Tim Alexander's Diary of a Tired Black Man is supposed to be the black male version of Waiting to Exhale. In the film, a straightforward narrative is coupled with documentary footage of actual conversations exploring the issues that exist in black heterosexual relationships. This film didn't deserve the initial buzz it received and it certainly doesn't deserve the hype it's getting now.
The biggest problem with Diary of a Tired Black Man is that no one bothered to write a decent story or well-rounded characters for the fictional portion of the film. James (Jimmy Jean-Louis) is a black man struggling to find a good relationship with a black woman. This drama isn't anything new; it's a horse beaten to the point where I'm surprised it can stand up.
The narrative segments follow the plot of an average romantic comedy and feel lifeless and automatic. The characters have no soul. The actors exist solely to perform ideological archetypes designed to make you believe that a problem exists where there isn't one.
One of the "issues" you're supposed to care about is the supposed tendency of black women to wild out on a man for reasons not typically worth getting upset about. In one scene James leaves his underwear in the bathroom which his then-wife Tonya (Paula Lema) sees. She proceeds to go off on James. This seems to me like the logical result of piggish behavior. If you're going to live with someone else, you should assume that the person you're with is going to have a problem with crap on the floor. Most women — like most people — would like to have a clean place to live and sleep in. If James was tired of this or couldn't find a woman who would be more relaxed about it, he should just be alone. Bachelorhood is about the only time you're allowed to do exactly what you want without another voice in the room.
There's another scene in which Tonya sees James — now divorced — bring a new girl along when he comes to pick up their daughter. In addition to being mad at James for being weak, she's now mad at him for being with a white woman. White women, according to ignorant stereotypes, are weaker than black women. But James comes off more as an idiot than a weakling. Why would you take another woman — white or otherwise — to the house of your ex-wife whose idea of a good time was spitting in your face? There's no way I would introduce a girl to someone like that if I could help it.
In between the already-thin segments of plot come the documentary footage. The bias is in favor of the black men in most cases, with the blame being aimed squarely at the black women. There are a few black women who agree that the problems within black relationships lie with black women, but it would make sense, whether we want to hear it or not, to let the women disagree with the men as well. When they do so, Alexander tries to paint them as irrational.
The film presents some solutions to these "problems." One of them is a return to reading the Bible. There in the pages of the immortal text it is apparently written that Adam is dominant and Eve is submissive. But the inversion of gender roles isn't the reason these problems occur and they certainly don't reflect the the issues James faces in the film's narrative.
Another solution is something simple: letting go of the past. This isn't something that just black women and black men should learn, but something everyone ought to adopt. The scars of your past shouldn't get in the way of the healing process toward a brighter future. If they do, then men and women will continue to carry their emotional baggage into their relationships.
In a post-Barack Obama generation, Diary of a Tired Black Man feels completely inappropriate. President Obama has a wife and two children, and his family seems genuinely happy. Magnolia Pictures must have thought to themselves, "Hey, let's see if this will fly," when they released the film to see if there were a few people who still thought there were "problems" in the black community.
There are other issues that black people have to deal with. The state of the world right now, however, is not reflected in this film. Nobody cares one iota about getting a woman or a man these days. People are only concerned with survival.
But if navel-gazing is your favorite hobby, Diary of a Tired Black Man is just for you.Powered by Sidelines