From time to time, I have been asked to recommend a movie involving abuse and a movie that might explain why some people choose to hide their true emotions about their abusive partners. The more that I think about it, there is one movie in particular that I truly believe touches on all aspects of emotional and physical abuse; and I recommend this movie for anyone who suspects or has been a victim to domestic violence. In addition, I believe this movie will help abusers to self-identify with their own behaviors and actions and hopefully, it will encourage them to seek help. I have also been asked to explain any of my recommendations.
I chose the movie, “For Colored Girls” for the simple reason that it was directed by one of my favorite actors and directors, Tyler Perry. But, do not let the title misguide you because the main theme of the movie applies to everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. When I first decided to watch this movie, I was sold the very moment that I learned Tyler Perry was involved with the project. At first, I though okay, this will be a movie that is both drama and comedy with Tyler Perry playing the comedic character or Madea, a crazy, older female and a role that he has played in several of his movies. However, while Tyler Perry directed, produced, and was one of the writers for this movie, he did not have an acting role.
This movie reminded me of movie “Crash” in which, the lives of strangers meet expectantly but seem to intertwine through parallel life stories. With “For Colored Girls,” not all of the characters were strangers but rather they were friends of friends or their lives were touched by their jobs and similar life styles. I did find this movie predictable but not as one would imagine. In fact, I would call it a typical predictable movie, like horror movies for example, where I can usually figure out the plot early in the movie or guess what is going to happen next based on other movies in the genre. The reason why this movie was predictable for me, and why I was hooked to the very end, was that the storyline and the overwhelming experiences by the characters was impart, my area of experience as a Criminologist.
In 2009, I had a book published on profiling sex offenders and abusers of domestic violence. Even though, my book is written as nonfiction and this movie was probably fictional, the fact remains that the experiences that these women faced was based on nonfiction stories; for anyone who has ever been a victim or survivor of abuse or sexual assault. That said, while watching the movie, I found myself profiling practically everyone in the movie, with exception to the character of ‘Jo,’ an advertising executive, played by Janet Jackson. I must admit that the ending through a curve ball for which I did not see coming.
To be honest, I thought for sure that the Jo’s spouse was a drug dealer and that he lost all of the money from their life savings to drugs. To clarify, I did not come to this conclusion based on the color of his skin but rather by the beginning of the movie when the police were given a BOLO (Be on the Look Out) for a silver Mercedes in an alley that was suspected to be drug related. As the movie unfolded at the end, Jo’s husband, Carl, was not waiting to sell or buy drugs but likely waiting for a male prostitute at an isolated meeting place to hide his own homophobic tendencies.
But, what I really liked and found to be tearful was when Jo asked her husband if he was gay. She had her suspicions but what really made the scene realistic was the way they interacted with each other, which was cold but certainly kept the blood boiling. They could not even face each other during the conversation. She may have been civil when she asked him but really, she had confronted him in a way, where she was wondering if it was somehow her fault. Did she do something to cause him to pull away from her, or was this simply some dark secret that he always knew he had inside of him.
I suspect that the reason that she could not face him was probably because she felt betrayed and hurt. Not to mention that, when she did ask him if he was having an affair, at no time had she asked, “Who is she?” or “What is her name?” I think that she suspected an affair for months and maybe even for years but what validated her reservations was when she was diagnosed as HIV positive from a routine blood test by her Gynecologist. I think that in the way that Jackson’s character was portrayed through the first half of the movie, which was cold and almost shut off to the rest of the world, and someone who could careless why her assistant was always late to work. She had a chip on her shoulder and the attitude of, “Oh great, my assistant is late for work again, gee I wonder what her excuse will be this time?” rather than take the time to ask her assistant if she was having any personal issues?
Furthermore, when Joe was asked by Juanita, a woman from a support group, to donate money for a cause whether good or not, she simply felt, “Oh great, another charity case;” and rather than take the time to listen to this woman, Jo practically called security to have the woman removed from her office and this was after making the woman wait for over an hour in the lobby to even be seen. That said, Jo probably never bothered to take the time to educate herself on the subject of HIV and AIDS; because, her first instinct was to ask her husband, “Are you gay?” At the very least, her husband could have contracted the virus from another woman.
Notwithstanding, Carl, could not face Jo during his self-disclosure. I think that part of this was because he could not even admit to himself that he was gay or possibly bi-sexual. When Jo asked him point blank if he was gay, his immediate response was very defensive and deflective. He even asked Jo, “How can you ask me that?” They both knew that this was a rhetorical statement but at the same time, he practically blamed Jo for the reason that he liked feeling the pleasure of having sex with other men even though he claimed not to be attracted to men. I chalk this justification up to any male who is not in touch with his sensitive side and who would feel like they were backed into a corner with their manhood being tested.
