I saw this movie for the first time at a teenage slumber party. It had just come out on DVD. I was the only girl who actually had admiration for Eva, and thought the four horsemen didn't deserve forgiveness. I always joke I came out of the womb a feminist. I say this because, from a young age, I'd detect ridiculous biases. I'd question 'default' attitudes, standards and archetypes. In the very least, some situations--like parts of this film's plot--just didn't sit well with me. Eva wasn't homicidal, deceitful or malicious, but she was 'evil' the males needed 'deliverance' from. If any of the characters were guilty of these things (minus homicide), it was the guys, but she was villainized over them. There's something really wrong with that, especially when one takes a closer look at what allegedly made her so bad.
Eva is purportedly so traumatizing to deal with, an ex developed a speech impediment. Said ex freaks out upon seeing her picture, and repetitively screams "B*tch!" in an open bar. A flashback to their last encounter shows her dismissing him for complaining she was uptight and then lying about it. Oh, the horror! The horror! How 'bitchy' of her. *Rolls eyes* What puts Eva at the top of her field is her precision, but she's constantly criticized for it by others. When she doesn't budge on an inspection citation, she's told she has an ice pump in her chest and is "so damn uncompromising." Later, on her first date with Ray, she repeatedly has to ask him to leave a restaurant with a faulty manager. He further diminishes her concerns and career by accusing her of overreacting and snarkily saying "You're not the FBI." She responds accordingly, but is described as "nasty" and as having an "electric fence with rabid pit-bulls" around her heart.
Tim, Mike, Darrell and Ray view women as conquests and blow-up dolls. "Is she putting out?" is Ray's first inquisition about Eva. Mike claims, "Love is an excuse, an alibi, a justification for sex." They value and think so highly of their appendages, they firmly believe it has the power to control and cajole. They insist a good poking is all Eva needs to be cured of her demonic ways. It's emphasized to Ray that if he does nothing else, he must bed her. Sadly, the idea sexual relations with men are the source of female joy and a predictor of behavior is reinforced throughout the movie. Eva's inaugural roll in the hay with Ray instantly and drastically changes her demeanor. She shows up at Bethany's salon the next morning a midriff-bearing, cursing and slang-using free spirit. In another example, it's assumed she's still hung up on her high-school sweetheart because he "popped her cherry."
Effectively manipulating women is a principle and a sport to these dudes. Being the best at it is a crowning achievement. They say things like "Playa' first, women second" and "Men getting away with sh*t is the backbone of this here country." Ray is considered a god among them for his thorough methodology. They meet him as he woos his 2 feuding dates into a polyamorous threesome. He pretends to have moral fiber by declining to date Eva initially, because he's "a lover, not a con-man." However, after seeing her on the job, the juices of his ego begin to flow and he salivates at the prospect of deconstructing her: "If I could get that woman, I'd go down in the player hall of fame." Man, what a 'lover." What a prince. Ray casually speaks of women's emotional barriers, without flinching about his kind being the cause for them. Eva astutely rejects going out with him and correctly pegs his type: "The playa'-playa' who thinks women are disposable toys." He's targeted her for those exact purposes, but he guilt trips her into it by dubbing her assessments as generalizing scare tactics. Tell a sista' she's harsh, bitter, stereotyping or not giving a brotha' a chance, and you're in. In short, this works because black women often believe the notion their 'anger' is to blame for any romance troubles they have. From there, we know Ray is successful at cracking Eva's proverbial nut. She warmly professes to him, "You taught me how to trust again." Sigh. He only decides to fess up when he's confronted by his partners in crime.
Eva was a perfectionist, and what some therapists would call 'enmeshed' with her family, but that still hardly brands her a villain. If it does, miscreants make up half the earth's population. Besides, enmeshment isn't a solo effort. Kareenah, Bethany, Jacqui and Eva are over-involved with each other. Even after Eva's relationship with Ray takes off, her sisters use her as a defining model. Maybe they weren't independent thinkers. Maybe they truly had reservations about babies, cohabitation and academics that were simply upheld by Eva's stances. Their significant others didn't contemplate these possibilities.
Eva Dandridge being an authoritative, outspoken and witty intellectual who took her work and sisterhood seriously doesn't make her Maleficent (who was proven to not be so awful herself). It makes her awesome, a boss, a shero and whatever other trendy terms for women who kick butt. #JusticeForEva