‘Malcolm & Marie’ Exposes Narcissism at Its Best
If women are the prize for men’s success, they can’t fully love and humanize a partner
“I am the prize” is a single woman’s mantra. It’s how we remind ourselves that we are worthy of love. But what happens when a woman is the literal prize of a man obsessed with winning? Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie explores this question by probing the inner lives of a budding Hollywood auteur and his trophy girlfriend, who, for the duration of one exhausting night, exorcise five years’ worth of grievances.
The premise of the film is simple. Malcolm and Marie, played by actors John David Washington and Zendaya, are in love. But after he forgets to thank her on the night of his film premiere, tempers flare, especially since his movie is loosely based on Marie’s private battle with addiction.
Sure, race is a vital part of this film. The colorism is implicit; Marie’s fair skin and straight hair make her the prototypical trophy mate of a successful Black man. And then there is Malcolm, who spends most of the night fuming about the White L.A. Times critic who had the audacity to assume that his Black film was about “race.” He longs to be so powerful that his Blackness is merely an asterisk.
However, Malcolm & Marie transcends race and offers up a universal message about the pitfalls of modern love. It is a searing commentary on the toxic pairing of men who crave validation from the world and women who crave the validation of men.
When we first meet Malcolm, he has just premiered a film that “knocked the audience the f*ck out,” and he’s floating like a butterfly, dancing throughout the cavernous glass house to a machismo James Brown tune. This is a Black man who has made it to the mountaintop, and he has all the trophies to prove it — praise from White critics, attention from powerful White men, and a beautiful girlfriend who inspires envy in his White colleagues.
But his euphoria is short-lived.
Marie is seething, even as she prepares him a crude version of macaroni and cheese. Visually, she is a living, breathing trophy — wearing a metallic dress that overtly displays her body: pert breasts, taut stomach, long legs and back. The visual message is clear…