Several times through the movie, Carl accused Jo of trying to control him when in reality she was just an outlet for him. But, leave it to Tyler Perry to remind people that some people still do not realize how difficult it is for some men, who consider themselves to have the ‘real men mentality,’ where they have been taught not to show emotions without being accused of the very thing that they are trying to hide. In this case, Jo asked her husband, why he would marry a woman if he is gay. That is just it; some people would rather live a lie than be honest with themselves and others.
As for profiling the other characters, I felt as if Alice was not as crazy or eccentric as one might have thought. In fact, leading up to the scene where her eldest daughter, Tangie, talked about her own abortion, I suspected that Alice’s antics about the devil and demons, were actually a representation about another reality that she had created in her mind from when she was a child. I suspected that Alice was either the victim of incest by her father, grandfather, or she was raped by her husband many years ago and rather than seek counseling, she remained a victim in her mind. So, instead, she sits in the corner of a room, rocking herself in a fetal position with tears of hopelessness, and the only way that she can run away from her problems is to in her mind leaving only her thoughts to keep her sane.
With some victims, they often feel as if this was somehow their fault and some of these individuals will take this guilt to another level, where they begin to think the worst of themselves; and there is nothing more frightening to them, than the devil itself. After time, the mind begins to play tricks and they have difficulty distinguishing what is reality. As for Alice, she probably felt so much guilt to where she had done something so wrong to have caused her never ending nightmare. Instead, she felt as if a demon could cause her to have harmful intentions towards herself and probably figured that the devil would do the same to her children. I think that on some level, Alice had good intentions when she tried to cleanse her younger daughter’s soul of whatever devilish thoughts that she was experiencing. However, to others, Alice was just some crazy woman speaking gibberish.
As for Alice’s younger daughter, Nyla, Alice wanted to believe that she was capable of so many great things and that she was nothing like Tangie. When Nyla asked her mother for money to help pay for her college application fee, at first I thought, okay; here is a mother who would do anything to help her daughter’s dreams to come true even if she needed to beg for money on the streets or ask Tangie for a loan. The moment that Nyla asked for $300 is when I suspected that the money was for something other than a college application. I validated my suspicions when Alice suggested that her daughter ask, Yasmine (Nyla’s school counselor or teacher), if the college would accept a partial payment towards the application fee and like a typical teenager who is trying to hide something from their parents, Nyla was quick to say, “No.”
At first, I thought that $300 was an expensive fee when most college applications tend to be between $50-100; yet, giving her the benefit of the doubt, Nyla could have applied to an Ivy League college where the fees were more expensive than mos. However, I began to pick up on other subtle cues; such as, when there was the mention of a scholarship. Typically, scholarships are for those in need of financial need and at the very least an application and essay may be required but any ligament scholarship is not going to ask for money to receive money. Another classic cue is the art of deception with one’s body language.
While technically eye and head movement can depend on several variables like whether someone is right or left handed, the common deductive reasoning suggests that if someone is asked a question and they look away, or down and to the right, as did Nyla when Alice suggested making a partial payment, her body language suggested that she was being deceptive by thinking about how she could best answer without seeming as if she was lying. Had she looked up and to the right would have suggested a high probability of truthfulness because she would be searching for a memory, while respectfully looking at her mother with confidence. Whereas, if she were to look up and to the left, this would have suggested that she would be thinking of a memory but also thinking of a way to manipulate the truth; however, if she had looked down and to the left, there would have been a high probability of deceit. I had suspected that either Nyla was pregnant or that she needed the money for a friend in a similar situation.
With Tangie, the fact that she was picking up random guys at a bar where she was a bartender did not seem like abnormal behavior until she began making comments to these guys about how she did not plan to see them ever again (one night stand), or how she did not know or could care less what their names were, or if they even knew what her name was. I began to suspect something out of the ordinary when Tangie was accused of being a prostitute by one of the barflies that she had brought home to have sex.
The fact that she gave the appearance of someone who would hustle men for sex seemed logical at the time, however; the moment that she felt branded with disgust by a man who offered to go to the ATM for more money to pay her for services rendered, was like a complete 180 in my mind! When she said that she just likes to have sex, I began to wonder if there was some underlying reason to this addiction of hers. In comparison, she was like the character of Charlie Harper on the television show, “Two and a Half Men,” where he also had a sex addiction but he was a narcissist. The difference is that while he did not seem to care for all of the women he had sex with, he did care about himself; whereas, with Tangie she did not seem to care about herself or the men that she had sex with. It was at this point that I began to wonder if Tangie was a victim from some type of sexual encounter in her past but not just a single act of sexual assault, instead, she would have been raped repeatedly by someone close to her like a close relative.
