Negro Noir: I Watched Tyler Perry's Ruthless and My Confusion Is at Its 'Highest'

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless (2020)
Tyler Perry’s Ruthless (2020)
Photo: Courtesy of BET
Negro NoirNegro NoirMovies that are “so bad, they’re good” are one of life’s unsung treasures. And like anything, adding Blackness to that principle is like adding proper seasoning. Negro Noir is our series reviewing/recapping bad Black movies. It’s so Black, the title of the series is “Black black” in two different languages. I watch so you don’t have to. But you should.

Movies that are “so bad, they’re good” are one of life’s unsung treasures. And like anything, adding blackness to that principle is like adding proper seasoning—our series reviewing/recapping bad black movies, Negro Noir. As our queen-in-chief Danielle Belton pointed out, it’s so black, the title of the series is essentially “black black” in two different languages. I watch these so you don’t have to. But you should.

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Current status: I am a living and breathing Nick Young meme.

I can thank Tyler Perry’s Ruthless for that. Let’s jump right in…

From BET’s official press release:

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless, a spin-off of the hit television series Tyler Perry’s The Oval, tells the riveting story of a woman named Ruth who kidnaps her young daughter to join her in the dark underworld of a fanatical religious cult. Tyler Perry’s Ruthless is the first new original series from Tyler Perry to stream on BET+, a joint venture between BET Networks and Tyler Perry Studios. [The first] three episodes of the one-hour drama, are available now with new episodes launching every Thursday. Tyler Perry’s Ruthless stars Melissa L. Williams, Matt Cedeño, Lenny D. Thomas, Yvonne Senat Jones, Baadja-Lyne Odums, Jaime Callica, Nirine S. Brown, Blue Kimble, Stephanie Charles, Hervé Clermont, Anthony Bless, and Bobbi Baker. Tyler Perry’s Ruthless is executive produced, written, and directed by Tyler Perry.

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Full disclosure—I know this is a spin-off, so I must admit that I am coming into this canon entirely fresh. Outside of random (and outrageous) clips, I have not yet watched The Oval; though, based on said clips, perhaps I should for this series, because the following clip secured Ruthless’ spot as the next Negro Noir spotlight (the following is NSFW-computers, by the way):

I let out a horrified shriek and promptly decided to test out the show by watching the pilot.

First off, we can’t start this commentary without pointing out the obvious (aside from the obvious peen I just linked): the series’ title is a not-so-subtle spin on the primary character’s name, Ruth. Brilliant—which is what my 19-year-old self said when I wrote my second feature script with a similar spin. Those were innocent times.

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Alas, here we are.

Because I’m sure Perry did the same thing when he came up with the title, I looked up the formal definition of “ruthless” and it is described as, “having or showing no pity or compassion for others.” How fitting, given the content and the lack of concern for his audience’s wellbeing. In fact, if you look at the cover pic again, imagine me as the man raising his hand, except silently calling for help.

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From the heavily exposition-based dialogue, the cult of patriarchal members are called The Rockadooshees.

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Let’s stop right the fuck there and process the fact that this cult’s name is way too similar to the ‘90s animated film, Rock-A-Doodle.

Okay, let’s continue. There are a few key players here:

The titular character Ruth (Williams) has smuggled her daughter into the cult, which is basically a child trafficking scheme to prepare for a supposed “race war.”

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There’s Dikhan, portrayed by Thomas—who actually punched a woman in the face while she was driving, therefore endangering everybody in the fucking car, including himself—is the right-hand man to the HBIC, The Highest (now you see what I did there with the headline).

Yvonne Senat Jones (l) and Lenny D. Thomas (r) in Tyler Perry’s Ruthless
Yvonne Senat Jones (l) and Lenny D. Thomas (r) in Tyler Perry’s Ruthless
Photo: Courtesy of BET
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Next is Andrew (Kimble), the second-in-command to Dikahn, who is actually an undercover F.B.I. agent who may have been compromised and lured into adapting the cult’s ideologies. He’s in love with Tally (Jones), a somewhat rebellious cult member who may be pregnant (uh-oh!).

The pregnancy part is a problem because Andrew is set to be “cleansed” by The Highest and in order to prep for such a ritual, celibacy is strongly recommended.

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The supposed heroes of the day are Agent Brian Rollins (Callica) and his wife Lynn (Brown), who have made it their mission to infiltrate the cult in order to finish the investigation and possibly save Andrew. I guess.

I think that about sums it up. Still, I am swimming in a sea of questions:

This is giving me strong The Handmaid’s Tale vibes. Is this the hotep version, “The Bedwench’s Fable”?!

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Why did the opening scene take so long and how many times did Dikahn need to say “shut her up!” (in reference to Ruth’s daughter) for us to get that he’s a controlling dickhead?

What does the cleansing process entail? Will I last long enough to endure more episodes so I can find out (and possibly get to the aforementioned clip that lured me into this show anyway)?

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Is Tyler Perry Productions a cult?

The men forced Lynn to drink a cup of water before the episode abruptly faded to black, so I’m left wondering—was this supposed to signal waterboarding? Is this, as my friend Taj pointed out, what Tyler thinks waterboarding is??

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Why is this something?!

Lawd. Don’t have pity for me, by the way. This shit is fun. Ruthless, but fun. *wink*

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Tyler Perry’s Ruthless poster
Tyler Perry’s Ruthless poster
Photo: Courtesy of BET

Ruthless is currently streaming on BET+, with new episodes dropping on Thursdays.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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DISCUSSION

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless, a spin-off of the hit television series Tyler Perry’s The Oval...

A spin-off???