Throwback Thursday: Eve's Bayou (1997)
I wish I could say that I remember the exact day that Eve's Bayou came out, but I don’t. I don’t remember seeing trailers for this movie, and I definitely don’t remember going to see it in the theaters. Honestly, I think the first time that I watched the movie was on BET. (You know they’re good for showing a classic Blackbuster such as this at least 2 times every Saturday.)
My first vague memory of the movie features an exchange between Cicely and Eve right as Cicely is being shipped off to a psychiatric facility. Cicely is sitting in the car while Eve is crying on the footsteps of the house, devastated by the fact that her sister is leaving her. At one point, the camera pans to Cicely as she places her finger over her mouth in a ‘shhh’ motion to Eve. Eve begins to cry harder as she nods her head. Her young little life further complicated by the new secret that she’s forced to bear.
I didn’t fully understand the struggles that Eve faced as a child, until I grew to be much older. I didn’t grasp how a little girl could love and idolize her father so much only to hate him so much to wish for his death at the drop of a dime.
I didn’t understand the concept of loving and losing like Mozelle until I experienced it for myself. And I surely didn’t comprehend the double edged sword that comes with loving a man, especially a black man, until I damn near lost my mind over a man who expressed his love towards me in the harshest of ways. All I saw was the innocence and naivety of a little girl who sorta looked like me, and I ran with it. I should have paid more attention.
If you’ve never seen "Eve's Bayou" before, I have no clue what you’re doing with your life. Filled with an all-star cast including, Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good, Lynn Whitfield, Diahann Carroll, Debbi Morgan, and Samuel L. Jackson, it focuses on the lives of an upper class Creole family in the bayous of Louisiana. The family is full of fucked up secrets, which Lynn Whitfield, the mother, tries to sweep under the rug in order to maintain a façade of perfection and elegance. All the while, young Eve is battling her inner demons on whether or not to expose her father who can’t keep his dick in his pants.
Mozelle, the cool ass aunt who is basically a seer (she can glance into the future, no Raven), can’t keep a man to save her life. Literally, all of the men that she has ever loved have died in some kind of fucked up accident. And Cicely…chiiiiiiiiile, we’re not even going to talk about Cicely. Written and directed by a woman, Kasi Lemmons, it provides a close look at the problems and challenges that black women in the South face in love, life, and relationships. The story is both beautiful and heartbreaking, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so entranced by it as a child, until now.
I sympathized with Eve. I understood Eve. Hell, I was Eve. Our lives may have been a bit different and our family dynamics were not the same, but I knew her. I saw her when I looked in the mirror every day. Her never ending quest to please her mother backhanded me every time I opened a bag of chips or tried on a dress that required a girdle.
Her need for love and attention from her dad was the same one that I had. Her feelings that she just wasn’t good enough for her parents so she sought love and comfort in her aunt, were my own at that age. At a young age, I was Eve; angry at the world with no real idea how to express it. And no, I didn’t have a voodoo priestess that I could run to for help, but I can say that the only thing that stopped me was that I was related to the only one that I knew.
And as I grew older, I realized that I was becoming more and more like Roz Batiste. Trying to put on a brave face like everything was okay when my world was practically shattering around me. I learned the hard way that just loving a man won’t keep him home at night. I learned that sometimes, nobody can hurt you the way that a man, especially a black man, can. Roz pretended that she didn’t know what her husband was doing.
She acted like she didn’t cry herself to sleep at night at the realization that doctor’s appointments weren’t the real reason that her husband didn’t come home at night. She smiled in the face of the woman who slept with her husband at her own damn house, and I struggled to do the same in my own situation. Endless fights with her husband and no improvement, I was Roz and Roz was me. I’ve been there, done that, and got the emotional scars to prove it. I ignored the signs and there are times that I still cry at how I allowed myself to be played like a game of Spades at the fish fry on Friday nights.
But now, I think that I’m headed in the direction of Mozelle. Scared to love again after a lifetime of past hurt. Feeling like every man that I have ever truly loved leaves me. Truly, there might be an ice box where my heart used to be, but even if you reach it, there’s probably so much scar tissue around it that it might not even be functional. Blessed with the gift of foresight and seeing through other people’s bullshit but to blind to see through my own. Fighting my own destiny and sometimes stuck in the past.
I am Mozelle and Mozelle is me. No, none of my lovers have met a tragic end, but from the way that I cut some of them from my heart, and especially my life, they might as well have. I understand the fear that she had when Julian showed up at her door because it’s the same one I feel whenever a man shows just a drop of interest in me.
I have been these women at some point in my life, and I’m sure that I will be them again. Hell, sometimes, I think I’m Cicely, looking for love in men like my father, both the good and the bad parts. I think it’s inevitable, and I just have to prepare myself for it. But no matter what, I want to end up like Eve at the end of the movie. Viewing the world with my eyes wide open. Hurt by the world, and even a little bruised, but stronger because of it.
Forgiving of others, but no longer naïve. Full of the understanding that you don’t need to see into the future to understand that tomorrow might be better than today. Embracing myself and my natural gifts in order to become a better person to my friends and family. That’s who I want to be. I am Eve in the Bayou.