Tyler Perry knows nobody has time for that artsy Moonlight-type nonsense. All we want to do is scream, and shout and let it all out. Which is why, like everything Tyler Perry creates, Acrimony was designed to get tongues wagging. And wag they have.What nobody can explain though is how a conversation about Acrimony ends up as a discussion about many other things, including Falz’s new (not so new now) viral video, the Polish English novelist Joseph Conrad and interestingly enough, the nature of art in our society. Dig in.
Kayode: So guys, we all seen Acrimony?
Maskuraid: No, deliberately.
Eniola: No, deliberately.
Jumoke: No, deliberately.
Mobi: No, deliberately.
‘Kayode: Where did I find all of you? Why though?
Jumoke: Really can’t be bothered.
Kayode: With movies in general or Tyler Perry in particular?
Jumoke: With movies in general, plus this particular movie. I don’t like movies before now; and you think I’ll waste my time watching one that will make me angry. Everyone I know has been angry after watching it.
Maskuraid: I just don’t like being coerced by popular opinion and hype.
Jumoke: You know the movie has a lot of controversy. Opposing sides with different forms of anger.
Kayode: If I slept through most of it, does that still qualify as watching? I was awake enough to note that someone asked for a divorce and got it and got mad though. So, the controversy has been somewhat amusing to me. At least what little of it has strayed on to my WhatsApp.
Niyi: Imagine spending my time watching a Tyler Perry movie. Not me.
Niyi: Uncle, you slept through most of it.
Jumoke: Amusing? You just admitted you didn’t watch most of it. How do you know the controversy is unnecessary?
Kayode: Because I think I saw all the important bits.
Niyi: But how do you know that if you were asleep through most of it?
Kayode: Well, I watched with someone who was quite awake, and they didn’t really dispute my findings. Well, not at first. By the way, that kind of argument is how I came to get the best head I’ve ever gotten in my life. Story for another day.
But isn’t Acrimony a reflection of real life? You date a guy for a few years, eating noodles and boiled eggs while cruising okada around town. And when you breakup, dude hammers big time and some other chick comes in to enjoy the goodies. I may be oversimplifying though but you get the point.
Taiwo: I don’t know about other people’s anger. Me I wasn’t angry after watching it. And yes, I had no cinematic audience to convince me otherwise. I enjoyed the controversy though.
Kayode: Shade well noted. So, where do you stand Taiwo?
Taiwo: So, the woman is stupid, from a particular point on. And the man is a leech. How do you have a partner who doesn’t contribute anything in the home in the course of 15-20 years? Not even his own upkeep? Not even something minimal? And you’re not worried about his state of mind. Okay, so he is inventing something; if you weren’t there to finance his everyday, wouldn’t he get a day job?
Then she asks for a divorce which I think is great by the way. Then he makes it, and she’s back on the queue to getting him back? This one confused me o. I think she sued him for the wrong reasons. She was asking for the wrong things. The guy didn’t really owe her. He didn’t compel her to do what she did. That he paid her back spoke to a goodness within him. She named the invention. That should have been her claim. She funded the invention for years. She should have gone after that. Find a lawyer to find the loopholes that would give her the half she wanted.
Kayode: But she accepted the payout?
Taiwo: Yep. After which, she should have moved on. But of course she now wants to die there.
Mobi: Lol Kayode, how can you be initiating conversation about a movie you slept through? Do better, man.
Kayode: Because someone didn’t sleep through. Besides, the koko is the controversy.
Niyi: Basically, why is anyone spending time watching a Tyler Perry movie?
Maskuraid: Because he tells me stories of black people.
Niyi: But the stories are contrived.
Maskuraid: Movies are contrived.
Niyi: And I’ll be honest, I don’t see the difference to us Africans between watching a movie about the lives of black or white people. The experience in both cases will differ. So what we’ll end up relating with is the humanity in the story.
Maskuraid: I wasn’t referring to Africans. We don’t really count, tbh. Dude got rich producing “black” movies.
Taiwo: Interesting! Do you guys watch Marvel movies? And are those not white movies? Telling white stories?
Maskuraid: They know the themes that resonate with black people. Family. Love. Poverty.
Ayomidotun: But isn’t Acrimony a reflection of real life? You date a guy for a few years, eating noodles and boiled eggs while cruising okada around town. And when you breakup, dude hammers big time and some other chick comes in to enjoy the goodies. I may be oversimplifying though but you get the point.
