Inda’s Corner 12: The Art of Affing — Why I Love The Incredible Jessica James

Before we begin, I need to issue a content warning for anyone who might be a bit sex repulsed as this show contains a short discussion about sex and sexuality.

I love this film unironically. I find it genuinely funny with a heartwarming ending. And I also find a type of Black girl representation we rarely get to see in film. There’s so much I love about Jessica James that I decided this month I should try to unpack it. Maybe then I can stop watching it every day and stop immersing myself in this world that feels so much like an impossible aspiration yet almost heartbreakingly familiar. So here is an incredibly spoilerific discussion about The Incredible Jessica James.

30 Days of #BlackFemGenius: Film Edition

For the next 30 days, we will focus on film. This includes women in front of the camera and behind it and conceiving films and helping them come to fruition. Here are the 30 challenges:

  1. Name a #BlackFemGenius who directs film.
  2. Name a #BlackFemGenius who made forward moves with LGBTQ representations.
  3. Name a #BlackFemGenius who produces films.
  4. Name a #BlackFemGenius who works as an industry player.
  5. Name a #BlackFemGenius who made a great short film.
  6. Name a #BlackFemGenius who made a low-budget classic.
  7. Name a #BlackFemGenius who acted in a good UK show.
  8. Name a #BlackFemGenius who acts in foreign language films.
  9. Name a #BlackFemGenius who writes screenplays or scripts.
  10. Name a #BlackFemGenius who works mostly as a character actress.
  11. Name a #BlackFemGenius of trans experience in film.
  12. Name a #BlackFemGenius who brought glamour to her film representation.
  13. Name a #BlackFemGenius in scifi films.
  14. Name a #BlackFemGenius who wears multiple hats in the film process.
  15. Name a #BlackFemGenius in romance films.
  16. Name a #BlackFemGenius who left the US to work in films.
  17. Name a #BlackFemGenius in horror films.
  18. Name a #BlackFemGenius who works in film and on the stage.
  19. Name a #BlackFemGenius in comedy films.
  20. Name a #BlackFemGenius who began as a child actress in film.
  21. Name a #BlackFemGenius in musical films.
  22. Name a #BlackFemGenius who makes documentaries.
  23. Name a #BlackFemGenius in a biopic.
  24. Name a #BlackFemGenius who makes experimental films.
  25. Name a #BlackFemGenius in Nollywood.
  26. Name a #BlackFemGenius who is a sex symbol onscreen.
  27. Name a #BlackFemGenius who directed a non-American film.
  28. Name a #BlackFemGenius who directed or starred in a coming of age film.
  29. Name a #BlackFemGenius who played a hero or anti-hero in a film.
  30. Name your favorite #BlackFemGenius in film!

“Whether You’re Dark or You’re Fair”: The Black Female Body in A Different World and School Daze

Since everyone is so excited about A Different World finding a NetFlix home, I thought I’d share this unpublished paper from my grad school days. It’s probably close to ten years old by now.

Whether You’re Dark of You’re Fair

In Case You Missed It: Stompin’ at the Savoy

One of the worst things about television films is that they tend to disappear after one airing. However, I remember that the Monday night movie on NBC used to be a weekly thing and ABC had its own original films. Today, the television film series has gone the way of the radio drama. Even mini-series have mostly fallen by the wayside or relegated to outlets like HBO.

What I remember most about these films is that they were heavily centered on the stories of (white) women. Of course, Stephen King mini-series on ABC were huge at the time, but NBC mostly had docudramas focusing on women that you might see later on Lifetime. However, there were rarely stories about women of color and almost none behind the camera.

But in 1992, there was Stompin’ at the Savoy, which aired on CBS. I have vague memories of this film and never saw it until a couple of years ago. Not only did I find out it was about the lives of four black women, but I also discovered that Debbie Allen directed the film. The four leads in the film are superb: Lynn Whitfield as Esther, Vanessa Williams as Pauline, Jasmine Guy as Alice and Vanessa Bell Calloway as Dorothy.

