When I heard that there would be a Black gay series on the first all-LGBT cable network, LOGO, I was highly skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? Hollywood (including gay cinema) has such a bad track record presenting Black people period, let alone Black gay men. Not only that, even if it was created, written, and directed by a Black gay filmmaker, what were the chances that it wouldn’t still not reflect what I think is an accurate view of Black gay life?
Well I watched the series Noah’s Arc, and though I sometimes cringed, I still like it. I saw the new movie “Jumping the Broom” which brings back the characters where they left off in Season 2, and though I also think it was far from perfect, I still, liked it.
The film, as the title suggests, picks up with the impending nuptials of Noah and Wade. They, along with their closest friends prepare for a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. And the DRAMA unfolds. I won’t give the film away, but it is much like the series in what it gets wrong, and what it gets right.
- It tries to take on too much, too many issues, too many subplots and twists. The script is over-written, but not broad enough to be a farce. Much like Tyler Perry, it’s hard to know what genre we’re playing in.
- Though improved over the series, some of the acting is not all that great. I “buy” the characters as they are, but sometimes they don’t convince me of the moment itself, which can be a weakness in the acting, the writing, the directing, or all three!
- It relies way too heavy on the upwardly-mobile, bourgie aspirational lifestyles that seem unrealistic. Much like Sex in The City, you wonder where they get the money for the lifestyle they seem to be able to afford. But unlike Sex in the City, some of it actually detracts from the story, rather than enhancing it. When I saw the film in NYC, the audience seemed more horrified than wowed by some of Noah’s outfits-me included. The costume designer did not give us Carrie Bradshaw, but someone doing a bad job of trying to copy it.
- You all know how I feel about the marriage issue. And this film is about a marriage. Need I say more?
- They clearly don’t know any lesbians or transwomen. I guess I do know some Black gays who don’t know (or like) queer women or trannies, but I don’t take these characters to be those kind of gays. I think it’s fine to not try to do everything in a script but I think (maybe I am being too generous) we tend to live a little more across gender lines than that.
- The relationships between the friends is the main reason we forgive Noah’s Arc for where it comes up short. I know alot of people who feel like the show is so unrealisitc and doesn’t represent the Black gay community, and it doesn’t entirely. But I think it does, generally speaking, represent the way many of Black gay men are differently gendered. There are some who feel like the characters are too femme, but I think there’s actually a range of genders represented.
- Though it tries to take on too much, it does at least try to take on some issues that we deal with from HIV/AIDS–sero-discordance and if it’s ever OK to stop using condoms in a committed relationship, ambivalence to marriage, raising kids, aging, butch/femme and top/bottom issues, being out to the family, etc. It’s refreshing to see the new young character in the film (played by the boy who was once once of Sandra and Elvin’s twin babies Winnie & Nelson on The Cosby Show), trying to figure some of this stuff out, but also has as much agency as the older characters.
- I think one of the things we severely lack in the Black gay community is examples of other Black queers negotiating dating, sex and relationships, and i think this film and the show does a good job of providing some models of how Black gay men love each other, whether in the friendships of the four main characters, or in the romantic and sexual relationships they have (or desire) with other men.
- It’s a good time! Though it gets ridiculous, hokey and melodramatic, much of the films is laugh out loud funny–especially the character Alex, and the Hollywood scenester and fag-hag Brandy. I was never bored, nor did I find it so problematic as to be irredeemable. It’s a good time at the movies, and sometimes it doesn’t need to be deep.
At the end of the day, no one show/film will ever be everything to everyone. And as much as I want so much more from it, I think the Noah’s Arc film Jumpin the Broom is worth seeing, for what it does give us. If you live in NYC, LA, DC, Atlanta or Chicago, where the film is screening (and did quite well opening weekend), you also get to be in a theater full of Black queers, which like, NEVER happens. It’s fun to just be in a movie theatre with nothing but the Kids and their best girlfriends. Black gay cultural critic Ernest Hardy didn’t dig it so much, but I think his Village Voice review is totally fair.