The Best Man: The Final Chapters tackles racial issues.
"Racism is some weird shit"-Quentin
The Best Man(1999), The Best Man Holiday (2013), and Peacock's The Best Man: The Final Chapters(2022) follow the lives of the college friend group. We see their start and follow their growth till the end spanning several years. This is my third article from the franchise and it's focused on racial issues.
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The appearance of racial issues starts in the second movie and intensifies in the series.
Are you serious?
In The Best Man Holiday, Quentin(Terrence Howard) says "Well, if they can get the word 'homo' banned, then we should be able to get the word 'nigga' banned. Seriously." as he talks to Candace(Regina Hall) and Julian(Harold Perrineau). This is pretentious and sadly hilarious as he instantly says, "Harp, my nigga! What's up, man? Merry Christmas." to greet Harper (Taye Diggs) approaching him. This is also a sign of obstruction to progress on important things, therefore blocking successes. This disappointment so to speak is noticeable through Julian's expression as well.
When Harper asks Quentin about how he and brand management are, Q says, "I don't know why these white folks pay me to tell them what black people are thinking. Man, I'm light-skinned." which prompts Julian and Harper to laugh. Quentin is the only light-skinned man in the male friend group of 4. However, this showed his level of self-awareness because people of a darker hue face more troubles than those of a lighter hue. They encounter harsher cases of racism and colorism in society, so this recognition was important.
In The Best Man: The Final Chapters, Harper's agent Stan(Aaron Serotsky) advises him. He says, "Harpie, this new deal will make you set-your-family -up-for-life rich. I mean, are you really gonna leave that on the table?" after Harper talked about wanting to do more serious things despite being unsure how to start. Stan tells him his Bumper G series is being sought after for a great deal. He says "Dude, just crank it out. I mean, look, do you even have an idea for this serious opus of your's?"and Harper replied saying "It's a concept. Like a feeling. I'm still noodling around.".
After he tells the guys, "I mean, between Robyn and my agent, it's like they got a brother feeling a little insecure about his shit. Look, I want to write… I want to write something that matters. Richard Wright. Baldwin. Look, is that so wrong?". Quentin tells him that if he wants to get the new house he's been talking about, he should keep doing what works. He said "I mean, those cats, they didn't make their money selling books in Costco" before Julian said, "Yeah, but maybe Harper wants to express something that's burning deep inside and he needs to get it out."
After Robyn's (Sanna Lathan) arrest, they argue but come to a resolution the next day. She finds his recent work on the notepad and she says "Harper, this is beautiful. You gotta keep going on this.". He appreciates it and says "Well, yeah, to be sure that you and Mia are safe and protected and provided for." after she asks if his worried words were the reason he wanted them to move. She said, "When you show your heart like this, all I want is to live wherever that energy is." before she said she wants to hear the rest of the story while accepting the move.
Rejuvenated afterwards, he calls Stan saying "Stan, listen up because I'm only going to say this once. My next book is going to be cultural, topical and meaningful to me. No more fluffy Costco reads. You understand me? Harper Stewart has something to say, and I'ma say it. Cool? Thank you. It's been a good talk. Bye.". He goes on to work on this less and less until two years after his divorce when he is awarded for his work called Pieces of Us.
The desire for generational wealth vs. Ownership
In The Best Man Holiday, Harper was desperate as he was fired from his job at NYU and his books underperformed. His agent, Stan (John Michael Higgins) critiqued his recent draft to be indigestible to everyone. Stan encourages Harper to write something else like his popular, well-received Unfinished Business book. He tells him to find a way to get Lance (Morris Chestnut) to commit to Harper writing his biography, despite their clash.
Harper is unwilling as he brings up his inexistent relationship with Lance and doubts if biographies are his thing. To which Stan says, "Fuck your thing! This is a check! Exploit your friend for capital gain! This is America!". Not only was this sudden from the fed-up Stan but is also the statement that summarizes Harper's character from the beginning of the franchise until his turning point(which would be covered in a different article).
Stan in the series also said that if Harper wants to get the generational wealth he's always talking about, he would do the book adaptation deal. He said, "They want to make Unfinished Business into a movie. Oh, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Now, don't question it, my friend. Accept it. Hollywood is obsessed with sequels, so think about this: Unfinished Business, New Business, Back to Business, Open for Business! How about that one? I mean, this is what you've been waiting for! It's a brand-new revenue stream. You're always talking about generational wealth. This is a way to get it.".