Can we call it stereotypical if it’s the truth of most African Americans? Mary Jane is a hit because of this same stereotype. Why should Tyler be different? These plots exist in a lot of African American writing, even in those as old as Neale Hurston’s and as recent as Maya Angelou’s and now Tyler’s.
Niyi: The underlying premise probably is. But the way it’s played out probably isn’t. (Probably because I haven’t seen it but I’ve seen a few Tyler Perry movies.) The characters end up being some caricature of reality.
Kayode: This isn’t untrue, Niyi.
Jumoke: I think the difference between Tyler Perry movies and other “white” movies is, he actually depicts African Americans in the correct way. In a way they can relate to. Not the stereotypical way that other writers do.
Niyi: I think the opposite of this is true, Jumoke. I think he’s as stereotypical as is possible.
Jumoke: I don’t think so. I’m not a great judge as I’ve also not seen a lot of his movies, but I think he is closer to reality than most writers are. That’s why he’s making money off these movies, however similar and typical these stories seem.
Maskuraid: He knows what the average black man and woman thinks about, and he serves it.
Niyi: I think he’s making money off them because these movies are stereotypical. It’s usually easier to make money off stereotypical stuff.
Maskuraid: He makes money because he keys into the mindset. Why do you think Acrimony has generated so much debate? These are themes that resonate with black folk. Family. Marriage. Love. Jealousy. Infidelity. Poverty. Blah blah. Any good day on Twitter, these things come up.
Tony: Not seen Acrimony but it feels like I have considering how folks have spoken about it.
Kayode: I’m going to agree with Niyi. Tyler Perry is very invested in types. And types go viral because easily digestible. Acrimony is easy to breakdown: the ne’er-do-well black man, or almost; the faithful, long-suffering, hardworking woman; the usurper. He’s innovated a little this time but that’s the program. It’s the same reason you consume Nollywood too. We tend to confuse histrionics with drama. And that I guess is the problem some identified in Falz’s Child of the World too. Although I’m not sure why anyone is expecting complexity from Falz.
Maskuraid: Grammar is discombobulating, Kayode.
Taiwo: Can we call it stereotypical if it’s the truth of most African Americans? Mary Jane is a hit because of this same stereotype. Why should Tyler be different? These plots exist in a lot of African American writing, even in those as old as Neale Hurston’s and as recent as Maya Angelou’s and now Tyler’s.
Niyi: But is it actually the truth?
Tony: That’s what resonates with us mostly though. But I saw some folks say he was victim-shaming with the video. And also something about him being misogynistic and stuff.
Maskuraid: Somebody even called him misogynist today. On top that one song o. People just want their outrage abeg.
Kayode: Well, Falz has been misogynistic. That I can confirm.
Tony: Oh he has? How? Maybe na me no dey follow o.
Kayode: It’s subtle and humorous and thus easy to miss.
Nimide: I don’t think Falz has done anything wrong. I think all he has done is mirror 90% of our society. That we 1% on social media now have eyes and can see doesn’t mean anything has changed.
Jumoke: Really? Falz hasn’t done anything wrong? Such a Nollywood script.
Nimide: I mean it obvious what his video portrays but I think he’s just a minute fraction of the larger problem.
Jumoke: What is the larger problem?
Maskuraid: Any pointers to why that song is misogynistic?
Jumoke: The narrative that a good girl was abused and it made her turn bad and her reward is HIV.
Tony: But he stated that it wasn’t her fault. She is not to blame.
Jumoke: I love Falz and I don’t think he meant to portray what he did but the truth is that, we need to dead the stupid narrative. He could have done better, that’s what I think.
Maskuraid: Same as good boy turned bad based on being poor. Our criticism is actually better than our reality. If we actually lived a fraction of our finger-pointing…
Jumoke: Going into everything wrong with the song/video is long story. But we need to do better with the stories we put out for the world to see.
Tony: Fair enough, but we cannot say he is prejudiced against women sha. I don’t know how that can be proven.
Nimide: So many things to say but really can’t articulate my thoughts properly. But I can tell you that this isn’t new. I mean, Lil Wayne has a video like this. How to Love. It’s a narrative that the whole world has overplayed. And most of these things stem from their own mirror of the society.
