It has been a while since I’ve gone out and watched a new movie (the last one was Crimes of Grindelwald), but after seeing all the trailers and the ads and my family saying “hey we should go see a movie”, the stars aligned and I got to watch the masterpiece that is What Men Want. I shouldn’t need to say it, but spoilers will be ahead.
What Men Want straddles this line of being a chick-flick rom-com and a subversive text on the nature of discrimination in the corporate world, which is really what made it (for me) such a great movie. The context for the movie is that Ali (played by Taraji P. Henson) drinks a tea laced to the high heavens with weed and ecstasy, gets too wild at a club and bangs her head (we’ve all been there), and when she wakes up she finds out she can read the thoughts of men. At first, she goes crazy because she works in an office full of men and none of them are thinking pleasant or even remotely interesting things, but she realises she can use her newfound power to manipulate her way to becoming a partner.
Here’s where things get interesting, though. By all means, Ali manages to play the game perfectly. She wins the trust of the person she wants to sign, she wins a pretty hot man and she’s basically celebrating becoming partner when it all gets ripped from under her in a last-minute deal taking her star away from her. And when her boss gets angry she throws it right back in his face saying he’s not going to fire her because she’s a woman. He says that isn’t the case and, in the most venomous tone, she responds it’s because she’s a black woman. Which is probably the case. In an office full of mostly white, mostly straight men, she’s a clear outlier as a talented, black woman, which fuels her competitive spirit. Even her assistant cops it because he’s openly gay and, as such, isn’t seen as being able to move up in the corporate environment.
Now, of course, all the weave-snatching, cooked partying and wild sex is super fun to watch, but for the producers to have the balls to call out a system rigged against minority groups simply for being a minority group is why I personally loved this movie. It’s a discourse that’s being brought up more and more with such a focus on minority groups being (finally) prioritised, especially in long-standing industries such as PR. There are moments in the movie that really reflect a struggle that happens between middle and upper-class white people and minority groups, especially African-Americans, that show why movies like this are so important in bringing issues into the public discourse. By using such an accessible medium, it opens up the conversation to the public and to people who may actually be in these situations to be able to speak about issues such as workplace discrimination.
That isn’t to say that the movie wasn’t without its problems. Honestly, the worst bit was that the complications weren’t ever impactful enough to be concerned about. Everything that happened felt like it would blow over, and that’s exactly what happened without much work. There’s a part where Ali goes and finds Jamal playing basketball on the court by himself that acts as a “hey you should cancel your contract with the Chinese company and sign with us” that ends up working, but the audience never sees how that contract gets cancelled or how anyone convinces Jamal’s overzealous dad to resign with Ali. My only wish is that, instead of focusing on churning out jokes, the writers tried to give the plot line a little more meat, although for a chick-flick is does pretty well for itself.
All in all, you should watch What Men Want. It’s funny, it has some important messages and overall it’s an enjoyable viewing experience. Just don’t expect too much from the story. Oh, and also have this clip of Shangela in a little skit for movie promo, I think it’s hilarious for absolutely no reason.