Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shame, Shame...

Take it from me, if you're not careful, being a gay man in your thirties can lead to some pretty reckless behavior.  One minute you're cancelling plans so you can lie on the sofa and catch up on the Betty Draper Chronicles, sitting there stone-faced, binge eating marshmallows and drinking Miller 64s (they delicious with just a spash of bloody mary mix - try it!) - the next minute, you're passed out with a black eye wearing a soiled, over-sized cashmere sweater in some stranger's bathtub.  Tricky.  Very tricky.

Sometimes, I feel out of control and reckless.  I'm starting to feel like the female protagonist in Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.  It wasn't very well publicized for fear of alienating Mr. Perry's audience base, but said film was actually a remake of Andrzej  Zulawski's Eastern European body-horror classic, Possession (1981).   

Possession and Tyler Perry’s Temptation are both histrionic explorations of the dissolution of a once happy marriage. Possession features a gorgeous actress, Isabelle Adjani, playing a woman in the final stages of a loveless marriage to the Antichrist (Sam Neill).  Temptation features a gorgeous actress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, playing a woman in the final stages of a listless marriage to a wholesome Christian pharmacist who wears sweaters that zip down the front.

"He gon' take you straight t'Hell."

To different ends, these films both brazenly assert that women have sexual urges for which they (obviously) must be punished.  Men are martyrs, victimized by women who no longer wish to be at their beck and call.  In Temptation, Jurnee is repeatedly chastised for not cooking for her husband, despite the fact that she works more hours than him in a much more demanding profession.  What a selfish bitch.

"I can't exist by myself because I'm afraid of myself.  I'm the maker of my own evil."

Tyler Perry repeatedly allows his lens to linger on two different muscular, and oftentimes shirtless, Black men.  As noted heterosexual directors are wont to do, Mr Perry makes sure they are adequately baby-oiled throughout.  Early on in Tyler Perry's Temptation, the leaner, richer of the two shirtless muscled black men unleashes the untold fury of racial oppression on an otherwise innocent white man in the park.  Similarly, in Possession, Sam Neill drowns his rival in a public toilet after showing us his bum; he grows facial hair and lacerates himself with an electric meat carver to indicate emotional distress.   In Temptation, shamed beauty-queen, Vanessa Williams wears a poodle wig and speaks in a fake-French accent like PePe LePew.

In Possession, we track our heroine's descent into madness, watching her bring men to her rented flat across town, vacant except for a soiled mattress where she kills and feeds the essence of her victims to a monster that lives in her closet.  In Temptation, Jurnee starts wearing heels and lipstick and getting blow-outs.  Isabelle Adjani keeps leftover body parts in her refrigerator.  Jurnee Smollett-Bell stops going to church.  

Jurnee's husband forgets her birthday and shames her for wanting to have sex with him in their kitchen so she takes a private plane to New Orleans with a richer, leaner black man.  In Possession, Isabelle miscarries a malevolent entity in an underground subway tunnel - screaming and thrashing about while leaking blood and demonic ooze out of multiple orifices.

Possession prominently features a tentacled Hell-Beast that can only be satiated when devouring man-flesh.  Temptation prominently features Kim Kardassian.  They’re basically the same movie.

In Possession, Isabelle has consensual sex with the tentacled Hell-Beast and their lust manifests a dark-mirror-version of Sam Neill.  In Temptation, Jurnee gets beaten and left for dead in a bathtub after catching AIDS from getting sexually assaulted against her will on a private plane.  Rest assured, she had it coming - she drank two sips of champagne!

Tyler did change a few things to make his reboot more appropriate for his median audience.  In Possession, Isabelle Adjani has a mirror-self which is Isabelle Adjani wearing contacts and a lighter wig.  Good Isabelle attends to her son and keeps Sam Neil company while Evil Isabelle is off across town living in sin.  

Since the only actor allowed to play multiple roles in a Tyler Perry joint is Tyler Perry, the double in Temptation is played by Brandy!  In Temptation, Brandy is the dark mirror to Jurnee's character - living in a filthy garret apartment with no furniture.  Brandy was once wanton in her sexuality.  She loved getting that fine muscle dick until she wound up with AIDS - now she works at a pharmacy with Nanny Fine's mother and wears a lot of earth tones.

"Thank you so much for sharing this story with me.  I'm gonna end this almost-affair and stay with my husband."

Anyone who has survived the dissolution of a primary care relationship knows that playing victim and placing blame is commonplace.  People and circumstances change over time - both parties contribute to the equation.   Breakups induce a chemical withdrawal that can leave us feeling more than a little unhinged.   Possession is a movie for adults; it doesn't presume to dictate right or wrong.   It dives headfirst into that mania and leaves us to pick up the pieces in the rubble.   Isabelle Adjani always has the upper hand, alternatively laughing and screaming at the concept of being possessed by a man. She is no man's property.

The same cannot be said for Jurnee in Temptation, a film that posits women who are dissatisfied with their relationships are clap-having harlots who must be punished.

Jurnee is cast out for trying to better herself.  She's publicly shamed for trying to grow and having the gall to aspire above her station.  Tyler Perry says that a woman who strives for greatness will end up alone and ugly with short hair and dark lipstick, doomed to suffer the further indignity of having to get her AIDS medicine from the pharmacy where her Good Christian ex-husband works now living happily ever after with his new, younger wife and children.  

"I hate fags who hate women."
-Madonna, Truth of Dare

My favorite moment in Tyler Perry's misguided epic, The Family that Preys, is when Miss Robin Givens - decked out as high powered executive named Abigail , says to Miss Sanaa Lathan, "It's sisters like you that give us all a bad name".  Correct.  That's exactly how I feel about Tyler Perry.  I, for one, don’t want to watch any more Tyler Perry movies anymore because, unlike Mr Perry, I don't hate myself.  Each of his "films" is more regressive than the last.  This man in a dress is actually dangerous to women.  His backwards moralizing and casual misogyny is deplorable and aggressive and could only come from the most hateful of hearts.  If you don't believe me, just check out Lindy West's brilliant piece on the subject over at Jezebel.  

Watch Possession because it's a riot.  It's the perfect Lovecraftian mash-up of Nicholas Roeg and David Cronenberg.  Find a copy and share it with your friends.   Sharing our favorite things and educating against intolerance is how we can show love and that will always win in the end.  Love is love.  So whether it’s taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday to eat a bag of marshmallows in front of the TV or fleeing a suffocating relationship, be sure to take good care of yourself.  No one else can tell you what’s right for you.  

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