Why Aren’t More of Y’all Filing For Divorce?

Confession: I liked Why Did I Get Married?. I saw it in a theater with family (as all Tyler Perry films should be viewed). Sadly, the theater wasn’t in Baltimore (my absolute favorite place to watch bad black films, because they’re always packed and interactive); it was in Grand Rapids, so the audience was sparse and there wasn’t as much gasping and yelling at the screen as I would’ve liked.

But even now, three years later, I still chuckle at how my jaw dropped, watching that dinner table scene where everyone’s secrets were revealed.

It was the first Tyler Perry movie that elicited a genuinely shocked and interested reaction—at least for a few minutes—rather than a smirk and an exaggerated eye-roll (like the Madea flicks and Daddy’s Little Girls). I actually scooted to the edge of my seat. I actually yelled aloud, “What the hell?” As embarrassing as this is to admit: that was kind of awesome.

Needless to say, I knew I’d see the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? as soon as I spotted the trailer with a bedraggled-looking Janet Jackson shattering all the glass in her living room. (“Perfect Patty messed up.” Heh.)

So there I was, yesterday morning, catching the four-dollar matinee in a near-empty theater. I wasn’t expecting much. One should never expect much from a Tyler Perry flick; that way, if you are surprised or entertained by anything, you feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth. (And three years later, you look back at his ability to get you to lean forward in surprise, when a wine bottle gets cracked over one of his characters’ heads and say, “That was kind of awesome.”)

From the first scene, I was treated to that trademark over-expositing Tyler Perry dialogue, though this time, it seemed even more grating, since this might be the first direct “sequel” he’s ever filmed. Though in a few of his other films, characters reappear, the WDIGM series is his first to have all nine principal actors from the first installment present in a second, reprising their roles and picking up their storylines a few years after they left off. As a result, there are a ton of scenes where actors are awkwardly shoehorning in statements like, “You remember what happened in Colorado…”

If you’ve seen the first WDIGM, you know that the films are split rather evenly into two parts: the marriage retreat and the post-retreat reality. In the first film, the retreat is cut short by the revelations of the aforementioned dinner table scene. This time out, the couples get to enjoy their vacation from start to finish, which means that the “shocker scenes” occur later in the film, after the couples have returned to the privacy of their homes.

In some ways, this is a little disappointing, as it’s always best when onscreen marital meltdowns are witnessed by the collective. But in other ways, these intimate arguments provide more nuance, as we’re let in on secrets the characters are obviously trying to hide from one another, as they lunch at fancy restaurants and band together to help a friend with an emotional breakdown (while secretly thanking their lucky stars their own lives haven’t spiraled quite this far out of control… yet). Plus, Perry manages to write his and Michael Jai White’s characters, Terry and Marcus, into a seriously crazed private scene between supposed marital gurus Patricia and Gavin (Jackson, Yoba)—and their reaction shots alone are worth the price of (my four-dollar) admission.

In the end, this film isn’t as fun as the first, its ending nowhere near as resolute or satisfying. In fact, a lot of the goodwill the first film engendered is undone by the end of the second. Tasha Smith’s loud-and-obnoxious act wears thin by the end of her first scene. Jill Scott’s Sheila and new husband, Troy (Lamman Rucker) have a cheesy, warmed over storyline ripped straight from the pages of the 1997 Soul Food script. And reformed abuser Mike (Richard T. Jones) falls victim to one of Perry’s most tiresome conventions: punishment for past sin, as manifested by diagnosis of terminal illness.

The most interesting couples, then, are Perry and Sharon Leal’s Terry and Dianne, who have improbably worked through all their serious issues from the first film… only to be faced with an infidelity, and Patricia and Gavin, who not only haven’t dealt with the death of their toddler, as they vowed to do in the first film, but have become so much more repressed in this film that they’re retreating into emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. (I could write an article unto itself on how disturbing Janet Jackson’s and Malik Yoba’s performances become by the end of this film*—and how pointless it was to direct these performances, since neither character seems to learn anything or seek help for his/her propensity for violence and degradation).

Unfortunately, neither of these interesting plots are fleshed out or resolved by the end of this movie. Instead, we get a really cheap final act and the rushed introduction of a new love interest (a relatively famous dude, completely new to the Tyler Perry universe) for one of the characters.

This introduction all but guarantees a third installment of this series, though as with many second films in a trilogy, this one dismantles the cool things about the first film in ways that a third film could never repair. The WDIGM series has an added challenge with the prospect of a third film; having unevenly tackled comedy and drama, this second film’s final act seemed to foray into something akin to horror… insomuch that, when the new guy swoops in to woo one of the women, you almost want to yell at him to run, don’t look back, and don’t go opening any skeleton-laden closets.

