When it comes to films about black love, Sanaa Lathan seems to be a staple throughout the genre. The Wood, The Best Man, Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, etc. Sanaa clearly has a grasp on what it means to depict love in the rawest way. While I love the energy and life that she brings to her characters, I can’t help but think about how often they do those characters dirty. Whether it’s as Robin, Monica, Sid, or Violet, my good sis always ends up with the short end of the stick.
Now, I’m not sure if Sanaa was being typecast throughout the 90s but I’m glad that sis got her bag and secured herself as an elite actress and an inspiration for the girls to come. I just wish that her characters received the love that they were giving. For some reason, they always loved their partner way more than their partner loved them. And yes, this is a hill I will die on.
“I may not be perfect but I’m strong.”
Starting with Robin from The Best Man, it was clear from the jump that her boyfriend Harper wasn’t as committed to the relationship as she was after two years but she stuck with it when he left to attend his best friend’s wedding. While Robin is a solid supporting character, she falls short of getting a solid significant other. Spoiler alert: Harper damn near cheats on Robin with his college crush, Jordan, decides to admit this to Robin as soon as she gets off the plane (as well as the fact that the entire wedding party hates him by the time she arrives to meet them, talk about awkward). Against her better judgment, Robin decides to help fix his issues, including stalling the bride, Mia, so that Harper can reconcile with his best friend. After giving Harper assistance, Robin tells him that she’d like to talk about their relationship after the event, wanting to discuss their future and if they even have one. Harper ignores this and just proposes to her right there at the wedding. One, that’s rude. Two, she literally just said that she wanted to talk about the relationship and you completely ignore her and then propose to her in front of a room full of people. I’m personally not a fan of Harper in this film at all. He makes a lot of reckless decisions and refuses to take responsibility for his actions even after the consequences have been given to him. At the end of the day, Robin deserved better.
“All’s fair in love and basketball.”
Love & Basketball is often referred to as the best black love film of all time. If you’ve ever watched the film and thought the complete opposite then welcome to the club. While the film starts as a cute story of childhood friends falling in love as they grow up together, it quickly turns into something else. Throughout the film, Sanaa’s character, Monica, is dealing with a serious case of feeling like she isn’t good enough, especially for her mother, basketball, and of course, Quincy. While they grew up as best friends, a relationship blossoms after a high school dance and continues as they start college.
During those precious USC love scenes, there are times when Quincy dismisses Monica’s basketball career and encourages her to “just be his girl” as if he doesn’t believe in her abilities as a ballplayer. You can say I’m dragging it but I personally don’t care. Quincy should support her in her endeavors, especially since he knows exactly how much she loves basketball and wants to pursue a career in the sport. Furthermore, while dealing with the loss of his parents’ marriage, Quincy is off his game and pushes Monica away after feeling like she wasn’t there for him. In fact, he even takes it further and takes another girl on a date just to spite Monica. All of this because she had a curfew and didn’t skip it to be with him. I understand that Quincy was having a moment but he understands how important basketball is to the both of them and how much of a hard time Monica has been having. This ultimately causes them to break up during their freshman year of college and they pretty much don’t see each other again for years.
Now, after college, I will admit that Monica really just carried a torch for Quincy over the years. I think she just fell in love with Quincy from the jump and it was pretty much over from there. This is her fatal flaw in the whole situation. Despite the way he treated her in college and the fact that he’s now engaged, she still wants to be with him. She even goes as far as to play a game of basketball with him, with the prize being his heart. For lack of a better phrase, that’s the goofiest shit I’ve ever heard of in my life. If Quincy really wanted her heart then she wouldn’t have had to play for it. It’s that simple. At the end of the day, Monica deserved better.
“You’re the perfect verse over a tight beat.”
Brown Sugar follows the same romantic comedy formula as Love & Basketball with two lifelong friends that are seemingly destined to fall in love. The main difference being that the two main characters are in love with music rather than basketball. I will say that I love this film the most out of the three that are included in this post. It speaks to my heart on a different level with Sanaa’s character, Sid, being a music journalist and editor at XXL. I think that this is a film where Sanaa’s character actually ended up with someone that I liked. I also just love everything that Queen Latifah acts in. When it comes to Taye Diggs’ character (how crazy is it that they ended up together again lol), Dre, he actually tried to date Sid back in the day but she turned him down so he began dating and eventually married Reese. Seems like everything’s sorted out, right? Wrong. Sid and Dre have a small moment of weakness before the wedding, which only involves a kiss but it’s enough to light the torch.
Fast forward a month or two and Sid is now dating Kelby (who ironically enough is the same date from Monica’s high school formal), an athlete while Sid and Reese are enjoying the married life. Things start to fall apart when Reese begins to get jealous of the friendship that Dre and Sid share and Sid begins to realize that maybe, just maybe Kelby isn’t the guy for her. The man doesn’t read her articles, that was enough for me to say that he had to go. I’m sorry but as a writer, if you don’t read my work, don’t even bother to talk to me. I’m deadass. After infidelity on Reese’s part, Dre unintentionally has his moment of revenge. This blow-up leads to breakups in both parties and the coming together of Dre and Sid finally happens.
You’re probably wondering why I included this film in this post since I’m actually a fan of this movie couple. Well, I just think that Sid went through so much emotionally trying to find love throughout this film. First, she finds out that maybe she does have a thing for Dre but decides to put it aside for his happiness with Reese. Next, she has an unpleasant moment Reese about the closeness of her friendship with Dre and after she gets engaged to Kelby, Dre accuses her of agreeing to marry him because Dre is unavailable. Although I like Dre as a character, I have to side with Sid on this one: he is definitely an arrogant ass. So at the end of the day, Sid deserved better from Reese, from Kelby, and from Dre too.
All in all, I’m just tired of Sanaa’s characters having to go through all types of emotional trials and tribulations just to get the man she’s been plotting on from the jump. It’s exhausting to watch Sanaa Lathan cry because she really does look like she’s truly heartbroken. I just want her characters to have something sail smoothly because they deserve better than the men that settled for them after it took them years to realize that she’s been there for them the whole time.