The Sexual Health Lessons of Tyler Perry's Temptation
Spoiler Alert!! I am going to reveal quite a bit of this movie in this piece. If you plan to see this film, read this post later on. Also, keep in mind that this is strictly an opinion piece.
Where do I begin? I have had many chats with my girlfriends, fellow advocates and the Lord before I decided exactly what I wanted to say about Tyler Perry's Temptation. I am not a movie reviewer so I will not comment on the cinematography side of this film. I know what I like as a movie-goer and as an HIV advocate so that is what I zero in on when watching cinema. This movie was not a good look from my perspective. Aside from a bad script, choppy pacing, weak story line and a sucky ending I found this movie to be an insult to those of us who are fighting to be an AIDS free generation. I'm not sure what Tyler's intentions were with this film but I wish he would consult someone before going to print.
So here's the synopsis. The lead female character Judith (played by Jurnee Smollet-Bell) is a bored Christian wife and marriage counselor who was swept off her feet unexpectantly by Harley (played by Robbie Jones) a rich, drug addicted, client who has an extreme bad boy side. Her husband Brice (played by Lance Gross), also a Christian, is an inattentive and predictable pharmacist who ignores some obvious signs of displeasure in his wife. Somewhere along the way Melinda comes along to work in the pharmacy with Brice as a cashier. Melinda (played by Brandy Norwood) harbors a couple secrets that she reveals over the course of the film. First of all, she's running from her former husband who abused her. Second, she is HIV positive. And who infected her with HIV? Harley, the rich, drug-addicted, business guy who unravels towards the end of the movie and consequently infects Judith as a result of their affair.
There are a few sexual health lessons that may be missed in this movie.
Lesson 1: Talk it up! Judith didn't want to know anything about Harley's sexual history. In the movie she said, "I'm a Christian. I don't believe in sex before marriage". Well in 2013 sex before marriage happens even among Christians. You may require being married before intercourse but your potential partner may not. He or she may have a past and if you are going to be intimate, you need to know it. I'm not saying that you need a body count unless that makes you more comfortable. Just start the conversation and hold your judgment.
Look at your partner's patterns. Does he engage in oral, anal, or vaginal sex? What's his favorite condom to use and how often does he use it? Is there another form of protection he uses such as dental dams or the female condom? Don't settle for the I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it line. Make him or her comfortable by showing your honest, non-judgmental side. And if they are still reluctant to talk about their sex life, it may be best to remain friends without benefits.
Lesson 2: Domestic Violence matters in sexual health. At the height of the so-called action in this film Harley flipped out and beat the heck out of Judith. Melinda also said that her former husband Harley beat her. Obviously, he has a habit of beating women. How do you ask a man like that to wear a condom? Domestic violence is a very real issue in many relationships and it is directly linked to sexual health. It is a barrier for women to protect themselves. Melinda even said she knew Harley was sleeping around when they were married. I have yet to see how a wife can ask her abusive husband to wear a condom because she suspects he's unfaithful. If he is the bread-winner and provides a home and relatively comfortable lifestyle for the her, she will probably concede to the raw if that is what he demands.
Lesson 3: This may seem minor but I was so done when I saw this at the end of this story. Besides the fact that it was totally flat, it fed into HIV stereotypes that I hate to see. In the end Judith gets a government job as a marriage counselor and Melinda continues to work at the pharmacy. However, Judith looks outright awful while Melinda looks fantastic. First of all that's very judgmental on Tyler's part. Is he suggesting that Judith isn't forgiven and must spend the rest of her days in a depressed, lonely state for cheating on her spouse? It also seems to suggest that she's getting what she deserved by having HIV.
Secondly, Melinda and Judith were both infected by the same man. Why did one woman look great and the other one look sickly? HIV doesn't have to make you look sickly at all. Harley had it throughout the entire movie and looked healthy as an ox. I'm very sensitive to stereotypes and subliminal messages in films that involve HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. You have to think carefully about the message you want to send.
I am not encouraging nor discouraging anyone from seeing this film. You can make up your own mind. But I caution you to be aware of the "lessons" that Hollywood is trying to teach us through art. Tyler is a smart man but he is no expert on sexual health. If you want answers and facts about HIV, consult professionals. If you want to be entertained, find your nearest movie theater.