I watched the Tyler Perry film Acrimony earlier this week, and there were some themes throughout that troubled me. I’m not a movie critic so this won’t be a professional review. However, the undertones about black women made me wonder: “Is this what we really do?”
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, beware. There are a few spoilers ahead.
The story follows a young woman named Melinda, who falls in love with a charming young engineer named Robert. Robert has a dream of making it big with an invention for a self-charging battery. There’s just one problem. He doesn’t have the money to fund said dreams.
Melinda is the perfect match for him. After all, she’s just inherited a large lump sum from her mother’s death. $350k, to be exact. Robert woos Melinda in, and over the next two decades, he slowly drains her entire inheritance.
When Melinda gets fed up with Robert’s lack of financial contribution and suspected cheating, she files for divorce. No sooner than the ink dries on the divorce papers, Robert’s idea finally makes the millions he’s been dreaming of. He feels bad for all that he put his ex-wife through, so he gives her a portion of the money. Melinda takes this as a sign that Robert wants to reconcile, but he’s moved on to a new woman.
What occurs after this is over-the-top and irrelevant to the point of this post, so I’ll stop there. The events that transpired between this couple only compacted the frustration I feel about society’s expectations of black women. Here are some of the stereotypes I’m tired of seeing.
Black Women Being Financially Illiterate
This movie isn’t the first (and probably won’t be the last) that portrays a young naïve black woman blowing all of her money on a man. As the scenes went on and the numbers in Melinda’s bank account depleted, I kept asking, “How?” $350k is more money than most of us will see in a lifetime, yet she went through it like it was a few hundred bucks.
At one point, she agrees to mortgage her mother’s paid-off house because she’s “in too deep” to say no to her husband. Wait…what? I don’t know if there is ever a place “too deep” to justify jeopardizing property that’s already paid for. Certainly not a man who’s been chasing the same dream for 20 years.
Although the amount of money Melinda gained and then lost was likely mentioned for dramatic purposes, it highlights the idea that black women will spend their last dollar to please their partner. Why is this often the narrative for us? Everyone makes dumb decisions, but the notion that black women will always risk their own financial wellbeing feels like a slap in the face.
We’re expected to buy into the belief that black women are so desperate for love that they will sacrifice everything without putting so much as one red cent away for a rainy day. This may be true in some cases, but I personally know savvy black women who love their partners and still take the necessary measures to protect their hearts—and pockets.
We “Give Up” Easily
One of the oddest parts of the movie was how unquestionably dedicated Robert’s old college fling was to him before and after his divorce. When she learns he’s been living in a homeless shelter, she quickly offers to let him stay at her house. She also negotiates the deal that lands Robert millions for his invention, and eventually reaps all of the benefits of his subsequent fortune.
Meanwhile, Melinda torments herself by stalking the social media profiles of her ex-husband and his fiancée. She rants about how this new woman is living “her life” and profiting from all the years and work that Melinda put into supporting her ex.
This moment implies that if Melinda would have just waited a little longer, she would have been the one living a luxurious lifestyle with Robert. It essentially downplays her legitimate frustrations with Robert prior to their divorce. It also sends a dangerous subliminal message for women to hold out in unhappy relationships for a possible big payday in the future.
Robert gives Melinda $10 million as an apology for his financial shortcomings during their marriage. In spite of this, Melinda still lives as if she’s in poverty and focuses only on seeking revenge against Robert and his future wife.
Her refusal to move forward with her life plays into the stereotype that black women are never satisfied. I can imagine Tyler Perry smiling smugly to himself as he says, “Look! She got $10 million and she’s STILL not happy!”
I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at this scenario. I don’t know any woman who would receive millions of dollars from her ex with no strings attached, and still be obsessed with ruining his life. It’s clear there are some mental health issues taking place, but the plot is far too ridiculous to address those issues seriously.
When Does It End?
I know when it comes to discussions like this, some reactions will be: “It’s just a movie.” I get that, but we know by now that entertainment and media have a big influence on everyday people. With that said, it’s disappointing to see the same story over and over again.
When will it become the norm to portray black women as intelligent, levelheaded human beings who can function without a financially and emotionally draining significant other? When will we stop nurturing the mentality that black women lose all common sense in the name of love?
Taraji P. Henson, who plays the Melinda character, stated there are women out in the world who need this story “because they identify with it.” This may be true; however, I think there are more black women in the world who need a different story.
Featured Image: Ray Cornelius