This week Syd & Lex reviewed the buzzworthy indie drama ‘Waves’ (2019) starring Kelvin Harrison Jr, Sterling K. Brown, and Renee Elise Goldsberry. The movie was directed by Trey Edward Shultz and distributed by A24.
Waves follows a south Florida family navigating the stresses of family life and the tragedy of loss.
Syd & Lex share their thoughts on the stresses of a high-achieving High Schooler, reflecting back on the pressures felt by many teenagers in Tyler’s (played by Harrison Jr.) position. Lex notes the careful cinematography in Waves, citing the recent movement toward beautiful film often at the expense of functional shots and driving plot with the camera.
Both hosts are big fans of Sterling K Brown in the TV show This Is Us. So they remark on how startling it is to see Brown in the role of a mean father, contrasting the loving Randall Pearson America watches each week on This Is Us.
Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:
Syd nominates Kelvin Harrison Jr. for the weekly Who Came to Ack award. Harrison character, Tyler, seems eerily similar to Harrison’s character in another indie film ‘Luce’. But by the climax of Waves it’s clear that the characters are on different ends of the spectrum. This is quite a nod to Harrison Jr.’s abilities as an actor.
Segment: On Second Watch
Syd & Lex reflect on the now 20 year-old action flick, ‘Romeo Must Die’ featuring the late Aaliyah. The hosts give credit to the impact and coolness of the film….but question the true quality. Is ‘Romeo Must Die’ still worth a watch?
This week Syd & Lex reviewed Love Jacked, available on Netflix, and starring Amber West Stevens and Shamier Anderson. The movie follows a young artist who travels to South Africa for inspiration, but finds love and antics instead.
The movie includes some delightful appearances from some idols in Black film; Marla Gibbs, Keith David, and Mike Epps. The direction from Alfons Adetuyi and cinematography from Lance Gewer provided the perfect visual backdrop for this light-hearted romance.
Syd & Lex share their thoughts on Black rom-coms. Both hosts share a nostalgic appreciation for Hallmark romance films, so they appreciated the clean adaptation of that format in Love Jacked.
Lex enjoyed seeing Keith David in another endearing Father role. While he nailed the Disapproving Dad in this movie, Lex reflects fondly on his similar role in the classic ATL.
This week Syd & Lex reviewed Selah and the Spades, starring Lovie Simone and Jharrel Jerome. We were excited to finally watch this movie. Selah and the Spades is the directorial debut of young Director, Tayarisha Poe.
“Like Mean Girls meets the Godfather”
Syd & Lex share their thoughts on this teen drama. And Syd expresses her long-running appreciation for organized crime, along with the parallels between New York’s five crimes families and the movie’s five factions. Lex has some thoughts on young directors’ love for trick shots and flashy cinematography.
Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:
This week, we’re trying a new format. Our (spoiler-free) review of Selah and the Spades will in the first half of the episode. And, each week, we’ll have rotating segments. This week, our segment was “On Second Watch” where Syd defends the classic ‘Love and Basketball.’
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The New Chitlin Circuit is a podcast hosted by two best friends, and Black movie-enthusiasts, Syd and Lex. We review Black indie, low-budget, and direct-to-tv movies. Learn more about The New Chitlin Circuit.
This week Syd & Lex reviewed rom-com, ‘Always a Bridesmaid’, written by Yvette Nicole Brown and directed by Trey Haley. Brown is known for her acting roles in television shows like Community and Drake & Josh. But she shows her chops as a film writer in the charming romance flick.
Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride?
Syd & Lex share their thoughts on modern romance and the anxiety to wed experienced by just about every 29-year-old, successful Romance protagonist. Lex is tired of hetero romances, but also cannot seem to stop watching them.
This week Syd & Lex reviewed the newly released ‘Uncorked’, written, directed, and produced by Prentice Penny. Penny is known for his work on the HBO show ‘Insecure’, but ‘Uncorked’ is his film debut. And what a debut it is!
Which type of White Wine are you?
Syd & Lex share their thoughts on this classic tale of a young man balancing his the pursuit of his dreams with the responsibility to his family. Niecy Nash, Courtney B. Vance, and Mamoudou Athie come together to make ‘Uncorked’ a heart-warming showcase of Black families.
