By Tyler Lewis
I want to thank Alyssa for inviting me to guest post this week. Truly an honor. I will try to be as thoughtful, interesting, and amazing as she so often is here.
I have always had complicated feelings for the film, The Best Man. In terms of sheer enjoyment, it’s one of the finest black films of its type. It’s filled with characters that feel real, played by gifted actors (Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut and Terrence Howard, to name a few) who have rarely had the opportunity before or since to be glamorous and human at the same time.
The film has those rare screen moments that stick with you long after the film is over and are just as pleasurable upon repeated viewings. That first shot introducing Morris Chestnut as Lance Sullivan. When Terrence Howard turns the guitar upside down and keeps playing it, never missing a beat. Harold Perrineau’s reaction to Regina Hall’s striptease. So many great moments.
But it’s an extremely sexist film. Almost retrogressive in its depiction of black women and the way black men don’t see women as human beings. I mean, the film hinges on the fact that a total slut like Lance Sullivan is such a chauvinist that the very idea of his bride having a sexual past sends him into a blind rage and makes him question whether or not she’s worthy of him. It’s a film that continues to suggest that driven career black women are unworthy of love. Career woman Jordan Armstrong (played by Long), is the only woman to ends the film alone, even as the stripper with the heart of gold and the emasculating shrew each end up with a man.
Worse, none of the women in The Best Man are terribly well-drawn. This is by design since each woman is a type – the not-so innocent innocent, the emasculating shrew, and, yes, the stripper with the heart of gold – that exists solely to receive the men when they grow up just enough to deserve them.
So if it is true that Malcolm D. Lee is making a sequel to the film, I really hope he does better by the female characters and the actresses who portray them this time around by fleshing them out so they are real, flesh-and-blood black women. But, man, if Jordan is still alone – and her singledom is solely because she’s got a job and doesn’t “need a man” – that would be truly awful. And it wouldn’t be worth Nia Long’s time to reprise the role. If Lee is smart, he’ll make the sequel about Jordan.