As a White person I will never understand what it is like to be Black or why director/playwright Tyler Perry is relevant. One thing is for certain; Tyler Perry does more damage to Black people than slavery. However, he is not entirely to blame. Because Hollywood marginalizes minority groups into what it calls “The Urban Market”, it was only fitting that someone like Perry would come along and create media tailored to African Americans, thus capitalizing on one of many neglected demographics. This would make him a marketing genius, but when it comes to the writing of characters and story, he is about as competent as General William Westmoreland’s handling of the Vietnam War. My problem with Perry is not that he has no concept of reality, but that he has become the sole entertainment benefactor for an entire culture that deserves so much more. As a White person my word means nothing, but this needs to change. Either Hollywood learns to respect minority group, or Tyler Perry quits the business and fades into oblivion.
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Temptation is my first Tyler Perry movie and it is safe to say he has no idea how human beings work. I understand his films are not made for my demographic, but anyone with basic common sense can see how poorly written and unrealistic his characters are. I will have to see more of Perry’s work to confirm my suspicions, a prospect that inspires dread and thoughts of suicide.
Unlike God’s Not Dead, the plot structure is… better? To help the flow of this paper, I will list of the primary characters, a gimmick I will apply to future posts:
Judith – Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Brice – Lance Gross
Harley – Robbie Jones
Usually I remember the plots of films long after I have seen them, which has served me well as an amateur critic, but my memory of Temptation is quite scatter-shot because it was so offensive. I apologize if I miss anything, but it really does not matter.
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The story of Temptation is one of love and betrayal, an archetypical romantic tragedy with biblical undertones, set in Washington, DC. Judith and Brice are originally from the South and have been together since childhood. She works at a matchmaking service with aspirations of running her own marriage counseling business and Brice is pharmacist at a drug store. They come from a background steeped in religious tradition with Judith’s mother Sarah (Ella Joyce) a devout pastor.
The focus of the film is on Judith with a few digressions to Brice at his job. We see his interactions with Chapman (Renee Taylor), his boss, and the reclusive Melinda (Brandy Norwood), a new employee whose past is unknown.
The film opens at a dingy office building that looks like your average DMV. In one room an older Judith is counseling a dysfunctional couple. The couple is not important, but their interactions inspires this quick digression:
When the husband asks his wife to tell him her problems, she does not even try before he becomes frustrated and storms out. Why is that? As a man, we will do anything for the people we care about, especially women. So why wont this guy’s wife open up about her problems? Is this how marriage works? Was Perry too lazy to make-up a simple plotline and wanted to get story moving along?
So after the husband leaves, Judith makes the assumption that the wife has been cheating, and the other guy has shown her more than her husband ever could. This brings back memories and Judith tells a story about her sister, who is actually Judith, but Perry thought we were too stupid to figure it out the moment the flashback started.
It begins when Judith and Brice were small children and progresses until adulthood when they are living in DC. At the matchmaking service she is a therapist that pairs couples based on a numerical score. One of her coworkers is Ava, a shallow, materialistic tool, played by Kim Kardashian. Her boss is Janice, played by Vanessa L. Williams with a French accent, for some reason.
Judith is unhappy with her work; she finds it boring and is desperate to break out and start her own business. When she tells Brice he advises she wait until they are financially stable, which makes her angry.
It was here I expected the same misogynist aspects of God’s Not Dead to come up later, and boy, was I right! I will let it build before I go off on a page-long rant.
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The service is in the midst of gaining an important investor in Harley, an Internet entrepreneur. While Judith explains how the matchmaking process works, Harley brings up the topic of sex in regards to the process. Because the conversation was so poorly constructed, she says she does not believe in sex before marriage. Harley thinks her sex life is boring and asks “Have you ever fucked in a kitchen?”
He did not say that verbatim, but it is close enough when you consider how stilted and awkward the dialog is performed in this movie. It is apparent the actors were aware the script was written by and eight year-old, but they fought through it as best they could. I would too, knowing how much money idiots pay to see these movies.
Spurred on by Harley’s notion that she lacks a certain spark, Judith returns home and tries to get Brice to ravage her in their kitchen with all the awkwardness of a teenager trying to be seductive. But he resists and tells her to save it for the bedroom.
It is here the temptation begins to take hold.
Feeling a need she does not understand, Judith goes for a run in the same park Harley frequents. They jog together, with Harley wearing a pair of spandex with shorts that are not consistent with his appearance and figure.
I do not why I called attention to that, but it stuck out to me.
The two exchange batter along the way before Judith looks away from the path and careens into an oncoming cyclist. She hits the ground and Harley attempts to assault the very apologetic man. Judith is able to convince him otherwise and he carries her back to his apartment.
This should have raised a very large red flag for Judith.
In my experience as a cyclist, I often encounter pedestrians that are not paying attention to their surroundings. Usually I slow down to avoid a collision or if there is enough room, I go around. But every once in a while someone will step the wrong way and walk right into my path.
In the scene, Judith is not paying attention and stumbles into the cyclist in a poorly choreographed stunt. She basically throws herself into a bike, riding at the very far right of the sidewalk. We always stay to the far margins of the sidewalk while keeping our eyes open because we understand we can do serious damage in a collision. But Judith was not paying attention and was struck down for her incompetence. However, knowing we pose more of a threat, the cyclist makes an emphatic apology, even if he knew it was not his fault, and is still attacked by Harley.
