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RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
• Profanity-free version!
• Extended scenes!
• Director’s commentary!
“Tim Alexander has a dream. Equal rights for men!”
Jimmy Jean-Louis, Paula Lema in the fiction sections. Tim Alexander and a totally random sampling of people off the street for the non-fiction.
Tim Alexander made a short video clip in which a black man (Jean-Louis) lashes out, verbally, against his ex-wife, taking a stand for everything that he has done as a man, and condemning women for looking down on him. It generated some interest, I guess. At least Tim Alexander thought it was pretty neat. He then expanded the story of that poor fellow, and, to pad it out, intercut it with footage of reaction shots from regular folks on the street. Voila! a statement!
A pretty weird fuckin’ statement.
“You know the worst thing you can be in this country?” an acquaintance asked me, rhetorically and — to my surprise — soberly. “A rich, white man.”
That wasn’t too long ago, after Obama’s election. There’s only one good response for that kind of attitude, and even if you don’t like to curse like a sailor I beg you just to give it a try. These words have an intended meaning, and you’re not going to quite reach that meaning if you say anything other than:
Sloppy reasoning is offensive, sure. Sloppy reasoning that sits behind a bulwark of prejudice? Even worse. But sloppy reasoning, behind a bulwark of prejudice, which is then evangelized? Strong, pointed resistance is my favorite answer.
Also why I’m not welcome in places like this.
It doesn’t make for a very interesting review, unfortunately. Also, I’m a bit of an idealist, and prone to irrational impulses, so I think I’d better explain why exactly Tim Alexander’s diatribe against the oppression of black men by black women equates to the racist mouth-drippings of a middle-aged managerial type.
Where my acquaintance was full of bitter racism, Diary is entirely sexist. The term “sexist” has become derogatory in addition to explanatory, so, to clarify: Tim Alexander has here a piece that wavers not once from the masculine viewpoint or ideal, at least as he conceives of them. Women make plenty of appearances throughout, but either edited to support Alexander’s ideas (and to weakly contradict them; I’m not sure which is worse) or invented entirely to give his masculine mouthpiece a chance to sound off.
“Do you agree with me?”
“Damn right I agree with you!”
“Let’s talk about that for a bit.”
The fiction is mostly worthless, a big old strawman argument. The interview segments have a little more value, but Alexander’s methods as a documentarian are so sloppy as to render them meaningless, even if entertaining. We hear too much of Alexander’s voice throughout, but not as narration; he actually participates in the arguments he wants to convey, as if that will make them more personal, more identifiable.
Instead, he comes off, as an individual, as misogynist. I’m not saying that the film as a whole hates women— No, scratch that. I will say that the film as a whole hates women. But what I’m getting at, here, is that Alexander has a personal vendetta against woman-kind, and a tone so combative, so self-involved, and so whiny that he sounds like a high-schooler whose opinions were hereditary. Pity the black man, because he is so terribly abused by black women!
(As an aside, you’ll not find a single reliable statistic cited throughout the movie.)
Life is empty without statistics.
Frustratingly, there is actually some sociological meat on the bones of Alexander’s thesis. If he changed things around, if he meant this as a real documentary instead of a screed, I would have been a willing audience. I’d love to know about the sexual politics of different ethnicities. The subject here is mostly the home life of black men and women, and that carries more than a little documentary weight as an idea.
Instead, any legitimate exploration of the topic gets tossed out in favor of Alexander’s smarmy, evangelical diarrhea. He drops little title cards in between segments, praying for people to open their hearts and minds to his message, as if it were a message from God. Depending on your concept of God, this may or may not seem like sacrilege.
Look at all those poor black men, socially dominated by their wives and girlfriends.
At his best, Alexander is just a willing participant in the airing of grievances which are far from universal; at his worst, he’s got less vision, talent, balance, and rhetorical capability than a C-grade student filmmaker. And what vision he has is repugnant.
“A clinical psychologist helped me come up with this term,” says Alexander to a group of onlookers in a park. Cut to brief clips, edited to show strong-willed women pissed, for one reason or another, at black men. “It’s called Angry Black Woman Syndrome.”
Bullshit, Tim Alexander. And fuck you. (Without malice.) Cite your research, deflate your ego, and try again when you’ve got something you can say without smirking.
In order to reach a wider public, the DVD offers a profanity-free audio track! Also, in case you didn’t get enough pop psychology, many of the street interviews appear in extended cuts! Finally, because you haven’t heard Tim Alexander’s voice enough throughout this piece, he gives you a commentary track! It’s labeled as “Must Hear!” on the back of the box.
You don’t must.