Like many people my age, I grew up laughing at reruns of The Wayans Bros. on MTV. And like many people I grew up with, I was a child of divorce. While casually watching NBC one night, I found a funny intersection of the two.
Marlon is a new sitcom driving Marlon Wayans’ quasi-comeback. In the show, Marlon’s character (bearing the same moniker) and his ex-wife Ashley (played by Essence Atkins) have a friendly divorce. Marlon frequently visits their two children, who both live with Ashley. Ashley and Marlon joke leisurely and co-parent with as much ease as a married couple would. The children seem to be satisfied and even benefiting from the non-traditional arrangement. This reminded me of my childhood.
As a Former Child
My parents were married for a few years before I was born. But their marriage ended when I was two years old. From then on, I lived with my mom and my two sisters (both from my mother’s previous relationships.) My father lived about a 15 minute drive away. He would come over occasionally to bring firewood, cut the grass, or just to eat dinner and make dad jokes. This carried on for most of my childhood. Until his job relocated him to Virginia when I was 14. We held a fairly steady correspondence, until he passed away when I was 18.
My parents were always open about their friendship, their marriage, and their divorce. In fact, the first thing I learned about their divorce was my mom telling they went out to dinner at Red Lobster after it was finalized. Of course there were the not-so-pretty details, like my father’s alcoholism and my mother’s controlling nature.
But, even in my fatherless household, I couldn’t quite relate to the “tragic” narrative TV shows always showed about children of divorce. And still to this day, I just don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having an in-home father.
Nearly every household in my childhood community was lead by a single mother. That was all I had known as normal. The few lasting marriages I saw between my aunts and uncles were riddled with infidelity and a type of patriarchy that never sat right with me.
Consequently, as a child, I genuinely thought the happy, traditional two-parent home was just a made-up on TV fantasy. (see: Cosby Show, My Wife and Kids, etc.) Further, I thought the Child of Divorce trope was entirely fabricated as well. I didn’t get why children on TV were so bent out of shape over their parents’ divorce. I say that as a testament to how fulfilling my childhood was, not as a detractor from pain that divorced has caused many people. I would have been grateful to have seen a show like Marlon during my childhood.
As a Future Parent
Just like any other family structure, being raised by divorced parents came with some downsides and struggles too. Marlon doesn’t exactly capture some of those feelings. So, I look to Raven’s Home. In my childhood, Raven Symone was the star of another perfect TV family in her show That’s So Raven. But the actress has returned to Disney Channel in a TV show much more like my own childhood. Raven plays a single mother of two. She and her children live together with Raven’s best friend, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s son.
In episode 4, “The Bearer of Dad News,” Raven’s ex husband has to tell their kids that he’ll be moving to Texas and won’t see them as often anymore. The mood of the episode darkened and the children’s faces got long and sad. While I initially identified with the kid’s angst about the change, my attention shifted to the parents’ reactions.
As I get older and have more frank conversations with my mom, I uncover more of the details in my parents’ divorce. Now I can see how some of my parents’ smiles in front of me had just been tears and disagreements behind closed doors. In the same way, Raven’s Home showed how the adults handled tough times. Raven and the children’s father, Devon, had a heartfelt talk without the children around. They joked about having one last hurrah, then came to a solemn goodbye.
This episode was like peeping behind the veil of “grown folks business.” When I was a kid I didn’t understand how much effort it took for my parents to raise me while living apart and forging new relationships. But now that I’m slipping into adulthood, I recognize how hard my parents worked for my happiness. And I’m thankful that they worked so hard for it, especially my mother. Lastly I hope I have that same strength in raising my children, whether in marriage or divorce.
I never saw my parents kiss before they left for work in the morning.
Or join a couples’ book club.
Or wear matching outfits to church on Sundays.
But I value what I did see. I saw them calmly set aside their differences to buy the wacky toys on my Christmas lists. I saw them both at my rec-league basketball games, even though I played terribly. And I saw them love and respect each other outside of marriage. Seeing that has taught me things that I could use in my future marriage or, albeit, divorce.
Because I was raised in such a pleasant divorce, I can love and wed without the crippling fear of divorce. Because I know I can raise happy children and have a healthy family without being married. And because I’d probably be great divorce.
