Something New (SN) challenges the old way of thinking that we should “stick with our own.” This is not a stereotypical interracial comedy like Guess Who, where there is no development of characters or the deep-rooted issues of dating “outside your race.” SN is an endearing love story that touches on the realistic struggles of dating interracially. I was skeptical on whether to include SN into our Black Love Fest, but SN details factual challenges from the perspective of a black woman. Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is a senior accountant. She is obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, and complex. She works hard but plays little. Her main social life is with her besties: Judge – Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Pediatrician – Suzette (Golden Brooks), and Banker – Nedra (Taraji P. Henson). They get together often and school each other on looking for an IBM (Ideal Black Man). They make a pact to, “Let it go, and let it flow.” Their mantra sets off a chain of new experiences such as Kenya going on a blind date.
Something new can be a serendipitous experience. But it can also make us vulnerable and fearful of the unknown. Kenya accepts a blind date with a landscaper, Brian (Simon Baker). They meet at a Starbucks in L.A.. Kenya is so shocked and uncomfortable by Brian being white that she abruptly ends their date. Later, she unexpectedly sees Brian at a dinner party of their mutual friend. She discovers that Brian did the beautiful landscaping. I love when Brian tells her, “If you’re ever ready, call me.” This definitely has a double meaning. Kenya only agrees that he can be her landscaper after he sends her a copy of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte is crossed out and replaced by “Kenya’s Web” after a “spider incident” at the nursery. It is during an unplanned and unwanted hike that they share a kiss. Kenya loses herself in the kiss until she realizes whom she is kissing. She is disturbed and asks to be taken home. When Brian drops her off she tries to get rid of him, but he starts to kiss her against the wall. His hands are all over her. He takes charge and they make passionate love, which is followed by an endearing pillow talk scene where he caresses and kisses her face. He unfortunately ruins it by asking her if can she take her hair off. That is a “hell no” with black women who wear weaves. He said he was just wondering what she looks like completely naked, but she was pissed, and kicked him out.
The next day she is sharing round table with her BFFs and they’re asking, “Was it good?” “Was he big?” and all the other sister-friend questions. They tell her that she doesn’t have to marry him; she needs to “Let it go, and let it flow.” Now the fun begins. Brian makes a comment that he “takes hard earth and makes it bloom,” a complete metaphor. We watch as Kenya blossoms under his care. Brian adds so much color into her life. He makes love to her and polishes her nails red, he beautifully landscapes her home, paints her walls, takes her hiking, and challenges her to try different things. Kenya starts to enjoy Brian’s dog, and is not so uptight about enjoying herself. I don’t want the viewer to think that Kenya is only changing because Brian is white. Kenya has found someone who challenges her and persuades her to come out of her shell. Kenya has a very strong personality and Brian can “handle” her. He is sexy, assertive, and attentive when he needs to be, but doesn’t coddle her when she is being a diaper baby.
I also love the culture presented in SN: the erotic dance performance, the mixed culture of L.A., and the Cotillions of Color. I am a black woman married to a white man. Although I did not go through the exact experiences as Kenya, I understand them. There is more scrutiny with black woman dating white men, than with black men dating white women. Even with my husband and I being cultured we have had many obstacles. We have committed to a lifetime of stares, being pulled over often, ignorant comments such as: “Did you get tired of black men?” (As if?), and individual experiences that we’ll never fully grasp. And still, we have to remain unified and go through the trials and tribulations of just wanting to be together.
The only thing borrowed is trouble when Kenya lets her family and friends dictate her growing love for Brian. Joyce is very bourgie and upper class and thinks of Brian as lower class. She looks at Kenya’s new colorful home life as disdainful. Kenya’s brother, Nelson (Donald Faison), doesn’t approve of her dating “the help,” and brings his Law Professor, Mark (Blair Underwood), to her housewarming party. Her friends and family continue to validate and confuse her insecurity and discomfort with her already fragile relationship.
Something blue expresses Kenya’s struggles and inner conflict with dating a white man. Unfortunately Kenya continues to be uncomfortable when in public with Brian, often shying away from hugs and kisses, not introducing him properly, and arguing with him about his insensitivity to her experiences. She is troubled by the prejudice at work and when she discusses it with Brian they have a fight and break up. He says that he wants to have “a day off,” and she says black people don’t get a day off from injustices. During the break up Kenya starts dating Mark.
Again, the conclusion is not a surprise. Kenya makes partner, and is respected for her objectivity and knowledge on a new client. Cheryl becomes engaged to the cook she met, while Kenya struggles with her break up and new love interest. It is important that Mark was brought in as her love interest. He is attentive, educated, mature, and adores her. He is Kenya’s “IBM,” yet she is discontent. Sometimes what you want is not always what you need! She made a brave decision by letting Mark go and going after Brian. I say brave because of the challenges — which she is aware of — that they will face. Yet, she is still willing to be with Brian. The film ends with a beautiful small wedding filled with family and friends.
This film brought up the realistic challenges that bi-racial couples face. SN delivers something stirring, and something new for the audiences. Usually when black woman and white men marry there is a deep connection and openness. It’s a unique union because the relationship is neither a “fade” nor the “norm,” and usually it’s not desired. It usually starts with a friendship and an unexpected courtship. When a love blooms it is with deep affection and surprise. There is great attention given to black women in SN. I enjoyed seeing the deep girlfriend connections, and the representation of black women. Black women are considered “aggressive” and “strong.” But we are also soft, passionate, and require gentleness. We are thought of as “Super Woman,” but every Super Woman deserves a genuine hero. Something New is what can happen when you let your defenses down and are open to new experiences.
- Black and white people were not able to legally marry until 1967.
- Sanaa Lathan is in 3 of our 5 reviews.
- Alfre Woodard plays Sanaa’s mother in a total of three films.
- Golden Brook is a classically trained dancer and child figure skater/competitor. She is also a U.C. Berkeley graduate with a major in Media Representation of Minorities.
- Simon Baker is an Australian actor, with the deepest and most sexist accent ever!