Victimization without Help
Often victims of child related sexual abuse, which do not seek counseling throughout life, will often seek out relationships of sexual abuse because this is the only lifestyle that they know. This is not because they wish to be victims all over again but rather that, this maybe the only form of love that they know exists. Therefore, with Tangie, if she was raped by a close family member when she was a child and ‘they’ are no longer a part of her life, there may be a part of her that misses that physical connection but not necessarily for the person associated with the sex. The sex itself would be like an outlet that she escapes to. She literally lusts for that sexual encounter but not by the same man every time. In a way, a different man every time could be her way of thinking that she ‘got away from him’ on some surface.
This theory actually comes to light when Alice and Tangie have some long overdue heart-to-heart conversation about their past. Alice begins to talk about her past when she was sexually abused and soon begins to realize that Tangie was also raped by the same individual. While they never disclose whether the rapist was Alice’s husband, father, brother, or cousin, I suspect that this may be a reason why the two women seem to share hatred for each other.
As suspected, when Yasmine’s gentleman friend came over to her apartment, she was so appreciative of his gesture by the flowers that she was smiling and felt like there was a breath of fresh air in the room. Yet, the stench in the air quickly changed and like a sudden but horrible thunderstorm, a tornado ripped right through her soul, as he stood in her kitchen and began stripping. Naturally, she looked confused when he removed his shirt and then out of nowhere, he dropped his pants and went after her. When she was at the hospital and undergoing a rape examination, I felt as if the police detective had victimized Yasmine all over again. He began asking her questions but he seemed redirect the blame on to her rather than asking how she was, and if had someone that she could call, etc.
When the detective asked if she did or said something, or was wearing clothing that may have suggested she had asked for the sex, I felt as if this movie was set back about 20-years ago when people made the blind assumption that if a woman wears provocative clothing then she asks for it, and that that women send mixed signals. The part that was even more upsetting is that the detective’s wife, Kelly, is a social worker, so I would think that he would be more aware of empathy towards victims of rape.
Military Veteran PTSD and abusive encounters
Crystal’s boyfriend, Beau was the father of her two children, and a military veteran. While the story did not touch on the reason for his veteran status, I suspect that he had suffered some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the war. He was unemployed and a drunk. Actually, he physically abused Crystal and the children as an outlet for his anger. Despite claiming that he was not an alcoholic, booze was like Popeye’s spinach to him; only instead of doing something positive with his source of power, he only reinforced the anger inside of him which led to jealously and mistrust of Chrystal.
Later, the boyfriend discovered that a social worker, Kelly, was called to his home to check on the children but he became angry and hostile towards her, because he had been requesting a representative to help with his veteran affairs for some time and did not feel that the children needed to be a priority over his. As Kelly was leaving, Gilda stated that he abuses the children and Chrystal all the time. Gilda was the person who called social service and someone who is like a nosy neighbor who meddles in with other peoples’ problems but in a good way.
After being beaten by Beau, Chrystal exits her apartment while attempting to cover up her bruises with makeup. Meanwhile, Jo is wondering what is taking Chrystal so long to get a couple of things. However, just as Chrystal is about to go downstairs, she looks over to her left, and sees Beau inside Gilda’s apartment. Beau is sitting in a chair at the kitchen table while holding the children. Having just been physically attacked by Beau, and now worried about the safety of her children, Chrystal attempts protect them from being assaulted as well. When she enters the apartment, Beau has this smirk look on his face like, ‘Yeah, I may have hit you but as you can see I did not mean to do it – see me sitting with my children as a loving father.’ Nonetheless, Chrystal cautiously pulls the children away from his and takes them to sit with her at a nearby chair.
Typically, when a spouse has been abused, children tend to pick up on the abuse. Moments later, the older daughter who is about five-years old, walks over to her father and attempts to be the voice of reason by asking her father not to hit her mother because he, loves her, and knows that it is wrong. In spite of that, this leads to a struggle between Beau and Chrystal. Gilda soon realizes that Beau is out of control and begins to frantically call for help from nearby strangers. To make things worse, Beau is seen dangling both of his kids outside of a window while forcefully grabbing one wrist of each child. Chrystal is crying and yelling at Beau while at the same time trying to grab her children and pull them back inside.
Conclusion (movie ending)*
The movie ends with Yasmine, Jo, Nyla, Alice, Tangie, Chrystal, and Juanita on a rooftop and like a support group for victims, they soon realized that they would no longer be victims but instead survivors. Yasmine talked about how her innocence was stolen from her, “A rapist doesn't have to be a stranger to be legitimate [he can be] someone you never saw. [This is] a man with obvious problems. But if you [have] been public with him, danced one dance, kissed him goodbye lightly with a closed mouth, pressing charges will be as hard as keeping your legs closed while five fools try and run a train on you. These men [could even be] friends of ours, who smile nicely, take you out to dinner, then [out of nowhere, they] lock the door behind you!”