He's doing his job as an agent and is right to monetize from the opportunities if they present themselves but it feels as if they're pulling their strings with certain words. This is similar to Quentin receiving an offer that could bring generational wealth, however, that is a vastly different circumstance.
Quentin's father, Wellington (Ron Canada) owns and heads the Spivey Properties real-estate business. Quentin ended up taking over the family business despite his efforts to avoid doing so. His opportunity to contribute on a larger scale arose after showing some people interested in purchasing Spivey Grand Manhattan around. Before this opportunity, he said, "You see, Spivey properties is about legacy and we're proud of that. The pandemic tested that legacy and we're liquidating certain prime assets to the right buyer. Nevertheless, we're not a three-star operation and this is not a yard sale gentlemen.". They inform him that they have an interest in buying Spivey properties as a whole while keeping him on to run it. He is shocked but asks for a competitive offer after they say they believe their values align and recognize Spivey as a family company. We are informed of how things went as he talks to Julian about the offer saying, "They came so correct, I mean, Kennedy's children's children are going to be set.".
He makes this offer known to his father who is utterly disappointed and uninterested. His father doesn't even look at it before declining. As Quentin tries to persuade him saying, "We're talking about generational wealth here, man." his dad dismisses it saying, "Generational wealth, my ass.".
Wellington continues on saying, "Do you think it was easy for a Black man to build a real estate business in the 1960s? I built Spivey Properties with these right here crusty hands.". Later on, we get to view the importance of Spivey Properties more as Wellington tells Kennedy (Mia Rose Morgan) how he started. He said, "Oh, that was me, your grandmother, and the great Percy Sutton after he paved the way for me to get one of the first Spivey Properties in Harlem.".
Quentin wanted to do something by himself, something of great impact to make his own contribution to the company instead of just leading it still with his father's ideals. This offer could help the company after the pandemic tanking and therefore help boost generational wealth. Wellington felt his son wanted to take the easy way out and said, "instead of tearing something down, son. Build it up". He was trying to encourage Quentin to value preserving, owning and persevering.
Saddened, Quentin asked Shelby(Melissa DeSousa), "You think I'm a sell-out? I mean, my dad called me an 'Uncle Remus' because I wanna sell the hotel.". She cheers him up saying, "Don't talk about my husband like that. Come on, you're making next-level moves.". Different things matter to different people and different generations. Ownership is important to many while others care about the possibilities and financial turnout.
" 'cause them Karens just turned into terrorists"-Beyoncé // "You can't win, you can't break even and you can't get out of the game"-Michael Jackson and the cast of The Wiz
According to Urban Dictionary, a 'Karen' is:
A Karen, historically known as a Nancy, is a pejorative term used for any 29–55 year old middle to upper-middle class white woman. A Karen will go out of her way to impose their belief structures on any unwitting or unsuspecting individual, once broken off from their pack and cornered a Karen will publicly berate the victim, possibly involving an authority figure if the victim is of minority decent.
In The Best Man: The Final Chapters, Julian and his two daughters, Kellie (Samantha A. Smith)and Keisha (Jamilah Rosemond)encounter a Karen(Jenny Strassburg). After their meetings with Quentin and Kennedy, they catch a taxi to head home. However, as Kellie is present in the back seat from the left, a lady and her dog attempt to enter from the right. This confusion despite the clear indication of the girl being present already causes the lady to hysterically cause a scene calling the attention of anyone that wanted to see as well as two police officers. The two Caucasian policemen try to figure out what happened with little opportunity for Julian to voice his perspective. One of the two officers(Brian Colin Foley) says, "Look, pal, she's all upset. It's just a cab. There's thousands on every block.". The thing is it's not about the cab obviously, as Bob from Bob's burgers says "it's the principle". Julian perturbed and trying to make his feelings known says, "I'm upset. And I understand that, but…". The second officer (Gabe Bowling) cuts him off saying, "Hey man, you're making things worse." Keisha makes him calm down saying "Dad, please.". They get Kellie and leave after he said "Okay. Okay. You're right, officer. We'll catch another ride.". The hysterical lady feeling justified says "That's right. That's right" and tells the officers, "Thank you for doing your job.".