*Speaking of disturbing characteristics in this series, there’s an unnerving amount of violence in the lives of these “upper-middle-class” couples. From a husband choking his wife in the first film to Yoba’s creepy treatment of Jackson in this second, these people have no idea how to have acceptable, humane disagreements. And Perry’s message about marital violence remains rather unclear, as some of these incidents are played for laughs and others are supposed to be ignored, in order for us to root for these couples’ continued togetherness (… which is another fundamental problem with these films’ premise: it’s pretty clear that few of them know why they got married and even fewer of them should’ve in the first place.)

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slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: http://stacialbrown.com and here: http://beyondbabymamas.com.

24 comments to Why Aren’t More of Y’all Filing For Divorce?

  • Tristan

    I watched the first one hoping it wouldn’t be a campy messy like the rest of his flicks and well…I was horribly disappointed. I was amazed there was a sequel, but not surprised I guess. He gets these great casts and makes them perform the worst scripts this side of the Atlantic.

  • Ash

    I saw “The Family that Preys” in Philadelphia because my friend dragged me, and I must agree, seeing a Tyler Perry film in an urban theater definitely helps. This film sounds like something I should just get bootleg, though…if at all. I’m curious about the “For Colored Girls…” project, but, overall, I’m on team Spike. Perry’s movies always leave me conflicted because I want to support a black film, but I’m not sure if I want to support a bad one.

  • Ladyfresh

    four dollars!?

    • slb

      … too much? lol

      here, if you see a film before noon, it’s four dollars. after noon but before 5pm, it’s six.

      i wasn’t about to pay over four dollars for this.

      • Ladyfresh

        omg NO
        and i think i’m lenient on films now. i’ll see TP films happily with the family during holidays in their livingrooms…
        the ‘harshness’ comes in when i have to pay the full amount ($20.50 imax and $12.50-$14)
        but omg i’d go run out and see it now but yeah with the prices i’d have to pay i’ll be waiting til thanksgiving lol

        • slb

          i’ve seen many a bad flick with family. it’s the only way to watch something awful and still have a good time.

          but yeah, four-dollar early morning matinees are one of the perks of living in the midwest. i used to hate east coast movie prices.

  • Mudiwa

    I actually liked this one better than the first. As always, TP writes the best stuff for himself, and I found the subplot with him and Sharon Leal to be really nuanced and interesting. Although I agree with you about the improbability of their having fixed their issues so quickly, especially since their issue in the first one (her not wanting kids) had so much to do with power within relationships and gender roles. But of course, TP always comes down on the side of female submission, so it’s not that surprising.

    A friend and I were talking about the general pervasiveness of violence within TP films. And not just your run of the mill bar fight violence either. It’s safe to say that outside of horror or shoot em up flicks, TP has some of the most consistently horrifying violence in his films. I think what makes it especially jarring for me is that it’s always so bizarre. Like, his characters do some really sadistic, weird stuff to each other (I had to avert my eyes during the part where Gavin was holding Pat down because it was just too creepy for me). Moreover, the violence always freaks me out because it’s so out of place with his overall proselytizing about good Christian values and treating people well. In fact, when you think about how many TP films are about punishing men who treat their partners badly, there’s a fundamental dissonance there. My friend put it well I think, when she said that TP seems to condone or even advocate violence when it is committed by the right people for the right ends (Idris Elba in Daddy’s Little Girls, Kimberly Elise in Diary of a Mad Black Woman).

    Lastly, I would have liked this film a lot better if it hadn’t been for that last 30 seconds when they introduce the new character (I still can’t get over the decision to cast that dude, btw). It was just so corny and completely wasted whatever chance Jackson’s character had to learn from all the things that have happened to her. And it totally exposed whatever pretensions this film had of being serious (or at least serious for a TP flick).

    • slb

      i’m curious about why you liked this film better than the last. it seemed more rushed/thrown together.

      i fully agree with you about that gavin/patricia scene. it seemed entirely unwarranted and out-of-character (then again, we never knew much about the Gavin character. at all. so who knows? that might not have been the first time he’d done something like that…). i couldn’t look at the whole thing, either; it was so bizarre.

      my guess about why perry includes violence so cavalierly is because he witnessed a lot of domestic violence growing up and was the victim of it himself. even as he uses his characters as corrective agents for his own experience, he’s perpetuating the actions of his abusers (possibly unaware) by replicating so much of their behavior onscreen (and, at times, playing said behavior for laughs).