Master of None is a scripted dramedy on Netflix, created by Aziz Ansari. I wasn’t very moved by the first season, and stopped watching about half-way through. But I was drawn back in by a relatable episode following Denise Watkins, played by Lena Waithe, as she navigates being the only lesbian in her family. Throughout the episode, I noticed just how similar my story was to Denise’s.
Her story reminded me of the day I came out to my mom at our favorite Waffle House. I always love writing about stories that make me feel less alone in my experiences. But the true reason I wrote this piece is for the people in my life who weren’t there to see me cry over a pecan waffle, unsure of whether I’d still have my family’s love and support after my tears dried. And for anyone who may not be able to come out quite yet. So, let’s begin.
The episode catalogs Thanksgiving dinner in the Watkins’ house through the years. In childhood, Denise was a Regular Kid™. The only visible deviation about her was her preference for sporty clothes and her distaste for the frilly confines of the skirts her mom picked out for her.
Like my mother, Denise’s mom (played by the amazing Angela Bassett) only gently attempted to correct this behavior, mostly hoping her daughter would outgrow it. Besides, at that point, neither Denise nor I knew we could be gay.
The episode then jumps to Thanksgiving during Denise’s high school years. Denise and Dev (Aziz’s character) smoke weed in Denise’s bedroom while her mom and aunt were preparing dinner downstairs.
(Sidenote: Now I might be brave enough to come out as a lesbian, but I was never reckless enough to light more than a candle in my mom’s house. I probably wouldn’t be alive to tell that story anyhow.)
As Denise slumps hazily on her bed, she ogles up at a poster of Jennifer Aniston. I guess having a bedroom covered in gorgeous actresses and no male heartthrobs was also something Denise’s mom assumed to be benign. When gazing lustfully at the poster, Denise still doesn’t quite have language for what she feels in the moment.
While I can’t relate to gazing at Jennifer Aniston, I was more of a Nia Long and Sanaa Lathan kinda girl, this is a common experience among lesbians.
I went years having inexplicable fascinations with certain women, before realizing those thinly guised “girl-crushes” were actually just attraction. It finally registered that I liked women during senior year of high school when my fantasies about a girl-crush were no longer platonic-passing. It was an aha moment, “Whoa, I wanna be her girlfriend.” But alas, I stayed in the closet until college.
College and Coming Out
When I went off to College, I was far enough from home to just be out and openly date women. Presumably the same was true for Denise. On a visit back home, Denise is eating at a diner with her mom. Then, her mom casually throws in a,
“At least you’re not pregnant,”
to go along with a,
“Dating any boys, yet?” or my all-time favorite,
“When you get a husband…”
Denise swallows hard and just spits out, “Ma, I’m gay.”
What resonated most with me was that Denise’s mom responded almost exactly like mine. My mom casually asked, “Anything hot on the press?” (which is how we ask each other what’s new.)
I answered like I had rehearsed a million times, “Yeah, I’m dating someone……a girl.”
Almost as if Angela Bassett sat in that very Waffle House, she acted out my mom’s reaction to a tee. She kept her composure, mostly. And rationalized how absurd of an idea having a gay daughter was to her.
Coming out to my mom wasn’t violent or more traumatizing than any other day as a lesbian in this society. She made sure to tell me I was an abomination but she didn’t see me differently, a response that she seemed to only half-believe. I’m still not sure which half.
Bring Her Home to Mama?
The last segment shows the first time Denise brings her girlfriend to Thanksgiving and how her family reacts. Unfortunately I don’t have a personal piece to add to that because I haven’t had the chance to eat Thanksgiving dinner with a woman I love.
By the end of the episode, Denise’s mom comes around to accept her daughter, and even bonds with Denise’s girlfriend. I can only hope for the same outcome.
It’s been two years since I came out to my mother. I’m not ashamed any more. I’m certainly afraid not any more. And I’m not in the closet any more…to anyone. I don’t know if this’ll make my next few Thanksgiving dinners awkward. But I do know, if someone claims they love me I shouldn’t have to meet any more criteria than just being myself. And I do hope this’ll get me out of some of those, “Got a boyfriend yet?” conversations.