By Imanuelae Eke
The film is a romantic comedy based on Steve Harvey’s book ‘Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man‘. It follows four couples and each woman is dating a different type of man as defined in the book, “The Player”, “The Non-Committer”, “The Mama’s Boy” and “The Dreamer” respectively.
The women follow relationship strategies for the given type of man they are dating and all seems to go well, until the men discover what they are up to. They get a copy of the book and attempt to counter the women’s plans but ultimately, end up alone. Following some reflection and regret, the couples make up and the movie ends with a joyful reunion and uplifting music.
‘Think Like a Man’ is unsophisticated and dated. It’s blatantly self-promoting with Steve Harvey appearing several times to talk about the ideas in his book (K-Ching!). The film’s soundtrack is a lot more entertaining than the script which in places relies more on sexism than realism. Chris Brown has a minor role in it and for me, it’s still too soon. The last person I need to see in a film dealing with relationships is Chris Brown.
‘Think Like a Man’ operates in a heterosexual world and works on the premise that women have an innate need for commitment while men are all about sex and that men are in a position of power today because sex and women have become too available. This is made clear at the onset, with James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s World’ opening and a voiceover by Kevin Harris.
The impression that ‘Think Like a Man’ gives is that a black woman’s primary focus is on finding and keeping a man and that we’re prepared to lie, cheat and manipulate in order to get one. But, I have to say, the men in this movie aren’t very appealing. They are sexist, emotionally immature with little potential for growth. The “Happily Married Man” is portrayed by a white man who in fact does seem more enlightened when it comes to relationships and more willing to compromise. But, I wonder what is this trying to tell us, that black men are not this sophisticated by nature and we just have to work with this?
Admittedly both the men and women in ‘Think Like a Man’ are overplayed stereotypes. To suggest this is the best that men, particularly black men, have to offer is very bleak and to assume that black women are so desperate is insulting.
‘Think Like a Man’ roots for a playing field that favours men while it pretends to empower women. Conforming to some basic stereotypes and predefined rules makes women easier to understand and also removes the need for men to relate to us as individuals. Steve Harvey is unapologetic when he says that “we need to talk” are the four words most dreaded by men. This is following a scene where one of the men gets a call from his girlfriend who says exactly that. The scene also makes it plain that men have no such reservations when it comes to talking about strippers and ‘titties and ass.’
The movie denies that men are intimidated by a woman’s success yet we are told that the male DNA is encoded with the need to be the provider and the compulsion to be in control. A view that conveniently ignores evolution and is so worn out that it is completely threadbare. Successful and accomplished women are accused of being too independent and giving off the impression that they do not need men because they are men. The preferable strategy for these women is to downplay their achievements, lower their standards and settle for less. So, this film doesn’t seem as much about helping women get men as it is about helping men get women with minimal effort and undamaged egos.
‘Think Like a Man’ is nostalgic for a time when men were men and abundant chest hair and gold medallions were a sign of virility and I can’t help but feel that it may be a reflection of how hard it is for black men to deal with the much improved status of women today. Women are more successful, financially secure, sexually liberated and independent than they have ever been and perhaps for men like Steve Harvey it makes it seem like male privilege is slipping away so now there’s a war on.
Harvey’s book was on the New York bestsellers list so it obviously did well, but I think that any women who finds it necessary to resort to these tactics is simply encouraging bad behaviour and buying into the idea that black men are a lost cause. Steve Harvey, instead of looking to women for a solution, should encourage men to look to themselves. Men, even black men, need and benefit from commitment and any who refuse to adapt will lose out in the long run. Women deserve better. Perhaps he hasn’t realised this yet which might explain why he is on his third marriage. This makes it even harder to take his book and this movie seriously.