This article continues from Editor’s Letter – Spring 2021
Most recently, I watched Tyler Perry’s “Good Deeds” for the first time.
This movie touches my life in so many ways (the way that only Tyler Perry movies seem to do). I found myself (literally) all over this movie. I think that stories like this need to be told for those of us who have lived some part of it; and they need to be told by people like Tyler Perry.
When I saw Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton), a single mother and cleaning worker for the Deeds Corporation, desperately picking up trash bags filled with her belongings (about 13 minutes into the movie) as everything from her apartment was being thrown out on to the curbside because she could not pay her rent (with her child waiting in the van that was almost towed just hours earlier), I almost cried.
I thought, “Thank you Jesus!” Because there but for the grace of God go I.” I recall being a single mother of a toddler while we were both transitionally homeless and everything we owned was in a van my cousin sold to me for $100.
Living in that van, I remember going to Quick Trip bathrooms to wash up and change clothes (Lindsey and her daughter do this about minute 42), dropping my son off to a stranger’s car in the parking lot, and trying to go to work without worrying about him. Finally, I remember being evicted from our first home and having to leave my job as my depression and bipolar symptoms flared leading to a mental breakdown and residence in a psychiatric ward (the first in a series of stays).
All of those memories came flooding back when I watched Lindsey go to work and leave her daughter alone in a broom closet, promising to return in an hour. I never had to leave my son alone, but I did have to leave him with strangers. This terrified me because it reminded me that when my mother was a single parent and I was left in another family’s care, I was sexually abused at the age of six. It has taken me thirty-six years to re-gain steady ground in my life, after living a downward spiral despite many accomplishments (mental disorders are often “off and on”. So, a high functioning person can be sometimes high functioning, and sometimes dysfunctional). As a result of abuse, I live with three mental health disorders that almost killed me on several occasions.
About minute 26, Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry), head of the family-owned Deeds Corporation where Lindsey works, recounts a story to her of almost drowning in the Maldives on vacation. Although his father warns him not to go into the sea (neither of them knew how to swim), Deeds jumps in anyway. Lindsey asks, “How did you get out [of the water]?” Deeds tells her, “My brother jumped in and saved me.” I thought, Wow. I remember thinking the same thing about my eldest brother, E…
He was the second child born to my mother, almost 13 years after I came into this world. Somehow, I knew that he would be a blessing to me specifically – not only to my mother. While mom worked to take care of us, I practically raised him to the age of five. My brother went on to be a high school valedictorian, West Point graduate, military captain, devoted husband, and doting father.
When I was drowning in sorrow, my brother stepped in and saved me. I was even able to forgive him for putting a sandwich in the VCR player (we didn’t have DVDs in the early 90’s) and rendering it useless; and for pouring glue into my Lego phone making the receiver stick to the base and all of the keys unable to be pressed down (I loved Legos and that was my first real phone. Losing that phone hurt, but I loved that child immensely. When I was sixteen and announced that I wanted to go on missions to Africa, he said, “I want to go with you.” That’s who he is to me. He always has my back. I haven’t been to Africa yet (although I believe God sent me a gift all the way from Kenya in the person of my son’s father (Oh yeah, I prophesied as a child that I would have African children), but I have been to France, Germany, and Austria – with him + 1 of my brothers). Below is a view from our trip to Paris in 2003.
When I had my son, it was only natural that I also named him Emanuel after my brother (translated, “God with us”). Little did I know that God was not going to stop there. Despite my lonely beginning, I now have five +1 brothers and a sister, all of whom I am extremely proud of for various reasons. I have also gotten to know amazing men and women in my cousins, aunts, uncles, and extended family.
Now here’s a throwback tribute to three of the greatest games of the 80’s– Frogger, Pac Man, and Ms. Pac Man! About minute 32 of Good Deeds, Lindsey’s daughter Ariel (Jordenn Thompson) plays the Frogger arcade game.
As a child of the late 70’s, I was just 3 ½ years old when Frogger hit the US market in 1981. But it was one of the first games I ever played, along with Pac-Man (1980) and Ms. Pack-Man (1982). These are still the only video games that can hold my attention for hours (even though I don’t really play any video games these days) Just ask my siblings)).
O.K., back to the movie…
About minute 32, Ariel’s stomach growls and Deeds offers to take she and her mother to a pizzeria. They go to the restaurant and Lindsey explains over dinner that she was previously in nursing school. I still remember getting my CNA diploma; but I never actually worked in the field. Unfortunately, Lindsay recounts, she had to drop out of college with just two years left in her program after she lost her daughter’s father to Iraq.
Suddenly a single parent having to carry all of the bills, Lindsey needed a job. She became a janitor. No, that wasn’t the fulfillment of her dreams. She was a college student, working most probably for minimum wage. I totally understand. After mental illness ravaged my life, I worked for minimum wage despite holding two college degrees.
About minute 40, Lindsay states (and how ironically), “That man is persistent.” This couldn’t describe Deeds (or Tyler Perry) more. About minute 45, Lindsey is trying to get a space in a shelter. I remember doing the same thing. I felt like I was being asked so many intrusive questions, but I was thinking the entire time, “God, please let this woman tell me I have a place to sleep tonight.” Thankfully, she did. I do not know what I would have done if she had said otherwise. As if I did not have enough reasons to feel like I was seeing my life in this movie, one of the women in the line to get in to the shelter (minute 46) was named “Renee” (my middle name, which I was primarily referred to as during high school and in my twenties).
About Minute 50, Lindsay and Deeds have a heated discussion about parenting. Lindsey asked Deeds some tough questions that prove he does not understand the plight of a single mother trying to make ends meet and failing. Minute 53. Lindsey and Ariel check into the shelter. They go to sleep in their clothes and shoes (not abnormal in a shelter). In the middle of the night they are attacked by a shelter resident. Lindsey grabs and Ariel and runs out of there.
About minute 55, Deed’s fiancée, Natalie (Gabrielle Union) calls him “predictable.” Granted, throughout the entire film thus far, she has been able to finish his sentences and knows what he will do before he does it. But what Deeds does next could not be more surprising. What does Deeds do? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
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Cover photo source: Tyler Perry at the 82nd Academy Awards by Sgt. Michael Connors – 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment / Public domain.