Tyler Perry’s newest on screen drama, “Temptation”, hit the big screen last Friday amongst a sort of weary anticipation. At least for me anyway. Initially a die-hard fan, I now find myself in the oh so familiar love/hate tug o’ war with Mr. Perry and the films he creates. My descent from TP idolization came with the realization of a particular reoccurring formula present in many of his films. It usually goes something like (broken black woman + abusive black man= disastrous situation which is then saved by the good black man and sudden disappearance of said abusive black man).
“Temptation”essentially follows this same pattern. I not quite sure why I went into the movie thinking that it would be different. But I did. What can I say? A girl can dream.
Let me give ya’ll a quick little synopsis of the movie. The movie follows Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross), who have been in love since they were young. They get married, leave the rural area to a bigger city, and get jobs. They been married for six years when problems start to arise. Brice forgets her birthday a couple times, doesn’t appear to empathize with Judith unhappiness with her job, and doesn’t “defend her” during a cat call. Enter Harley (Robbie Jones) who starts to court Judith despite her being married. An affair begins (with a questionable the love scene that could be interpreted as rape). Drugs are used. Judith tells Brice it is over. Then goes home with Harley, who then beats her in a lovers quarrel. Brice finds out that Harley has HIV and then goes to get (read save) Judith from Harley. A fight ensues. Then flash forward some indeterminate amount of years. Judith is marriage counselor who is recounting her story to a client. Judith is not with Brice as is apparent with the arrival of his new family at his pharmacy when she went to go pick up her HIV medication. The end scene is Judith hobbling to church and the end credits roll beside her.
As I sat in my seat staring at the screen all I could keep asking myself was “why is she hobbling?” I am not exaggerating when I say that the character was hobbling down the street to church. Now granted, age could be the cause of this but I have the feeling that Mr. TP was using her bent posture as some sort of indication that she was HIV positive. Therefore, long story short, to all the ladies out there, if you are thinking of having an affair BEWARE because that kind of sinful behavior leads to, ie: drugs and HIV.
I’m not to sure why Tyler Perry felt the need to espouse such an antiquated and overly simplistic view of marriage, women, and HIV. For one, it seems highly unlikely that a couple after 19 plus years of knowing one another and six years of marriage would throw away their marriage over infidelity. I am not saying what she did was right but relationships and marriage are more complicated then that especially if you’ve been with the person such long period of time.
My second issue is Tyler Perry’s blatant issues with women in general. He seems to have to 3 types of women that he deals with; the Madeas, the broke down black woman who is going through every worst possible situation that you can think of (ie:Meet the Browns, I Can Do Bad All By Myself) or the successful black woman who has bitchy tendencies and doesn’t respect her partner (ie: Sanaa Lathan in “The Family That Preys”).
Lastly, I didn’t know we were in the 1980s. The depiction of HIV as a disease that not only deforms your body but causes social ostracization, is such a dated perception and completely misrepresents the disease and its impact on those who are positive. Not only does the film completely ignore the medical advancements that have been made in regards to HIV care and treatment, it positions those who are living with HIV/AIDS as those who are deserving of the disease and accounting for some sort of biblical sin.
Not only is it a sin but it is a sin designated singularly for women which in the end underscores the sexist notions that are stemming for Mr. TP himself, as is noted by the vanishing of the Harley character, who was responsible with infecting Judith with the virus. Where is Harley’s banishment from society and those who he cares for? Where is the hobbling Harvey?
For real Tyler Perry? This is what you want to leave your audience with? Inaccurate representations of the roles of men, women, and those with living with HIV/AIDS. Apparently so, since he went through all 111 minutes of the film and didn’t see a problem with the way the scenes unfolded.
In the end “Temptation” did little to entertain or amuse but instead could either be seen as cautionary tale aiming to control women or a marketing tool used for reasserting dated notions about HIV/AIDS by vilifying those who are positive.
For more thoughts on Tyler’s Perry’s Temptation check out “Tyler Perry Isn’t Just an Artless Hack, He’s a Scary Ideologue”