      • keke

        I completely agree with about the violence that Perry uses in his movies. I have been hesitant to bring up my views about the violence in his movies/plays because my family/friends know that I am not a TP fan and I always thought that people may look at it as yet another issue I have with Perry. I’ve even wondered that myself. But I think both you and Mudiwa are right. Although I have not seen WDIGM2, I noticed it in “Diary” and “The Family That Preys” and it made me uncomfortable.

        There was a scene in “Preys” when most of the main characters are in the diner having an argument. and in the midst of the argument the sanaa lathan character finally exposes the truth that her husband is not the biogical father of her son, then he smacks her! Now I know that the Sanaa lathan character was unbelievalbly evil and I had tons of problems with the way she was written. but i felt and still do that the scene where she gets smacked was supposed to a illicit a sense of “finally she got what she deserved” or “its about time he smacked her cause she is so horrible”. Basically saying, he should have done that a long time ago and put her in her place. I could be wrong, but I remember feeling so uncomfortable with the way that scene was set up.

        And honestly, I never thought about Perry’s history and experience of doemestic violence and it may very well be why he displays it so much in his films. It is an interesting way of looking at it, thanks for pointing that out.

        • slb

          i never saw The Family That Preys. there was something about it that turned me off… maybe the word “Prey” in the title. lol more than likely, though, i think it that one seemed underpromoted, compared to his other films and completely untethered from his previous work (like Daddy’s Little Girls was, and having seen that one, I figured I’d pass on another of his “experiment” films).

          in fact, ‘Too’ is the first of his flicks i’ve seen since the first Why Did I Get Married.

          i’m not surprised a woman got slapped in Preys, though–especially not a villain. mudiwa’s right; he does seem to “resolve” conflict with violence. and it’s strange. there’s a lot of revenge-via-illness, too. he seems to espouse this idea that when a person who’s done wrong is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he/she is getting what he/she deserves. (and then there’s a long sequence where the wronged party gets to be the bigger person by helping the ill villain convalesce).

          • keke

            Yes, you are not missing anything with “Preys” I ended up watching it one day I was lounging around the house with nothing to do and I watched alone ( big mistake!) and i was so frustrated with the movie. Mostly because of the wasted talents of actresses Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates, that just broke me cause I admire their work. But I was through with the Sanaa Lathan character and not *because* she was the villain, I happen to like villains. But because she was one of the dumbest, pathetic, and most unrealistic villains in film history! Lol, that is another post.

            but yes, the revenge through illness storyline bothers me too. it is the whole, you got what was coming to you. almost like it is a death sentence from God because he/she was such a horrible, awful, evil person. and now the individual has to damn near die in order to realize the error of his/her ways. it is problematic.

            I have a group of friends who want to see WDIGM2 this weekend. I haven’t hung out with them in a while but I don’t think I can watch this movie in theaters. I’m pretty sure I would ruin the experience for them with all of my huffing and puffing. I will just stay home…

        • Carverelle

          “Elicit” = “provoke”
          “Illicit” = “illegal, licentious”

          Otherwise good comment.

        • Mudiwa

          You’re totally right about Preys. That was one of the other films my friend brought up in our discussion about the bizarre violence in his films. And your comment brought out another element of it which makes me uncomfortable, the “she deserved it” undertone that frames the act. You can tell that TP wants his audience to enjoy the character’s comeuppance, even though the act itself it just so horrid and humiliating. It makes me feel weird to see how much he revels in punishing people for violating his moral code. He seems to believe that no violence is too extreme for people who have done immoral things.

  • Incognita

    I am still scratching my head over Janet Jackson’s character commanding everyone to have a “hug-it-out-fest” in the waiting room. It was if Tyler realized the film was approaching the 2-hour mark and desperately needed to tie up the unresolved couples’ issues in a neat bow. I guess having The Rock in a cameo role served two roles: 1. Ensure that women walked out of the theater felt better after replacing one fine man with another man and 2. Satisfying Tyler’s fetish for fine, shirtless, muscular men.

    • slb

      that hospital room scene (and the two scenes that followed, the one on the beach and the One Year Later) were so infuriatingly rushed! after sitting there that long, there should’ve been far, far more pay off.

      at least in the first film, the problems were resolved by the whole Make a List thing, followed by two whole scenes of reconciliation btwn characters. this was just people holding each other without discussing *anything* or apologizing for anything.

      and since we’re on the whole shirtless thing, it was so glaring in the beach scene with the four men, before Richard T. Jones showed up (… in paisley). Tyler Perry was the only one of the husbands with a shirt on. he’s sitting there staring at three shirtless men while he’s fully clothed; it’s weird.

