The brothers Grimm sure knew how to shine a light on marriage. In one of their recorded tales “Freddy and Katy”, they recount the story of a simpleton wife who is too gullible and too obedient to her husband and receives punishment after punishment, ending up as a homeless victim of rape. The concept of women receiving the short end of the stick is still one highly renowned in today’s society, despite the movement to empower females. In the recent film, Temptation (2013), directed by Tyler Perry, a strong, intelligent, and fairly independent woman becomes unfaithful to her inattentive husband, resulting in her assault and eventual downfall with AIDS.
In “Freddy and Katy”, Katy is the most humble and innocent wife a man could ever ask for. Being the idyllic attentive and caring wife that society then (even now, unfortunately) encouraged in a marriage, she catered to her husband’s every whim and need. However, Katy was very dimwitted and gave away her husband’s “yellow chips” (which were actually pieces of gold), which she was not allowed to touch, to a sly group of scoundrels looking to barter items. Once Freddy discovers the tragic exchange, he scolds Katy, who suggests they go after the bandits and retrieve their gold.
On their journey, Katy slowly loses her husband’s food, but manages to outwit the bandits with her dimwittedness. The couple retrieves their gold and head back home. Freddy, being quite upset by the entire incident, tells Katy she must work harder in the fields. Katy does as her husband says. In the spirit of censorship, the Grimms disguise a rape scene as a simple daydream where Katy “accidentally” cuts her clothing off while “daydreaming” and does not recognize herself once she snaps out of it (from a psychological standpoint, “daydreaming” and lack of recognition are ways rape victims would disconnect themselves from the criminal actions being performed on them). Katy then runs to her house and asks her husband if she is indoors, to which a supposedly sleepy Freddy confirms (so, basically, she gets rejected by her husband after being raped). Katy leaves and joins a pack of thieves, scares two old men away from a turnip patch, and the story ends. The wife is left as dimwitted as before, but now she is a victim of rape, a thief, and homeless.
In Tyler Perry’s film, Temptation, Judith is a smart and independent woman who marries her first and only love, Brice. She moves to D.C. and lives happily with her husband. She cooks for him, cleans their home, and performs any sexual acts he desires (the perfect wife). However, upon coming to work one day, she receives a new client, handsome and wealthy Harley, who is immediately drawn to her. As Brice becomes less and less attentive to his wife, even forgetting her birthday for a second year in a row, Judith finds herself growing more and more attracted to Harley, who constantly drowns her in compliments and romantic gestures. Eventually, Judith becomes sexually and romantically involved with Harley, leading her to a life of drugs, alcohol, and hard partying. Harley eventually becomes physically aggressive with Judith, beating her to a pulp one night. Brice comes to the rescue, however, he no longer wants his wife back. At the end of the film, Judith is a marriage counselor living by herself and with AIDS.
Somehow, in both the tale and the current film, the concept of women taking the fall for every man’s shortcomings and receiving the short end of the stick is a theme that resonates loudly. Freddy wasn’t the perfect husband. He constantly reprimanded his wife for simply trying her best to do all that he asked and caring about him. He sends her off in a time of need when she has been a victim of sexual assault rather than help her. Likewise, Brice becomes completely inattentive, taking all that Judith does for him for granted. Once she is down in the dumps, he rescues from the scene, but altogether abandons her afterwards. Somehow, the male’s blame in the situations are completely overlooked, so that responsibility for all that goes wrong falls solely on the female.
It is a scary thing to see that despite the supposed progress that females have made in gaining equality in today’s society, they are still second rate citizens to men. Such a concept has transcended centuries and is unfortunately common in many cultures across the globe. Although no marriage is ever ideal, the Grimms and Tyler Perry’s film play with the idea that the perfect wife takes care of her husband no matter what character flaws he may have, and must remain completely faithful to him, taking full responsibility for her actions even if they were not premeditated or consensual (like rape).
Now who wants to get married?