got married too young, is no longer compatible with her partner, is frustrated with her stalled career, and is preyed upon by a charismatic sociopath with a drug problem. Then, because of Perry's fixation on Christian moralizing, the film portrays Judith's contraction of HIV (deliberately given to her by an abusive partner) as a fitting punishment for her "sins." From a godless perspective, this is bonkers.

Outside the confines of traditional gender roles, Judith is just a woman trying to find her place in the world. She is confused, she is sad, she is frustrated. "I feel so dead with you Brice," she says. In the real world, women are not obligated to cook dinner for their husbands, or eschew casual sex, or put their careers on hold for their partners, or submit sexually to dominant men, or ignore cat-callers, or stand up to cat-callers, or swath their knees in modest hemlines, or be nice to their moms. Women are people. But in Perry's universe, women are women, and a "good woman" is a very specific and important thing to be.

People can have whatever kind of relationships they want—if a traditional Christian marriage works for you, go nuts—but Perry's insistence on punishing women who don't follow his doctrine of subservience is harmful and oppressive. Compliance with gender roles doesn't make anyone a good person. People are good people because they're good people. Church doesn't make you good. Loving your mom doesn't make you good. Even fidelity doesn't make you good. Those are all just excuses, loopholes, cop-outs that signify "goodness" without having to actually do the legwork.

When Judith stops being "good," she is punished. The moral of the movie is explicit: Stay in your unhappy marriage forever because the alternative is Satan-AIDS.

Which brings me to my second point.

2. People with HIV Are Not Your Toys.

Three people in Temptation have HIV. One of them is literally the devil (see above), and the other two are black women who slept with the devil. That Perry would have the gall to use HIV as a punitive measure against black women who don't fit his idea of "goodness"—black women, by the way, account for 2/3 of new HIV infections among women—betrays a frightening selfishness and lack of empathy. It echoes, very plainly, the old Fundamentalist rhetoric that AIDS is a punishment from god for the sins of the gays. Perry expands that rhetoric, sure—now dirty, filthy women can sin just like gays do!—but the message is the same. Casual sex is a sin and sinners deserve HIV. That. Is. Crazy.

The other woman infected by Harley is named Melinda (played by the Brandy), a saintly gal who works at the pharmacy with Brice. "I'm accepting my part in it," she says. She chose to stay with Harley even though he was abusive and she knew he was sleeping around. Besides, the film takes care to point out, she totally took Harley's private jet for granted—so of course he cheated! Temptation isn't a movie about Harley—who, after all, can't help his sin seeing as he is a demon from hell. It's a movie about Harley's victims. Only they're not portrayed as victims—they're sinners. They're to blame. And in the end, Melinda and Judith wind up alone, repentant and meek, while Brice finds himself a new, untainted wife.

Apparently this needs to be said: People with HIV are people. People with HIV are not a rhetorical device that Tyler Perry gets to exploit to keep women in line. People with HIV have healthy relationships with other people, regardless of HIV status. Tyler Perry is a bad person.

3. Harley Rapes Judith.

Here are all of things that Judith says immediately before Harley has sex with her in his private plane: "No." "Stop it." "I don't want to." "Get off of me." Judith does not want to have sex with Harley. (There's another layer of nuance here—one reason Judith doesn't want to have sex with Harley is that she's deeply invested in Perry's beloved gender roles. But the reason for her "no" is irrelevant. Her spiritual weakness betrays her, Harley can tell she wants it, and she's punished for that weakness.)

He does not stop. He just tries harder. He knows what she really wants, no matter what her mouth and body are saying. She never says yes. He says, smugly, "Now you can say you resisted." He has sex with her anyway. This is a rape scene. But, in Perry's universe, Harley is right. She did secretly want it. And that's the real problem.

Afterwards, for a minute, Judith is disgusted with Harley and with herself. She pushes him away. She tells him never to contact her again. But then! Then! She's back on the phone with him almost immediately (while Brice is caught up in the football game—doofy doofy dur dur!), telling Harley he's the best she's ever had, begging him to have sex with her again. Judith, it seems, is addicted to what the dick did. And now she's like, "OMG I NEED MORE OF YOUR SATAN BONER AND ALSO COCAINE." Because that's how us fickle ladies work.

This idea—that men know what women really want, that resistance can be fucked out of us (or consent fucked into us)—is DEEPLY NOT OKAY. It's not okay to telegraph this to young men or young women or victims of sexual violence or potential perpetrators of sexual violence or lawmakers or anyone. It's a paradigm that I was hoping had died out with Pepe LePew. It is frightening.

I'm amazed at how efficiently Perry was able to roll back discourse, human rights, the basics of consent, and storytelling itself in just one shitty movie. Perry has done a lot for the visibility of black voices in popular culture, but that doesn't make his moralistic subtext in Temptation any less repellant and irresponsible. The world should demand better than Tyler Perry.



Sherri said...

first off, I love your passion for women's rights.
I could just hug right now.

some questions to ponder:

what if the roles were reversed as portrayed by Chris Rock in "Why did I get married?" without him going all the way the seductress?

would it be fair if she infected Brice?

do you think the story is all made

that was not a rape scene!
mental rape maybe.
are you buying into the nonsense about females not being able to make up their minds?
not saying it was right but, she did not put up any fight.

the bottom line is, religious or spiritual beliefs aside, everyone should be expected to think of the possible consequences of their actions and the effects on the people in their lives.

the movie is not Tyler Perry's best, but it shines a light on the hedonistic and totally selfish trend the world is heading.