When they get home Kellie and Keisha are expressing their feelings about what just happened. Kellie said, "But dad did nothing." which Keisha accepts but asks saying "Dad versus a Karen. What was he supposed to do?". Kellie unsettled but feeling slighted says, "I don't know" and Keisha tells Kellie, "He could have got his head blown off, stupid." after they disagree to talk about it. Their brief discussion tells of a sad understanding of their father's inability to do anything as she's a 'Karen' and engaging would only cause more problems for them instead. They seem okay, with Kellie a bit more offended but not as affected. They are probably desensitized to it, especially with so many brutal and unfair situations publicized on different social media platforms.
This situation is all too familiar to minority groups and is just as aggravating to watch. Julian had so much pain and hurt in his eyes. He's extremely angry but that doesn't matter because this wrongful woman decided to play the damsel-in-distress in a play as old as time. Many know this moment all too well and for some, a lot more than is acknowledged or should be okay with.
Julian tells Quentin about this and Q questions him asking if he did all the necessary things to protect himself. As sad as it is, there is always some form of protective procedure to do. Quentin asked if he recorded the situation for there to be some form of accountability with proof of everyone's actions. He also asked if Julian at least got the badge numbers of the officers. Unfortunately, he did neither as he said, "I was so mad in the moment. You know what I mean? My mind was racing with a million different ways to respond, and none of them were good solutions.".
He said he didn't think of bringing out his phone or anything at that moment because he was overwhelmed with anger. This happens but it's important to not let the anger overtake you so much that you don't act smart in the situation.
Lance joining them in the discussion tells of his recent moment in his neighbourhood. He said a lady that moved in two doors down from him called the cops on him despite living in this gated community for 15 years. Luckily, he was not arrested or harassed due to his identification for his regular donations to the policemen's association(and as a beloved successful athlete). The lady had all the audacity after profiling him and calling the cops unjustly to ask for an autograph for her parents but because you "gotta keep the peace" he did it for her.
Julian's anger festers on for a while and he even fantasizes about confronting the lady when he comes across her sitting outside with her friends(Jessica Bishop and Paige Herschell). Seeing her unbothered and enjoying her time angered him even more. He had played out multiple versions of confronting her with varying outcomes which he never won. He decidedly walked away doing nothing. This was such a realistic and relatable situation because sometimes people consider what could have been done after a situation to construct their feelings accurately.
They say, "don't hate the player, hate the game" but you can't win the game as it's rigged already, formed to make you fail despite the progress and enlightenment, the game is still rigged and still playing.
Different kinds of empowerment.
Jordan did not continue her relationship with Demetrius (Brandon Victor Dixon), who had been pursuing her because he was a huge investor in prisons. She thought this was horrible and worth breaking up with him as she was hesitant to even get with him after he broke her heart in college. She was so smitten by him then and feared getting too close to be hurt by him but eventually let him in before the discovery.
Jordan asks Shelby for a favour to snoop on Demetrius and during her investigation, she finds out, "Infinity Investment Holdings is a shell company. It's the second-largest investor in private prisons in the U.S". Struggling to take care of herself, Jordan is displeased with this as Shelby expected and said "I'm sorry, J." in her audio recording.
Jordan saw Demetrius investing in prisons as a way of sponsoring the defeat and struggles of Black people as she said, "Demetrius, I don't think our values are in alignment." and "Fighting for diversity and inclusion is a reminder of how dedicated I am to the empowerment of Black people. You are actually invested in the disempowerment of Black people.". Although, he said, "Most people are invested in the private prison system without even knowing it.". Disappointed, Jordan points out that those people are not exercising choice like he is and he says, "Yes, and I choose to rebuild to re-educate. I choose to replace staff and transform the cultures within the prison that I invest. If you want change, you make change, right? I can love my people, J, and still go where the money is, and then reinvest that back into Black people.". He saw it as a way of being a part of the system to help out for a purposeful and safe reformation of prisoners. He saw this as his way of helping the Black community.
After his explanation, she said, "That's your choice, if that's what you think." which replied to saying, "And that's all that matters, right? You decided what you believe in, and so you're going to be judge and jury and condemn me?". Before he wishes her well and leaves, Jordan says, "I know what I know and I keep saying to myself, 'What if I didn't know?', 'What if I didn't find this out?' and the problem now is that I can't un-know what I already know.".
