Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Redemption Rejected

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Diary of a Mad Black Woman
and Redemption Rejected

My wife graciously released me this morning, after a vicious battle with my boys in a game of Star Wars Attactix. She reminded me that the local East Lake Diner in McDonough had WiFi and that I had email to check and respond to.

As I sit purveying the view, I see the rather ironic scene of bikini-clad teenage girls in the parking lot doing a church car wash. And in the bowl next to my blue Italian leather love seat I am praying for a goldfish I'll call "Lucky", so named because somehow he is surviving in the water clouded with his own waste. A word to the management about poor Lucky is in order after this post.

My wife also informed me, however, that I needed to be back by lunch because she, her mother, and our daughter needed to attend to a pedicure this afternoon. So as I sip on my decaf Mocha, I thought it a great time to blog my thoughts about the latest movie I did not enjoy.

Monday night, after the rest of the house-packing had been completed, we settled down around 10:00 pm for a movie recommended by my sister-in-law. We share a very wierd sense of humor and pretty much enjoy the same taste in comedy. Movies like Napoleon Dynamite, Elf, Corky Romano, Major Pain, et. al. keep us rolling on the floor laughing no matter how many times we've seen them. She had seen Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and thought I would enjoy it. She was partially correct.

The centerpiece of humor in the movie is the grandmother named Madea, played by comedic genious Perry Tyler (who also plays other characters in the movie such as Madea's trash-minded, Viagra-popping, very much older brother, Joe). The humor my sister-in-law knew I would appreciate is the black southern heritage, particularly focused in Georgia. The movie was filmed entirely on location in Atlanta, I heard, where much of my life has been centered. The contrasts of negro spirituality versus poverty-influenced drug and gang infiltration display clearly the struggle that these dear people experience in their neighborhoods every single day of the week. And Madea's larger than life presence in such a neighborhood definitely gives the otherwise dramatic plot some welcome comedy relief. Getting past the 187 plus occurrences of Madea's favorite question, "what the hell?" may be tough for some (no, I didn't count, but it seemed like the oft-repeated favorite expression in this movie...beyond that there was no other foul language I recalled). But her behavior is most definitely in keeping with one who seems to have shrugged off all forms of religion, having determined that Jesus' words "peace be still" as found in the red words of the "new testimony" mean to her that peace comes best with her steel, referring to her 9mm handgun she kept in her purse and used quite often.

The movie itself has a simple plot. Helen, Madea's granddaughter, married for some 18 years to a self-made millionaire lawyer, named Charles, has tried her entire marriage to please her husband. But having found her no longer desirous he finds his love elsewhere, rejecting intimacy with her for over a year, and eventually bringing his new 'love' home with him unashamedly. That scene turns into a knock-down-drag-out, kicking and screaming scenario where he literally throws her out of the house.

She is met by Orlando who has been paid by Charles to pack a U-Haul with all her belongings. Eventually, their relationships turns from scorn to love, her life turns from the dump toward normalcy, and her diary records their typical infatuation with each other, surprisingly excluding any immorality. All of this happens while the divorce papers are not yet signed. The redeeming value in this relationship is the other renewing relationship which Helen experiences with her own mother, played by Cicely Tyson, a God-fearing, deeply religious woman who seems to truly cherish the Bible.

There are two moments of redemption in the movie. The first is when Orlando proposes to Helen. But as she considers her answer, she eyes the evening news which replays a courtroom scene where Charles, has been shot by a drug-dealer whom he was unable to acquit. Frantic, she leaves Orlando and heads for the hospital. From there she cares for him, takes him home, feeds him, cleans him, and plays the role of a loving wife, expressing true love for her quadraplegic husband despite what he put her through.

But the redemption is rejected the first time, thanks to the worldly influence of Madea. She encourages Helen to take advantage of the situation by teaching him a lesson. While Helen is attempting to sort through some bank records in Charles' home office, he begins his verbal abuse all over again and screams at her to get out. As she makes her way out, broken once more, something triggers inside that causes her to become the angry black woman entitled in the movie. She picks up a Fisher Price baseball bat and begins smashing much of the room, even beating his paralyzed legs as he sat in a wheelchair. There she leaves him, for four days, for him to think about his treatment of someone who loved him so much.

What follows is a return of evil for evil. She mistreats him as much as he ever mistreated her. And in an effort to help quell the revenge, Helen's mother (Tyson), reads from the Bible on Sunday after church at Madea's kitchen table, and Helen's heart is turned away from revenge and back toward her husband. A few Sundays later, Charles is at church, redeemed from his sinfulness, and even Helen's drug-addicted sister is found entering the church worshiping God once more. Afterwards, they are all sitting around Madea's dinner table enjoying some soul-food for Sunday afternoon lunch.

If the movie ended there, redemption would have won. But for a second time, it is rejected. And again, it is Madea's influence that seems to have won over above Helen's godly mother. As Helen and Charles sit side by side at the dinner table, she asks his forgiveness for the way she treated him. He stated he already had. And then she asked his forgiveness for what she was about to do. Pulling out the divorce papers, and laying her wedding ring on top, she handed him a pen and told him she was in love with someone else. With that, she kissed him on the forehead, got up, headed for Orlando's shop, and met him there with a resounding "yes" to his proposal. Charles is left with his jaw hanging down to the dinner table, and so was mine.

My ill-fated, and poorly-written review of this movie gives us just one more example of how we cannot look to Hollywood to get it right for us about the subject of redemption. Whatever humor there was in the movie was overshadowed, for me, by a twice-offered redemption that was outright rejected. And for what? In favor of 'love.' Helen displayed true gospel-love toward her husband when she cared for him so selflessly. And she continued to display it when she turned from her spiteful revenge back to selfless love. But she rejected it in the end for a 'love' that was not love at all. This is a prime example of how Hollywood succesfully redefines core gospel-centered values for its audience and wealthily succeeds in the process.

So as I proposed about Million Dollar Baby, watch the movie and when you get to the dinner table scene, cut it off and enjoy what you enjoyed thus far. And don't rely on Hollywood for any helps in building bridges to the lost when it comes to the gospel of Christ. Stick with Hollywood for entertainment, and only when it seems to offer the values demanded by Philippians 4:8.

The next movie I hope to blog about, and possibly give a better report on, is the one recently purchased by grandma, Because of Winn Dixie, whose opening scene of Jeff Daniels (of Dumb and Dumber fame) as a preacher holding service in a convenience store held my devoted attention much longer than any other movie in long time!

So in the end, the sister-in-law who recommended the movie, has now showed up at the Diner here to tell me my wife needs the mini-van so the ladies can get their feet looking and smelling nice. Must be a woman-thing. I'm quite certain that a pedicure for the likes of my toe nails would probably include a pair of hedge clippers and a masonry saw. I'd better get out o'here!

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