HomeENTERTAINMENTMea Culpa Gives Black Women The Power of Lying

Mea Culpa Gives Black Women The Power of Lying

Women’s History Month is an important time to reflect on the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. It is a time to celebrate the strength, resilience, and determination of women who have fought for equality and justice. From the suffragette movement to the #MeToo movement, women have continuously challenged societal norms and fought for their rights. This month gives us the opportunity to recognize and honor the countless women who have made significant impacts in various fields, such as politics, science, art, and literature. It is also a time to acknowledge the struggles and obstacles that women have faced in the past and continue to face today. Despite the progress that has been made, there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equity.  Black women have played a crucial role in shaping American history, yet their contributions have often been overlooked and undervalued. From the early days of slavery to the present day, black women have faced intersecting forms of discrimination based on both their race and gender.

What sets Tyler Perry’s latest release on the streamer giant Netflix, apart from other stories about Black women, is its focus on the power of choice.  Mea culpa is a Latin legal term that translates into ‘my fault’ or ‘my mistake.’ It is often used as an admission of guilt or responsibility for wrongdoing. This phrase has been used for centuries as a way for individuals to take ownership of their actions and show remorse for their mistakes. In today’s society, where it seems easier to deflect blame onto others or make excuses for our actions, mea culpa holds a powerful significance.  Commanding power for oneself is something Black women were deprogrammed to process.  Our melanin sustains the fake strength we exhibit.  Why are Black women designed to not have choices? 

This is what Tyler’s latest flick got me questioning.  Why do we feel the need to front? Why can’t we be bold and accepted? Kelly Rowland’s portrayal of an unhappy wife whose legal career brings her into a situation where her morality is challenged feels like a spec on the proverbial mirror on the proverbial wall of the Black woman.  Well, the POC women, the ones raised here in the United States, like me.  Like you. 

Mea Culpa follows an ambitious criminal defense attorney, Mea Harper, in her aspiration to be named partner, takes on the case of an artist accused of murdering his girlfriend. When criminal defense attorney Mea Harper takes on the murder case of artist Zyair Malloy, the truth isn’t as obvious as it seems. While she tries to determine the innocence or guilt of her cagy-yet-seductive client, it is uncovered that everyone is guilty of something.

Mirror mirror on the wall, is it because I’m Black, is that all? They keep mentioning this glass ceiling all women face in their careers, but we can clearly see it as a Black woman.  Our ceiling is not made of glass but of melanin skin.  It isn’t masked as some kind of Karen-esque white woman in an unqualified position, it is a clear slap down to where you belong, regardless of how qualified you may be on their paperwork.  The danger we face, like what Mea faced, is that the people who said they were your family, the man you married, the best friend you had, are all working with a little bit of melanin, too.  Without all of the necessary information, making a choice for yourself will cause those choices to be misled. I remember that one friend in the film Get Out, who tried to warn him.  

We find Mea and her husband, Kal, in the midst of a martial protective lie.  His family is not the type to keep it real, their mother is a white woman named Azalia.  I wouldn’t go as far as to call her character, a Karen, because Karen’s are essentially powerless, this mom would be more along the lines of a Ginny. Do you know Ginny? Her real name is Virigina Thomas, she is the wife of the Black SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas.  Ginny plotted to get folks to question Joe around January 6th, 2021.  She claimed, however, that she did not actually believe that Biden had lost the election when the investigators pressed her.  She essentially copped a plea because she could.  These white women are the ones you told your son to be watchful of.  Mea’s character never seems to have anyone on her side other than her best friend Jimmy, a private investigator portrayed by RonReaco Lee.  Jimmy is that confident and, by nature, a PI, so she asks to look into her pending client, Zyair, portrayed by Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes. Zyair, is a high-end hot commodity painter, now facing first-degree murder charges.  Mea has married into a family of legal minds, though Kal, an anesthesiologist, has lost his gig and is being held down by his wife, the lawyer.  That’s the secret, by the way.  Kal’s brother, Ray, is an assistant district attorney whose latest case is prosecuting the murder of a Mexican national, Hydie, whose boyfriend is an acclaimed painter, Zyair.  The plot thickens quickly.  Oh, did I mention, the white woman Azalia, also has quote unquote, cancer?  This gives her point of view on all of her adult children, and their spouses, a fiery touch.  Azalia is God as far as her kids are concerned, and if God giveth, she shall take it away.  Mea is told explicitly by her bestie slash sister-in-law, that she should see Zyair’s case as a non-negotiable, She is told to stand down by Ray and everyone else.  It was her first choice.