      • ButImSayingTho...

        I can’t speak on Tyler Perry’s sexual preference, but I don’t think the reason why he had a shirt on was merely because he just wanted to stare at the other dudes… he’s just not in ‘shirtless’ shape. Malik and Michael Jai are cut like paper, and Lammar is pretty decent, but Tyler wasn’t trying to embarrass himself sitting there shirtless with those other cats. I’m not saying he’s a blob, but Tyler looks a bit ‘cushy’ (and furry) like a teddy bear. He needs a trainer and 3 months worth of sessions before he can roll with those dudes.

  • fufuandoreos

    I can’t understand why there is confusion about the violent scenes, especially Gavin/Patricia’s. He is a bold, Black, filmmaker, who is not afraid to highlight how unbelievable things may be. Domestic violence is real. And I liked that it was unbearable to watch. Isn’t that the point?

    I agree that the ending was rushed. And just, terribly, TERRIBLY awkward. In that way, it’s clear that Tyler is a stage director FIRST, film auteur later. I love him, though. I just see his films as good art.

    @slb. I wish I had seen it in Boston. I saw it outside of Boston and it was way too quiet. Only 12 people in the theater. Black films and Black plays are best enjoyed (sometimes) when there is a lot of us in one room. I would have loved to feel the collective response in the scene where Perfect Patty shows up like a killer in a horror film or the last scene were a certain FINE actor smiles that smile.

    Janet’s boobs were all over the place. (As was her acting). But I have to give her credit. Even though she was dealing with weight issues and spiritual hurt, she DID her job. And that’s life. She finished the movie.

  • Nicki

    I saw both the WDIGM movies. I definitely feel the first one was better written and did not leave me scratching my head at the end, trying to figure out what I had just seen. The “sequel” tried to do too much, resulting in not enough substance to any of the story lines. The ending did sit well with me, at all. In my opinion, TP takes a stereotype and goes over the top with it, turning the characters into caricatures. In WDIGM, we have the 1) overly understanding man who wants to be the hero; 2) the woman with a good job, good family and good man who is never satisfied; 3) the crazy, loud, obnoxious Black woman 4) the husband who puts up with craziness until he’s had enough, then he cheats or gets down on her low level; 5) the woman with low self-esteem who finds herself and then goes too far with the strong woman act; 6) the strong, “traditional” man who feels he needs to be the provider for the family, even as his “prideful” behavior places the family in jeopardy; and 7)the successful couple who outwardly seem to have it all together, but are in reality the most dysfunctional ones in the group. These are all valid personalities, but without more dimension and depth to them they just seem ridiculous.

  • slb

    Tyler Perry’s movies aren’t worth the price of full admission. Few films these days are. But that’s beside the point, as purcasing a ticket at matinee price is neither an indictment on my spending habits nor a determinant of any film’s worth. Also: this idea that if black audiences don’t “support” TP’s films, there won’t be any “black films” is a seriously flawed concept. For one, following your logic, the only films TP’s work will spawn are copycat TP films–films for “the average joe,” as you say. (And incidentally, the characters in his film rarely reflect true representations of “regular black ppl,” if such a thing can be defined.)

    Anyway, we don’t need other (bad) films by other black auteurs. TP can handle that market alone. But if we flock to his flicks and his alone, the business model suggests that black audiences like these thrown-together, undercooked projects and Hollywood should be greenlighting more of them, since they’re the only ones that gross.

    No one benefits from that.

  • Bohwe

    The movie was nice for a day out the house. On a superficial note: I hated the fashion for this one, in the first movie, the fashion was nice.

    And the new character will hopefully be a more positive one.

    But for some reason, Tyler Perry films thrive on negativity and negativity and more negativity.

    The movie had some funny parts, Tasha’s character was funny, and did what was expected of her. And Janet’s character was just I’m sad and can’t go on, but oh wait, there’s Mr.Perfect. Gavin who? that was funny.

  • Bohwe

    I think Janet personally selected that sexy mancandy The Rock. Cuz, that is the first time, I’ve ever seen Janet really smiling and cheesing. His fineness got the best of her, that day. lol Who can blame her? When he walked on screen, I was like yeah, the Rock. If TP decides to do a Part 3, hopefully if Rock and Janet are a couple, I hope that he isn’t abusive and they are actually a loving couple. Cuz every character in TP plays and movies, t.v. shows are like walking acid.

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