Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi, one of Beyond Baby Mamas’ most encouraging, inspiring and all-around awesome community members, saw The Single Moms Club — in an actual movie theater! — so you don’t have to. We asked her to review it for us and she graciously obliged. If you saw the film, too, we’d love your thoughts. Leave a comment below!
As a teenager, I watched Tyler Perry plays after church on Sundays with my best friend’s family and when he transitioned to movies, I was an early supporter– flocking to see Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion on opening weekend. I was happy to see him “make it” and I wanted to be a part of his success. I was Perry’s intended audience until I could no longer reconcile the underlying messages with the grotesque misrepresentations, stereotypical characters, and themes.
So when my friend asked me to see The Single Moms Club, I rolled my eyes and cringed. I jokingly expressed my disappointment and how I’d expected more from her. Were it not for social media, namely Twitter, I wouldn’t have even known about The Single Moms Club, but I reluctantly agreed, figuring I could, at the very least, get a few good laughs and potentially save others in the process.
What I didn’t expect was the sheer anger and outrage that would follow my viewing of the film. I purposely stayed away from reviews because I didn’t want anything to color my own, so this is my untainted review of The Single Moms Club. There are a few spoilers, but nothing major.
Single Moms Club is centered around five women dealing with various issues that stem from raising their children on their own. Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is the high-powered exec at a publishing house on the partner track. May (Nia Long) is the writer at a local paper who is shopping her book around (unsuccessfully). Hillary (Amy Smart) is transitioning from married, stay-at-home mom with a maid/nanny to being a single mom sans help, Lytia (Cocoa Brown) is a waitress at Waffle House who was a teen mom and whose two oldest sons are each serving 25 years in prison, and Esperanza (Zulay Henao) has been dating a man for a year, but has yet to be seen in public with him, or tell her daughter about him, for fear of her ex kicking her out of her very nice house.
The mothers come face-to-face at a meeting with the principal of the school their children attend. The principal called the meeting because their children were caught misbehaving after school. Two of the boys were “tagging” property and others were smoking cigarettes. As penance for their children’s actions, the principal charges the moms with planning the school dance/fundraiser and thus the “friendship” begins.
Perry has long acknowledged his roots in single mothering, but one has to wonder if he is saluting, admonishing, or mocking single moms with this film. One common thread, aside from the fact that the children all attend the same school, is that the kids are all fairly disrespectful to their mothers (and authority figures) – which makes me wonder if he is suggesting that it’s impossible to raise smart, thoughtful, caring children on our own.
At one point, Lytia asks her son if he has any homework and after telling her he did it on the bus and then showing her the math sheet, she stares at it, obviously confused as to what she’s looking at it. While her son looks on with raised eyebrows and rolled eyes, she asks him if he thinks he’s smarter than her and he responds with a look that says, “Pretty much.” She quickly tells him to go to his room.
Another example is a conversation between Esperanza and her daughter over the daughter’s use of a cell phone given to her by her father. On what I assumed to be a school night, Esperanza asks her daughter to give her the phone. The daughter refuses and then calls her father to “tattle” on her mother.
These are not single occurrences in each household. All of the children talk back to their mothers with little to no repercussions— cue the overwhelmed, single mother who just doesn’t know what to do so she does nothing. I’m not saying I haven’t had my moments — we all have — but Perry does nothing to counteract this narrative because this IS the narrative.
Another huge flaw is that the film is full of inconsistencies — and not the kind that you can readily overlook. I struggled from the beginning believing in a character like Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey) who had her daughter via sperm donor, especially since her storyline centers around her struggle to balance work and home on her own. Perry wants the audience to believe that a woman working tirelessly to make partner at her firm chose to have a child with no apparent help from her family, and no life partner in sight? I don’t know a woman on the partner track of ANY career who would decide to have a child without help — not a one, but maybe I’m wrong.
I also took issue with the parent meeting. Any parent who’s had a meeting with school administrators (especially one where another child was involved) knows that you can’t be called into a meeting with the other parent without prior consent of both parties. Administrators aren’t even allowed to tell you the name of the other child, let alone provide you access to them or their parent without their consent.
Other inconsistencies found — May (Nia Long) writes a book based on the Single Moms Club in either one night of babysitting or over the span of a couple of months. Either way her book is done before the night of the dance, with a mock-up hard-bound cover— and I was left feeling like I need to babysit more often for the apparent productivity boost.
Lastly, who works and has time to meet during the day like these women? They are constantly having meetings at someone’s home at noon on a Thursday.
I’m constantly left wondering if Perry is a satirist or if he expects us to take him seriously as a filmmaker because his attempts at humor are, perhaps, the most infuriating thing about this film. At one point, Jan tells Lytia that she’s never met anyone like her. Lytia is struggling to make ends meet and has no problem saying exactly what’s on her mind. May counters Jan’s statement regarding Lytia with, “You’ve never met anyone as black as her.” They all laugh and then Jan goes on to describe Lytia as a “big, black wall made of black bricks with black mortar” Cue more laughter (both on screen and in the theater) while I sat there shocked wishing Tyler Perry was there himself so that I could knock him out.
As if calling Lytia a big, black wall wasn’t bad enough, Perry then has her go out on a date with Branson (Terry Crews), a patron at Waffle House who’s been trying to get her attention since the very beginning of the movie. He seems nice enough until Perry uses another ill attempt at humor by having Branson force Lytia to kiss him. Lytia, true to form, smacks him and throws him up against the car. He then grabs her, swings her back around against the car and kisses her again. After a few rounds of this, she eventually gets turned on, because a man forcing himself on her is what every woman has been waiting for. Can we add furthering rape culture to Mr. Perry’s IMDb page?
I’m not sure about the positives mothers are supposed to take away from this film. At one point during the movie, my friend leaned over and asked, “What if there are single moms here who are looking at this and really feeling inspired by it?” To them I ask for an explanation. What about it was inspiring? At the end of the movie, the mothers are friends (yay!), they’ve successfully pulled off a school dance (woot!), and they all have a man in tow (ummm??). If Perry wants to empower single moms, I suggest that he first stop making bad, under-informed films about them.
Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi is a litigation paralegal and single mom of two daughters ages 10 and 11, currently residing in Louisville, KY. She facilitates a women’s abuse support group, and is in the process of starting her own non-profit, Building Hope, Inc., that will serve women and children of domestic abuse. You can follow her on Twitter at @justjerdi.