In regards to the attack, if I were Judith and I knew the collision was an accident, but Harley tried to beat-up the cyclist anyway, then odds are he has anger problems. Would you want to be romantically involved with a guy that assaults people for no reason? I would not either, especially if I am someone weaker.
While tending Judith’s ankle at his apartment, Harley takes the opportunity to flirt. He assumes Brice is the kind of man that does not treat her right or notices how amazing she is. Judith retorts by pointing out the high heels in his bedroom and perfume hovering in the air. His ploy exposed, Harley backs down before Brice picks her up.
The next day Judith dresses nice and puts on makeup for her birthday, but Brice forgets what day it is. When she goes to work she finds a bouquet of flowers at her desk. She thinks they are from her husband until it is revealed they are from Harley.
WOW! I AM SO SHOCKED, YOU GUYS!
Harley is there and tries to flirt, but Judith responds by saying she is married and that he does not know how great Brice is. She is firm and direct about her intentions like in previous scenes. Judith is clear that she is not interested, and yet he keeps going, an indication that a skilled therapist would notice as a sign of an abusive personality.
When she returns home, Brice obviously feels bad about missing her birthday. He makes up for it by wearing a cowboy hat and playing a guitar half-naked. How he forgot the birthday of someone he has known since childhood makes about as much sense as the rest of this movie, but I have to admit, the scene was kind of cute and effective enough to inspire an emotion other than rage.
You did one thing good, Tyler Perry. The ball is back in your court, but soon I am going to take it right back.
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To seal the deal on the investment, Harley must meet with shareholders in New Orleans. Before he leaves Janice tells Judith he requested she accompany him to the meeting. He requested, meaning she could go or stay behind at her own discretion. But because Perry is an idiot, he forgets Judith is smart enough to make up her own mind, and goes to New Orleans.
Her character becomes so lobotomized at this point that she is dumbfounded at Harley having a private jet and even more so when he takes her around the city. Any idiot can see he is pampering her. On top of that he plays the sympathy card by telling her how his ex took him for granted after he lavished her with gifts and privilege.
Yeah, I would be consumed by sorrow if I had money, a plane, and access to any woman I wanted. I would be curled up in a ball crying my eyes out because one girl did not like me or wanted what I had. I could not just call another or court someone that is actually interested. I would be too butt-hurt to even try.
And after all of that trite “I have feelings, too” crap, Judith gives in. Before anything happens, she begs him to stop as he makes his move. She has the intelligence and will to resist and does not even try. Judith is now so dumb and incompetent that she falls for Harley’s bullshit.
Now is the time for that digression. I am about to take your balls, Perry; all of them, because what you have done to this character is God’s Not Dead times a hundred:
If Judith is so smart and successful at her job, why is she unhappy? You would think an aspiring couples therapist would diagnose her own problems and attempt to remedy them by adding her own spice that both sides can agree upon. And I assume she and Brice went to college together, so would they not have experienced all the libertine antics that come with it? Maybe it was a Christian school, but even Papists know how to party, and that is nothing you forget.
And as a therapist, that is trained to read peoples’ personalities based on a variety of external factors, how did Judith not see Harley was abusive? Even before the worst parts of this film, I could see he is the kind of guy you avoid. Why would she go along with this guy if she has a stable, clear minded husband like Brice? He is not keeping Judith from her dream of running her own business; all he did was suggest she wait until they are both financially stable. Any person who is smart with money can see that is the better option.
Furthermore, what is so wrong with Brice that she would even consider cheating? He does not abuse her, he supports her within reason, he has a stable job that is recession proof, and he even looks better, whereas Harley has a small head, deathly gaunt features, and an extremely unappealing soul patch/goatee thing. I am not one to judge the looks of another; I am just calling it like I see it. Sure Brice forgot her birthday and is kind of a weakling, but at least he tries to support Judith in what she does.
Judith is a strong, successful woman that will get whatever she wants, no matter the cost or what anyone says. And because she is a strong, successful woman, who wants more than she has, she contracts HIV from Harley. I am serious: because Judith wanted a little more excitement in her life, she is infected with a horrible disease.
Because Judith is independent and does what she wants, she is made humble to the biblical values she violates, via HIV, for being a strong female. She cannot be an individual and must submit to Jesus or reap the consequences.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
God’s Not Dead was awful in its misogyny, but it did not hate women so much to punish them with a disease; except for the cancer subplot, but at least that cannot be spread through sex, probably one of the best parts about being human. I am convinced Tyler Perry is not only a bad writer, but hates women. Temptation is the most offensive film I have ever seen and Tyler Perry is less than sub-human for making it. Comparatively, A Serbian Film is a better movie, and it is regarded as one of the worst.
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I was going to save my little tirade for the end, but this has gone on long enough. I am not even going to summarize the rest of the movie because it is not worth my time or sanity. Believe me, it gets so much worse. I apologize for turning this paper into an attack, but Perry deserves it. If you have a Netflix account and you care about women, rate this piece of garbage one star. This film needs to crawl back into its hole and never come out. To everyone that is a fan of Tyler Perry, you are supporting an ignorant misogynist. You are all a part of the problem.
Like God’s Not Dead, Brad Jones, the Cinema Snob, was the inspiration for this analysis. It is the last video on the page:
Areu, O. (Producer), & Perry, T. (Director). (2013). Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (Motion Picture). USA: Lionsgate.