Epic Shade Is Made of Mirrors and Flashlights

One of my favorite people @TWestfield once had a facebook status that said something like: here's a mirror and a flashlight so some of y'all can go find yourself... It was far more eloquently and poignantly stated than that, but that was the gist. I fell in love with the statement immediately, even going so far as to work it into the answer to the integrative question I was asked during my 2-day comprehensive exam period (which ended today). I resonated with it because I feel like that's so much of what I do in working in schools with kids. I'm a mirror for them and I'm handing out flashlights.

K. Pause that for a second.

A couple of nights ago Oprah aired her interview of Bobbi Kristina Brown and Pat Houston. When a friend of mine and I talked about it, I liked what she said: Oprah asked good questions that Pat answered openly and honestly. There were 2 points in the conversation where my Twitter timeline lit up. The first was when Pat referenced Whitney Houston's apparent search for love in the wrong places. Pat made mention of younger guys and many folks took that as a stab at RayJ; Whitney's often rumored boyfriend.

The second was Pat's description of Whitney's last night out where she had an apparent confrontation with a woman Pat could not name (but was apparently Stacy Francis, a former X-Factor contestant). Pat was very clear that she had nothing ill to say about the woman, who she also clearly stated she did not know and could not name; however many folks in my timeline took that as very well-delivered and well-placed shade.

Shade, for those who may be unfamiliar, is basically a thinly-veiled dis. Veiled enough that you might, if you move to fast, miss it, but thinly enough that you'll probably catch it.

Pat Houston was very poised, very well-spoken, and calm throughout the interview. The tone of her voice never changed, no matter the topic and because of that several folks I saw on twitter priased her for her amazing ability to throw shade.

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with several friends and in it, one mentioned that one of my secret weapons in the "war of words" was my ability to make fun of someone without them knowing it. That wasn't the first time I'd had someone tell me that, but I took a minute to consider what they were saying. It is true -- I can hurt your feelings in a way that may be hard to respond to. I can be quick with my words and when my dry wit and sarcasm meet up, what results can be very rude, a little funny and you really might miss it if you're not up to the challenge. It's not necessarily a trait I'm proud of, but I can admit that I have it.

It occurred to me, as I read some of the responses to Pat Houston's interview, that there is a bit of an art to well-delivered shade. What was actually so epic about Pat was how she remained calm through the interview. That was mostly because she was stating facts -- at least as she knew them. If she was throwing Ray-J shade, and who knows for sure, she was stating the facts as she saw them. As I mentioned on twitter, the best shade, the most epic shade, utilizes relevant facts. Why does that work? Because all an individual is doing is holding up a mirror for you to see yourself.

So back to me being a mirror. See the thing about mirrors is that they don't lie. They can only tell you what you tell them. You may not be ready to hear (or see) it, you may not be ready to accept it as fact but the mirror doesn't change what it tells you based on what you want to know. It is just a reflection; it is just you; it is just what you spit out. And so is true of what some my call "epic shade." All you need to be able to do is accurately reflect whatever mess a person is spitting out in the first place and shine a little light on it so they can see it clearly (because while a mirror still tells the truth in the dark, it's far easier to ignore).

The minute you tread into irrelevant facts about a person, maybe the way they look for example, your shade is no longer useful and it's not of the epic or mirror variety. You've stepped over into your own personal opinions and I can argue you down about your opinions all day; I can't argue with the truth.

So the fair question is: am I shading my kids when I work with them? Some might think that and when I've relayed stories of working with them sometimes people say "wow, I'm afraid for those kids..." (that's a whole other topic, but if you think that working in a school necessitates being sweet like candy all the time, you need a reality check in the worst way). But all I'm aiming to do, in a developmentally appropriate way, is show a child what it is they are showing the rest of us and ask them: "is this who you want to be?"

I've actually found kids deal with that a lot better than adults...


Tyler Perry's Good Deeds Did Some Good

I went to see Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (name of the movie; I'm aware you already know the filmmaker; henceforth "Good Deeds"). I was surprised that I liked it, but I shouldn't have been. I tend to really enjoy Mr. Perry's non-Madea movies. However, I did have some qualms with it but I have qualms with most movies because I'm a critical watcher. Let's dive in, shall we?

First my issues: Suspension of disbelief is always a problem in Perry's movies. I already knew that Perry's main character, Wesley Deeds, makes the assertion that he is 5th generation ivy league educated which bothered me during the promo period of the movie and of course continued to annoy me when it was said in the movie. I like that he created a well-to-do black family for us with it's own interesting privilege issues, but I wish he'd been realistic about how that family might have come to be. Also, as a person who works in schools I took issue with a few of the scenes around Lindsay (the single mother played by Thandie Newton) and her child and custody. I know several people didn't like how things tied together nicely at the end and so quickly -- more suspension of disbelief, but you have to do that sometimes for movies.

I also noted a few plot holes like when in one scene Natalie's (Wesley's fiancee, played by Gabrielle Union) friend Mark says he's never met Wesley only for the audience to later see Wesley call Mark by name and jokingly say that he'd better have a cab ride home -- not an exchange you'd expect between two people who've never met. Those happen in movies; they always annoy me but that's just me.

Right from the jump I was happy that Tyler brought us out of Atlanta and took us to San Francisco. I don't believe "The Family That Preys" was set in Atlanta either but we also were never made aware of what city it was so that doesn't count.

I've been saying for awhile now that Perry's movies would behoove themselves to make use of subtlety. Everything doesn't have to be spelled out and finally he gave me what I was looking for. We first meet the couple as they're getting ready for work. Instead of having Natalie, tell us flat out that he was predictable, we hear Natalie say the things that she knows Wesley will say because he always does and through that we learn very easily that he's a man of pattern. Not only that but in that simple exchange we can see HOW predictable he is; right down to what he'll say!

Of course Natalie goes on to eventually spell it out for a fellow character and then later for Wesley himself, but the initial subtlety was much appreciated and noted.

Perry likes to use his movies as soapboxes, especially when Madea is in them, on how to raise your kids and I thought he was going to do that this time around -- he kinda did -- but he surprised me when the single mom pushed back with some key points of her own about how difficult it is to raise a child, especially alone. As much as the point was made that kids need good parents, so was the point that good parents need support and it's very much easy to outside or armchair quarterback.

Other high points: this movie was ripe for opportunities to drag out a story line (and at 1 hour and 57 minutes, I expected it to do that in parts) but for the most part, it didn't. Perry made fairly good use of screen time, pretty much always progressing the plot. The ending is no surprise but the delivery worked enough to have even a jaded movie watcher like myself not sure what to expect, right away.

Overall, like I said, I really liked the movie. Perry surprised me with how well he wrote it. I frequently find myself in his movies wishing the dialogue was like 2 points better so it could be tolerated; this time he brought it up 5 points. I think he got great actors for all the parts. Brian White overacted once or twice, but that happens too. Wesley needed an antagonist, the brother (played by White) as sabatoger sub-plot worked but it never really fleshed out; Walter was an ass and then suddenly, we assume, he wasn't. Not much more to that except watching him just be an ass for the duration of the movie.

I'll give Tyler Perry's Good Deeds 3.5 stars out of 5.

Oh: "Time After Time" HAS to be the most covered song in American Pop history. Seriously. I also appreciated that he put "Right Here Waiting (For You)" in the movie too.