LadyNgo said...

Well i gotta say this was a pretty amazing write up lol. I have been debating whether or not to see this movie in the theater or cop a bootleg version. I've been mostly hearing that it wasn't worth the money, but then again, i can't really think of any Tyler Perry movie that has been. Bootleg it is.

Beautiful said...

Interesting point of view.

It however sparked the curiosity in me to see the movie ASAP.

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Myne Whitman said...

Interesting review. It was quite moralistic indeed, which made it clunky

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Anonymous said...

i think you're biased about tyler perry and his movies because frankly u exaggerate in this post.

1) The "devil" as you call him didnt rape Judith..... it's either u are a virgin or u're naive when it comes to sex. sometimes 1 party says no and just needs a little push to say yes. that in my opinion isnt rape neither is it coercion. Rape is forceful and nothing there was forceful

2) and bout her going back to him even after she said she wasnt, ever heard of a drug addict going back to his/her dealer even though at the back of his mind, he knows that drugs are bad.

3) the mother saying harley was the devil was purely female intuition and she was also sensitive to the holy spirit. it's not as if judith didnt have that female intuition, she just choose to ignore it.

4) i see u made no mention of the fact that brice wasnt sensitive to his wife's needs until he figured out that another man was making his wife smile and happy.

my 2cents, tyler perry want bashing black women. 'cuz there are a few things everyone could pick up from the movie. like d scene where she comes in and just tells her husband to fuck her roughly...........she could have brought up her boredom in the bedroom in a more mature manner not suffocating the poor man.

also brice should have made extra effort to notice his wife more. just because they've been married for awhile doesn't mean he shld let himself go and not remember to do some of the nice things she did that made him fall inlove.

and please the hiv comment, she could have worn a freaking condom and made sure he get tested before sleeping wt hm raw. we should all take responsibility for our stupid actions

chile please! said...

I liked Tyler Perry before this particular movie that places women in this box of 'prfection' and letting the men off easily.

He should suck an egg, or better still suck donnie mclurkin's balls!

issorai said...

Brandy I understand, but Kim?
WTF is wrong with Tyler

Anonymous said...

my 2cents; had you believed in the existence of the Devil and maybe was morally driven you would understand the movie and the message it has behind it..... the HIV rate is so high in the world today because of people that possess your mentality.. perhaps you should walk about the streets more often and talk to real people to understand that this movie was addressing real life issues that real people face everyday... Have you been to Africa??????? get a one way ticket and see if you'll still think Tyler P is just producing and shoving his beliefs down on all of us... reality is you sleep around you will be exposed to AIDS woman or male... so my dearest if you don't like Tyler Perry's work then don't bother watching his movies as it is quite evident you have something against the guy's work... Ag anyway its your opinion doesn't have to matter to all of us :)

Anonymous said...

have seen the movie but read the reviews and Tyler P is not off by any means whatsoever!
Like someone said earlier,atheist,religious extremist or otherwise...there are consequences for your actions,its a law in physics if i recall correctly. So if you jump off the 15th floor,you'll definitely hit the ground whether you believe in gravity or not.....when you sin,you get the wages-death whether you belive in God or not! It's as simple as! Greed,materialism,ego,self-righteousness,me first attitude,selfiness,covetousness...etc only breeds disaster even if you don't think a creator exists!
You cannot dispute the existence of a Creator,devil and his demons...they exist and wheen you get that picture,everything falls into place but when you don't,it's the blind leading the get nowhere...fast1
-Warriboi in London vacationing in Northg America

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon 2nd July

"..Have you been to Africa??????? get a one way ticket and see i.."

First off, Africa is an ENTIRE CONTINENT not a country

Plus wtf has Africa got to do with a fictional AA movie? Do u think we are ALL Judiths and Harleys? Like what dumbass point where you trying to make?
GTFOH and stick with playing with plastacine as you have no point!

Let adults comment!

Anonymous said...

I think the movie was poor

very shallow

Characters not fully developed,

the actors and actresses (except maybe Vanessa Williams and she was hardly there) simply were not convincing. Brandy? lmao!! everyone magically got older but she was exactly the same. Seriously tho I am surprised at Jurnee Smollett-Bell as she was good in the Great Debaters, I thought with time she would have improved? The rest? nah couldnt care abt the rest of them

a poor movie produced all in a rush to moralise and probably to please some particular demographic

I say this as someone who likes some of Tyler Perry's work, (i.e for colored girls) this was not one of them.
3 out of 10 at best

madeatylerperry said...

THE ENDING, is what really took me for a loop! How in the world did it seem like the main characters Brice and Judith aged about 15 years while Brandy looked the exact same or maybe even better than before. Brice's new wife looked as young as Judith was the majority of the movie

Tyler Perry insults black people, white people, men, women, Christians, Southerners, drugstore employees, and anyone with eyeballs.

madeatylerperry said...

The MAIN CHARACTER, as a counselor I feel should have been able to communicate better with her own spouse

THE ENDING, is what really took me for a loop! How in the world did it seem like the main characters Brice and Judith aged about 15 years while Brandy looked the exact same or maybe even better than before. Brice's new wife looked as young as Judith was the majority of the movie

Tyler Perry insults black people, white people, men, women, Christians, Southerners, drugstore employees, and anyone with eyeballs.