‘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

Ayesha K. Faines
ZORA

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Still of Zendaya and John David Washington in “Malcolm & Marie.”
Photo: Netflix

“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.

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Ayesha K. Faines
ZORA
Writer for

I’m a columnist for Zora 🍯, founder of Women Love Power, talking head & salsera 💃🏾! WomenLovePower.com | IG & Twitter @ayeshakfaines.