Hot Takes: Self Made

1) Yes I am a sour & grumpy old lady, but I will never LOVE ultra-modern sounding songs in period pieces. This is Black people around the turn of the century. I don’t need to hear an 808.

2) As a standalone though, soundtrack kinda slaps. Had to cop a coupla those songs.

3) We were pleasantly and surprisingly entertained! There were a lot of unexpected laughs, but it didn’t feel like jokes were just thrown in for entertainment value. They felt like real conversations that just happened to be funny.

4) Tiffany Haddish is Tiffany Haddish. Either you think she’s funny, or you don’t. OR! Third option! You don’t think she’s ALL THAT funny but she’s such a delightfully positive person, you’re excited for her success even when her dramatic line delivery can be a little clunky. She’s easily the worst actress in the movie, but that’s partly because these folks are doing some good acting.

5) Nobody plays a shitty husband like Blair Underwood, bless his rich dark chocolate heart.

6) Garrett Morris is a blessing to any cast.

7) I don’t know if this production got as much critical (or even social) praise as it needed, especially this early in the year, for it to be an Emmy contender next year, but Octavia Spencer DESERVES! That woman can act her butt off and she can do ANYTHING! A lot of our faves have one lane — that they exquisitely excel in, but one lane nonetheless. Octavia has no lane. She can do comedy, drama, suspense — anything you throw at her, Octavia will embody the character. Watch it just for her alone.

8) That pomade ain’t nothing but petroleum jelly and sulfur. Just so you know. I haven’t looked up it’s effectiveness specifically, but this is true for a lot of beauty products: the thing itself isn’t why you see improvement — it’s the fact that you are taking the time out to do the thing. You bought this product, and now you are setting aside time to care for whatever part of yourself you bought it for. Plus, putting NOTHING in your hair would’ve been better than what Black women had been forced to put in their hair, but Madame CJ’s product itself wouldn’t make your hair grow any faster — it just gave women a better alternative than the terrible things they had used previously.

9) Can you IMAGINE!!! being a BLACK WOMAN in the early 1900s taking BUSINESS MEETINGS WITH RICH WHITE MEN!! What a LEGEND!!!!!

10) I don’t love the villain they painted. I understand it, but they should’ve made her further from the character. I’m about to elaborate, and there will be spoilers so you can stop here.

SPOILERS COMING!!

The light skinned witch in Self Made is Addie Monroe, a woman with a business of her own selling hair care. She’s clearly based on Annie Turnbo Malone, but whereas Addie was terrible to Madame CJ, Annie gave her a job and they worked together for years. And Annie was very successful as well — some say her peak net worth was higher than Madame CJ’s. She reinvested into her community, built schools, and should be studied as an icon in her own right, not serving as the inspiration for an amalgamation of villainous light skinned women used as a plot device to show how colorism would have affected Madame CJ alongside her other struggles.

Piggybacking on that, I’m not sure how I feel about basically portraying Madame CJ’s daughter as a lesbian. What we know for sure is that she facilitated an environment for LGBT people (especially artists) to flourish which directly affected the Harlem Renaissance. Nobody knows if she was actually a lesbian (or bisexual) or if she had relationships with women. I’m fine with artistic liberties in “inspired by…” stories, but declaring an actual historical figure’s sexuality is a little hamfisted to me.

Score: 7/10

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