Jumoke: This isn’t new doesn’t mean we should continue.
Niyi: Yes, just because it has been done before and is still being done doesn’t make it any less bad.
Kayode: Basically, Sola is the girl quite a bit of Falz’ oeuvre has been building up to: the blameless unblemished girl. Takes away agency from the woman, which double backs to classical sexist ideas of the woman. The world has always been a little more complicated than that. Girls who aren’t abused contract HIV too, and can go on to advocacy.
Nimide: Isn’t it how it happens? A girl does bad and now becomes infected or a boy is tired of being poor and becomes a drug baron and blah blah.
Niyi: What percentage of all the girls you know, personally, has this happened to? Is that really how it happens? A girl gets jilted and decided to go bad and next thing she has HIV?
Jumoke: The same way everyone who aborts a baby in Nollywood dies. It doesn’t happen. These narratives are overflogged.
Nimide: Of course it’s zero. Most of us will say same. But I’ve lived on a street where there was a building called White House that housed call girls and when my mom went for an outreach she came back with heartbreaking tales of abuse.
Niyi: But the tales of abuse and what Falz depicted are different, aren’t they?
Nimide: Basically, my point is: the screen is always most times a mirror to the society. It’s not science fiction.
Jumoke: No, I do not agree with this, Nims. There are too many stories. We need to start telling these other stories instead of telling the same ones over and over.
Niyi: Our reality is much too varied for people to keep telling the same stories.
Nimide: You’re not supposed to agree. And I hope you understand the story he told doesn’t negate other stories. He only told this one. The conversation should be that he should widen his stories, not attempt to silence the ones that don’t appeal to us. If people are allowed to talk about abuse, maybe they won’t derail and become monsters. Maybe they can heal without going off the tracks.
Kayode: Falz tends to hide unconscious misogyny behind humour though.
Jumoke: We all have some unconscious ideologies we have to consciously change.
Tony: How? Misogynist is a strong word to describe someone o.
Niyi: It’s not, tbh. Too many people are casually misogynistic.
Maskuraid: It’s not even a recurrent theme.
Kayode: Falz has been misogynist isn’t quite the same thing as Falz is a misogynist.
Tony: I don’t see any big deal with the video or song. I just see it as a story. Can be interpreted by various people to mean many things.
Ayomidotun: My one issue with the Falz video… “Suicide is never the answer! Let your situation make you better, not bitter.”
So na bitterness dey make people consider/commit suicide? Could/should have ended the video with the visuals. Maybe end it at “Rape is a wicked act that should NEVER be condonedSpeak Up!”
But going on just soured things for me.
Kayode: Look, socially conscious Falz is lazy. First, This is Nigeria. Then this. My argument is that this is new territory for him sha. Teething problems. He’ll grow, hopefully.
Ayomidotun: Faux social consciousness in my opinion jor.
Maskuraid: I think he has a right to be lazy if he wants to. He’s an entertainer. I think the pressure on artists to be socially conscious and agitate for stuff is too much. There’s entertainment, and there’s other stuff. If I just want to entertain, it’s fine.
Ayomidotun: There’s no pressure. Choose your path. Case in point: Sound Sultan. Socially conscious for a long time, he switched and is still doing fine even if he’s not as relevant.
Maskuraid: I’ve seen people crucify entertainers for not agitating. Just like someone said writers must always agitate for better government and all. Can’t I just write to express my rubbish?
Kayode: How many of these crucified artistes began to agitate after their crucifixion? If you dedicate your art to social issues, you best not be lazy. Once you create conscious art, you’re subject to critique on those terms.
Maskuraid: At the end of the day I just want to tell a story. If you term it conscious, na you know. If you think I’m lazy with it, do better. It’s really not that hard.
Kayode: This line of argument always irks me, Biodun. If I disagree with the portrayal of Africans in colonialist literature, I can always write “An Image of Darkness in whatever”, or write Things Fall Apart. The point of cultural criticism is to shine a light on cultural productions.
Maskuraid: Art is what you see. We don’t have to see the same things; that’s the beauty of it.
Kayode: That we don’t see the same things doesn’t mean that some ideas are any less bad. There are artists who set out to say one thing and end up saying another because bad technique and social circumstance e.g. Conrad in Heart of Darkness. Or any number of Yoruba films.
Maskuraid: Bad sometimes is subjective. Time up.