If not for satellite channels like TVOne, I may have never seen the film and it would have remained a vague memory of my adolescence. Yet I’m grateful that this is something I saw in my adulthood so that I could give it my full appreciation. With so many black women in front of and behind the camera, I found an array of stories about black women set against the backdrop of 1930s Harlem.

While the glamour and music are there, the problems and issues that came along with it are also present. This is no utopia. Instead, what we get are stories about black women pursuing their hopes and dreams in their careers and in love. Ambition is a huge driving force with all four women and each one goes about her life in her own way. They also deal with shady business characters, interracial relationships and health among other roadblocks on the way to happiness.

However, what I love most about this film is that the primary focus is on friendship. Friendship among black women is something we don’t often get to see explored in any mainstream film. Of course, there are the love woes and other issues that come to the forefront after the women no longer live together, but the overarching theme of the film is whether or not their friendship will survive the good and bad times and who is willing to sacrifice that friendship in order to achieve success for herself.

With Debbie Allen at the helm, you know you can expect some great music and at least one big choreographed number. Dawn Lewis even portrays Ella Fitzgerald and Williams’ Pauline pursues her dreams of becoming a headliner at the Savoy. Stompin’ at the Savoy is one of those rare treats that puts the lives of black women at the forefront. There are good times and there are bad, but then again, that’s life in 1930s Harlem.

Note: You can find the film in its entirety on YouTube without having to reconstruct the film in pieces.

In Case You Missed It: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

If not for one of the random lists you like to read as you procrastinate, this film would have gone forgotten. However, you see the list of roles played by women originally written for me and see that Lucy Liu’s Sever from Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever was supposed to be a man. That’s when you remember that you saw this film in the theater and actually enjoyed it after the initial disappointment that this was the movie your group chose to see. It’s definitely not something you would go see on your own, which is why you tend to go to the movies alone.

However, you aren’t a Lucy Liu fan at the time, but you appreciate her character. She appears to have kidnapped a child after putting down some bad guys in order to get to him. She even keeps him in a large cage while she goes about her plans. She just might be evil. After all, she pulls off a one-woman Rambo-like assault on the entire Vancouver special tactics police force. So she might be evil, but she is definitely badass.

In the meantime, you get to know Jeremiah Ecks, who is tied to the case and portrayed by Antonio Banderas. The child happens to belong to his wife whom he thinks is deceased but is actually married to a diabolical madman who has developed a micro-weapon and plans to move it in a particularly skeevy way. The information that his wife is still alive does get Ecks interested in the case and soon he is in pursuit of Sever.

As you rewatch the film, you remember why you liked it even though it was the worst reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is very stylized with some very impressive action sequences. However, what you remembered most about the film is that it has a viable plot. Ecks was led to believe his wife was dead by her current husband Robert Gant. She was led to believe the same thing about him. When they are reunited, you see that they are still very much in love with each other.

You also find out the truth about Sever. She worked under Gant in the DIA. When she broke protocol and had a child, her family was murder. What looks like a simple act of revenge against the man who murdered her family is not quite what happens. Sever knows that Gant’s child is actually Ecks’ son. She also knows that Gant has implanted the micro-weapon in the boy and the child’s life is now in danger. She is driven not by revenge but by motherhood. You can always get behind a mother in the film, especially on avenging her child in the only way she knows how.

This is why despite being such a reviled film you like this one. You also notice how many brown people including Lucy Liu, Talisa Soto and Terry Chen are in this film. Even the directed (credited as Kaos here but now credited as Wych Kaosayananda) is a Thai man. Furthermore, these brown people are the heroes and you need this every once in a while.

So despite its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you appreciate this one. If you had remembered it ten years ago, you may have been more of a Lucy Liu fan before Elementary. But better late than never, right?