Jordan experiences her own form of judgement for her choice of empowerment. Jordan tried actively to form a round-table talk show and recruited a lady, Anita Roberts(uncredited) from her failing show. She tells Patrick (Doug Chitel) checking in to see how things are going, "I've wined and dined Anita, made her feel appreciated, and explained to her why we had to cancel her show. By the time we got to dessert, hmm, she was thirsty for the fourth seat in From the Culture.". This was after she told Anita, "Nope. Absolutely. We are definitely still on. No, you are - you are a huge priority.". Shelby calls her to inform her about the effect of this decision. People were upset about this and voiced their opinions on Twitter making several opinionated tweets as a "part one of twelve" and creating memes of her to express their disappointment. She was called a sell-out for using a Black woman's demise for her rise.
Later on, she meets with all the girls and talks about the hate she's receiving saying, "Oh, my God. I cannot believe Black Twitter is still dragging me like this. This is craziness. People are really lucky I keep it classy, 'cause I could really go in on these coward-ass, clapbacking, Twitter-fingers wannabes.". Candace says, "Well, look. You know how important her show was to the culture and you didn't save it. That's why people have questions." after Jordan calls her out for sitting in judgment. Jordan responds saying, "Do you not understand? Candace, I gave her the perfect segue. I invited her to a new show with three Black female co-hosts and now I am scrambling to try to find a fourth personality that's relevant and that can move the needle.". It is known that 'business is business' and it's cut-throat requiring you to be persuasive in order to get results as well as reach targets but different things matter to different people.
Doing whatever you can//"Learn your lesson, refuel your mind, Before some turkey blows out your flame."-Michael Jackson and the cast of The Wiz
Robyn was always kind but extended that kindness into different areas. Her activism and connection to her African descent are ridiculed by Harper as they argue after their divorce in Shelby and Quentin's apartment. Robyn is upset and disappointed seeing that he filed for Mia's (Blake Aria Hendricks) custody after she brought up wanting to take Mia to Ghana with her. The conversation went like this:
R- "No, I'm done talking. Just let me go."
H- "Then go! But Mia is staying."
R- "Fuck you, Harper! You are a piece of shit!"
H- "Fuck you! You fake African 'Kunta Kinte'. Go!"
R- "Fuck you! You fucking 'Uncle Tom' Clarence Thomas"
H- "Leave! Go! Go!"
R- "Get that stick out your ass! Fuck you!"
H- "Get out of my face."
Wikipedia describes the term 'Uncle Tom' as:
The term "Uncle Tom" is used as a derogatory epithet for an excessively subservient person, particularly when that person perceives their own lower-class status based on race.
and Urban Dictionary describes it as:
1. A derogatory term for an African-American individual who doesn't stand up for racism, esp. about their own race
2. A derogatory term for an African-American who makes attempts to please "the white man"
Harper ridicules her dedication by calling her a "fake African 'Kunta Kinte'." Wikipedia describes the term 'Kunta Kinte' as:
Kunta Kinte is a character in the 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by American author Alex Haley. Kunta Kinte was based on one of Haley's ancestors, a Gambian man who was born around 1750, enslaved, and taken to America where he died around 1822.
and Urban Dictionary describes it as:
4. An African-American that lived in the 1700s. As a teenager, Kinte was captured in Africa by white slavers, taken across the Middle Passage, sold into slavery in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, USA, and renamed "Toby." Kunta Kinte is Alex Haley's great great great great-grandfather.
2.Slur used by white suburban teens to degrade members of the black race.
To persuade Robyn to get a new home outside of Harlem despite making it known that she likes being around and serving her people in Harlem, Harper said, "I do too. Black people are everywhere. And I'm sorry, but gentrification is here in Harlem now. I mean, look at all these Becky's and Liam's.". When she got arrested after a protest, they had a serious discussion. At the time of picking Robyn up from the police station, distraught Mia said, "They hurt people who weren't doing anything wrong. Even Mommy, why?". Robyn believes, "We had every right to be there and to resist unlawful intimidation. In fact, it's kind of our duty if we want to live in a democracy." as she said. Harper says, "What were you thinking? As soon as those cops came, you should have had Mia out of there. Robyn, you can't be out in these streets. You are a mother.". Fed up, Robyn said, "Hey, enough. I made sure Mia stayed safe. And I'm also making sure she knows how to stand up and make a difference." which he responds to saying, "Well, we gotta figure out a better way to teach her than you getting hauled off in handcuffs by cops in riot gear.". There are multiple ways to make a difference, some are pacifists and others are not.
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