By: Kirsten West Savali, Your Black World
I don’t like Steve Harvey — yes, I said it.
To be more precise, since I’ve never met the man personally, I don’t like what Steve Harvey represents.
There is an arrogance—a barely sheathed tone of alpha-male superiority that permeates everything he spews from politics to relationships—that simply makes my skin crawl. In his controversial “book,” Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, he presumes that women are so desperate to snare a man that they will blindly lap up advice from one who manipulates his two divorces into a negative reflection of his ex-wives characters, rather than his questionable skill at being a husband. In a deliberate attempt at adverse-feminism, he casts women as simple-minded huntresses who—with a simple fifteen-dollar literary weapon from Barnes & Noble—will be armed with the sophisticated techniques needed to catch our flawed masculine prey. To make matters worse, he has a consistent habit of illuminating the misogyny in the Bible for public consumption, as if the Great One himself parted the clouds and said, “Woman, thou shall be a lady in the streets, but a freak in the sheets… (((sheets)))… (((sheets)))…”
Before I became agnostic, I clearly remember sitting in Bible study and hearing Proverbs 18:22, which reads: “He who findeth a wife, findeth a good thing;” not, “she who stalks a husband and lassos him to the altar with tricks (both psychological and sexual) findeth a good thing.”
Can the church say ‘Amen’?
To spread the proverbial icing on the cake, in a ballsy move, he decides to create Think Like A Man, a film that is nothing more than an advertisement for the aforementioned book. He does so with the calculated intent that, once again, people will flock to the theatres to watch a rom-com which features Black men and women that just can’t seem to get it together.
It would be funny if he weren’t so serious.
I freely admit that Black entertainment is the most recycled resource in the United States of America. We use it up, throw it out and repurchase it again without a second thought — then wonder why nothing new is being created. I also understand that money talks and my grudging, ambivalent support of this film will likely place me in the “Part of the Problem” box — and that’s a criticism I’m more than willing to accept. There was a time when my distaste for Steve Harvey and his Bishop Magic Don Juan suits would have led me to not only boycott this film, but write a scathing open letter of judgment to anyone who dared to support it.
That was before I learned to think like a chess player.
There will be people who see themselves, their friends and loved ones in Think Like A Man and be glad for it; just as the domestic workers in The Help were a reflection of the many women throughout the Deep South who toiled on tired knees and weary hearts to serve families with love and dignity. Renowned actress, Hattie McDaniel, who won the 1939 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, made a profound statement in response to criticism she received for perpetuating negative stereotypes with her role as “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind:
“I’d rather get paid seven hundred dollars a week to play a maid than get paid seven dollars to be one.”
Do I agree with our generic depictions as under-paid whores and overworked help? Absolutely not. I have simply evolved to the point where I recognize that someone, somewhere can relate — and just because it’s not my story on screen, doesn’t mean that it’s not someone else’s. There are people who righteously believe that supporting mediocre cinematic fluff will further perpetuate the creation of the same. I agree, with a caveat: Supporting these films — without supporting other, more important ones --- is the real culprit. The key is not to negate the voices already represented (as numbers reflect, this type of film has a legitimate fan base), but building off of that momentum in Hollywood and helping fund that independent film, sponsoring that theater student, donating to those individuals who may not have a solid corporate push. The goal should be to diversify our options, not suppress the ones which don’t reflect our own lives.
Imbalanced “equality” is difficult, isn’t it?
It’s difficult to see our dirty laundry aired out in public, whether as art or in reality. It hurts that every, single time one of our movies makes it to the big screen, it’s so trivial and non-descript, that anyone with a half a brain could watch it half asleep with a half-smoked joint withering away in an ashtray at their bed-side.
Here’s the thing, though:
We are not a monolith. We. are. not. a. monolith.
We have clearly polarizing perspectives on life, love and entertainment and all of them are worthy of the silver screen because all of them represent facets of Black life. There will never be a consensus of the Citizens Black Caucus on what definitively represents Black life, because there is no one way to be Black.
Our issue is not necessarily with Steve Harvey; it is because there is no counter-point to Steve Harvey. It’s because there is no balance. It’s because for every gang-banger we know, we also know an accountant; for every Christian we know, we also know an Atheist; for every straight man we know, we also know a lesbian, and for every Black woman we know who thinks that having a man is the pinnacle of life, we know another Black woman who truly doesn’t give a damn.
More importantly, we know that the condescension of Black men, such as Harvey and his cohort, Tyrese, would be better directed toward their own brethren, rather than women who have spent generations thinking like a man, because they’ve had to take the place of absentee fathers who don’t know the meaning of the word.
Still, we cannot allow ourselves to believe that one movie --- that amounts to nothing more than the equivalent of She’s Not That Into You --- is a sweeping indictment of Black or feminist culture. White America has such idiotic fare as 40-Year Old Virgin, The Hangover, Road Trip and Knocked Up, and they flock to the theatres because they don’t have the weight of oppression and degrading public-opinion on their backs. They can live comfortably in the shadows of their ethnicity without their every move being prefaced by their “race.” They don’t have to become defensive, paralyzed in fear that every negative or trite image of their culture will become its definitive characterization; and we have to grow comfortable enough in our own skin to realize that we don’t either.
Think Like a Man may be a typical, overdone reflection of Black love and relationships, and you know what? That’s ok. Because for every one of these films, we are strengthening our collective economic worth and paving the way for future generations of filmmakers to say, “Black America has more than one voice and all of them are worth hearing.”
And who knows…it just might be funny.
Kirsten West Savali is Senior News Editor at YourBlackWorld.com. She is founder and administrator of the Nomadic Poets’ Oasis, an online destination dedicated to the exposure and elevation of poetry, spoken word and the visual arts. She is also currently co-writing The Hole in the Wall, a piercing, Blues-tinged screenplay that delves into the bruised soul of a fatherless son in search of himself. Her provocative commentary appears in various publications and explores the interconnectivity of race, gender, politics and culture. Kirsten’s work can be found on ClutchMagazine.com (where an earlier version of this article appears), HuffingtonPost.com, AOLBlackVoices, Loop21.com, IllumeMagazine.com, BirthplaceMagazine.com and others. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @KWestSavali