Remember when Terry McMillans book, Waiting To Exhale was No. 1 on the fiction bestseller book list, longer than any other book at that time? The next thing you knew, there was a flood of relationship books. Then, the film came out. That was a momentary exciting time for black folks who like to go to the movie theater. Seeing a quality black film was not always possible, especially about black male/female relationships. Since we like to explore history, which is primarily referenced through literature, lets do something different; go back to 1995, using film as our reference, one that had the community of Afrikan descent buzzing.
One of the first things thought about while leaving the Magic Johnson Theatre, elated from seeing Waiting To Exhale, was that some white folks were not going to like this film because they did not cherish seeing black folks making a movie more successful than most of theirs, which it was at that time. Sure enough, soon as we got home, the Los Angeles Times review confirmed it. Quotes such as: It wont stand up to any kind of rigorous examination. The films serious moments are stiff, standard and not nearly as affecting as whats accomplished with comedy. Waiting To Exhale is easy listening for the eyes if youre in the mood and arent too demanding. The cultural differences are so apparent.
The other, it was so nice to see a black film, at a black-owned theater, with all those beautiful black folks, right in our own community. One of those cultural things uniquely ours. An American Afrikan audience is part of the show when watching a good black film. Thank you Magic for keeping us from having to go to the Marina, or Westwood, where the soul just dont flow.
Now, to the main, and more dangerous point, commenting on a film that is a happy anthem for many American Afrikan women. Personally, I enjoyed it very much and did not feel threatened or affronted at all. I kept hearing this talk of male-bashing, similar to what we heard about Color Purple. After going through that experience, I decided to go into this film with a completely open mind. We laughed, hurt, cracked up and had a really good time.
In fact, we had the wonderful pleasure of sitting next to a Nigerian sister, who lived in Ghana, finding out we had mutual friends. She is close to seventy and had ten children by the same man. She said this was her forth time seeing the film, and that she had been there since 10:30am. We got there for the 4:30pm screening, the opening day.
One thing the film did for me, knowing that I have sons who are watching all the time, is having to be kind, fair, loving and honest to their mother, my life partner, every chance out. I dont see how a secure man can feel negative about this film. In fact, it seems to me just the opposite. There were plenty of examples on how a man should not treat his woman. A guilty man would definitely complain, similar to how we saw some guilty women react to Shahrazad Alis book. If the shoe dont fit, why bother?
No, I did not read the book, so I was able to go with a fresh mind. I really tried to see the male bashing some have alleged, and frankly did not see it. What I saw is how some men play games with their women. How some men are just dishonest in their relationships. How some men are just not tender in their lovemaking. That is reality. Also, how the fury of an angry black woman can cause holy hell for a wrongdoing black man, especially when he leaves her for a white woman.
What was also observed was how a secure, honest, strong American Afrikan man can help influence his gender opposite in making a mature decision regarding her son, and how that same man could provide comfort, and ultimately love, to a beautiful Afrikan woman who had virtually given up on a good man.
Now, what could cause some trouble, those beautiful sisters in the film who complained about those no-good men, were just as complicit in their bad behavior as the brothers. Looking for love is as innocent as a newborn child. Those men did not initiate all that dirt by themselves.
What is disturbing as an Afrikan man, the numbers are too high for the amount of men who are not treating their women right. It is just plain unintelligent for a black man to not realize that the greatest human companion he is going to find on this earth, is the woman who is the mother of the human race – the first woman God chose to give birth to humanity. The woman who raised Black men, when they were not even allowed to be men. The woman who showed so much patience, because she understood that her survival was tied to his.
Allowing my bias to show for a moment, the Afrikan woman is the most beautiful, physically endowed, colorful, wise, intelligent, loving and sexiest woman on this earth.
Waiting To Exhale was one of the most enjoyable films seen in a long time, and deserves to be seen again. Those brothers who want to douse it as a male-bashing film, need to check where they are coming from, and most of all, how they are treating their own woman. Only the guilty cry out.
– Dr. Kwakus class, Afrikan World Civilizations (Part II), is conducted on Friday evenings, 7-9 p.m at Kaos Studios, 4343 Leimert Blvd. (corner of 43rd Place) in Los Angeles. For details go to: www.drkwaku.com.