Jimmy does a version of his due diligence and travels to Mexico to investigate the parties involved in the murder case further.  While he is there, he mentions to Mea that, as a friend, he wants her to be happy, signaling in friend terms, that he knows she’s hot for the artist and her marriage is going to come into play soon.  Mea tries her very best to walk away, but Zyair’s uncandid approach to her sexuality and femininity makes it nearly impossible.  When we play around with fire, we will be burned.  When you are in an unhappy marriage, everyone else is fair game, that is just reality.  Azalia, Ray, and lying Kal continue their media blitz to stop Mea from linking her name to Zyair’s any further. Still, her unhappiness and increasingly limited choices start to unravel her.  The final straw was when Zyair plays her against a white woman who is happy to be his whore.  Mea leaves but then returns.  It was her second choice. She sees white women as she sees her mother-in-law, something of power that you can crush.  Or maybe just an overbearing cancer.  The sex scene is the paint scene, and you have to get into that scene, if that is the only scene you watch.  

The spiral Mea faces internally shows the audience the emotional state of women who are behaving as men go through.  She went from guilt, telling Zyair afterward that she cannot keep him on as a client. She also comes clean to Jimmy about her affair.  She seems to be practicing when she tells her male friend about her sexual affair, seemingly preparing herself for the truth, the mea culpa.  Going into the affair, she was aware of her unhappiness.  As guilty as she feels, her sexual attraction to the painter turned client turned, she’s not too sure because creative energy is hard to pin down, and continues to persuade her life choices. There’s a scene where she finds a painting on the ceiling.  When details about the dead Mexican chick surface, she pulls back the portraits to see other women Zyair sold the same game too.  Her biggest hurdle, a Black art collector who Mea goes to speak to as a potential character witness to her client.   Renee is the owner of a gallery that has launched Zyair’s career.  Their conversation makes clear that Zyair is just as she thought, hard to pin down.  The two women, though defenders of Zyair, engage in a power play over his allure.  Renee feels slighted because she is older, much older than the Mexican girlfriend that he supposedly murdered.  She can placate those emotions towards Mea, a woman in the midst of confusion.  Renee has more power in her life versus Mea, a woman still trying to make a name for herself as a legal partner at her firm.  Renee also has less choices.  She engages with the angry mob outside of the gallery, proclaiming that she will never take down the artwork, even if he did murder that Mexican girl.  Mea went after the case because she knew it would help her career, but now she feels used by Zyair.  She sees Renee as a potential warning sign.  Is this how he treats all women?  The timeless art of seduction feels cheap when you swap stories that are identical. Also, when there’s suspicion surfacing on the whereabouts of Hydie, the victim.  Mea spills the beans in a heated confrontation with her husband and his family.  She leaves distraught in typical Black woman fashion and hops a flight to DR.  She sees a Hydie working in a hotel and phones her brother-in-law, the ADA, Ray, to try and get Zyair’s case dismissed before he enters a plea.  Ray calms Mea and tells her to return to their home in Chicago.  At the same time, her pal, Jimmy, finds out that the matriarch had been keeping lies of her own.  Karen (Azalia) never had cancer to begin with.  This was all a scheme.  Ray’s wife, Charlise, had an affair with Zyair and purchased a lot of his artwork.  When Ray initially tells his family that he will be divesting into the artist since he is now being charged with murder, he also mentions that he wants to take a run for Mayor. 

Upon return to Chicago, the plot unravels with the instigation of Azalia.  She ends up stabbing Charlise, which triggers Mea to run for her life.  As she is being chased, she runs down the road and flags a car.  The driver is her husband Kal.  She cannot speak or explain to Kal what is happening, but he calls the “police” as he continues to drive in the same direction Mea has just escaped from.  She realizes her husband is aware of his family’s plot.  Mea causes their car to swerve so that he flies out of the driver’s seat.  Zyair is exonerated as Ray is arrested.  

Kelly Rowland is no stranger to on screen runs for her life as she starred in the horror classic Freddy vs Jason.  This time around, however, she created a character with more recognizable depth and a lot more steam on the screen.  Rowland is no stranger to provoking conversations around the challenges of men and women as she got her claim to fame singing hits with Destiny’s Child back in the 1990s.  Tyler Perry has been writing thriller love pieces since Acrimony, in which female leads are the main ingredient.  In Mea Culpa, there is a whodunit murder mystery storyline along with a love story.  We find a woman who is a defense attorney caught in the middle of her own web of lies.  Rowland’s portrayal is dissymmetric.  You understand her, root for her, get pissed off at her, and then you want her to win in the end.  She additionally sends us on a fashion-forward ride in every scene, which works to keep our attention on her.  The casting felt short and sweet.  Every line in the script was necessary to move the story forward.  It goes quickly.  

 

 

Tahyira Savanna

About Tahyira Savanna:Tahyira is a lifestyle journalist and writer.  Her interest includes human stories and introspection.  She interviews everyday people doing their part to make our world happier. Follow her on Twitter @TAsterisk and Instagram @iletthegoodtimesroll

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