It is a treasure to find movies that have it all, and Coming to America is one of those movies. Comedy, History, and Symbolism.
For the most part, I fell in love with this movie for the same reason that everyone else did, because of its humor. If you need something to help make you laugh then put this movie in. I’m not even going to ask you if it’s part of your collection. I mean, you do have Coming to America…..right???? But as time went on I also started to notice other information of importance that surpassed the laughs. Not only is this movie extremely hilarious, but it also includes many messages.
Starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, Coming to America is about Akeem Joffer, the crown prince to the throne of the wealthy African nation of Zamunda, who lives a prosperous life. But having been appointed a wife from birth and forced to marry her, Akeem is unfulfilled to take a woman who would obey him and submit to him. He is also uneasy with the idea of the arranged marriage. In fact, he is sick of being pampered in general. As a result, he decides to take a trip to America to find his bride; as he puts it, “someone who will excite his intellect, as well as his loins.” To make a long story short, he takes with him his friend (or personal side kick whichever fits), named Semmi and together they end up in Queens New York, an impoverished part of New York City, and opt to stay in a run-down apartment in one of the most disgusting rooms in the building (“it’s a shame what they did to that dog”…lol)
Now, since there is so much here, I’m going to take only a couple aspects of the movie that I see that involve a deeper message than the ability to tickle the funny bone.
#1: Authority and Submission
To start, part of Akeem’s travels is that he is not interested in taking a submissive woman as wife. It’s more than the arranged marriage; it is also the woman’s trained obedience to his authority. The famous, “Whatever you like…” scene showcases this well. While many of us laughed at this and threw our “I know that’s rights!” into the air, smashing our judgmental comments of Imani Izzi (arranged bride-to-be seen here) at the screen, in truth there was nothing wrong with what she said. Of course they had to exaggerate it, but the point is that a woman is supposed to obey her husband. She is his helpmate and her desire is his desire. Contrary to popular belief, authority has nothing to do with money. A man is not the head of his household because he’s supposed to make the money and a woman’s money does not appoint her as the head either. This is society’s definition of authority and it is the reason many women think they can step all over a man because they make more money than he does. And isn’t it a shame? That the one thing we value most in a man, many of our men do not have. No wonder 70% of black women are single.
A man’s authority is to be the leader and the protector of the family. A man provides more than just money. He provides protection, leadership, and guidance just to name a few. Contrary to feminist thought, submission does not mean weak nor is it synonymous with slave. Submission just means to give respect and to be in agreement. When a woman is respectful and in agreement with her husband she is following his direction. In addition, she strives to keep him happy in every aspect. The saying that a woman is a lady in public and a freak in the bedroom is not made up by happen chance. It just means that a woman works to keep her man happy in every capacity. Even something as subtle as King Jaffe sitting on the throne and Queen Aeoleon standing by his side; this is an accurate portrayal of how it should be. It is no wonder the King walks around with a lion hanging from his shoulders. In the animal kingdom, the lioness hunts down the food, she brings it to the lion, and he is the first to eat. Like I said, respect. As you can see from this example, the woman is by no means idle and her job is not insignificant. She must work to keep the family strong just as he does and ensure her home is a happy and thriving one for her family. She may do this by working or staying at home. Either way, she is helping to add to the strength of this business of sorts called family. She makes decisions and suggestions as well but this authority does not surpass that of her man’s. There can be only one CEO of this business and he stands up to pee for a reason.
In short, Akeem refuses a woman from his own cultural background who will be obedient and respectful to him, and instead seeks a woman from America who is more independent-minded.
Akeem is in line to receive his father’s possessions. He is the royal descendent of a great people, much like the children of Israel. As he and Semmi maneuver their way around the “Land of the Free”, you start to notice an unraveling of their culture. They do not desire to be a set-apart nation of priests; they are simply, “Ordinary Americans.” They go from living in a palace to living in poverty; from letting their hair grow long to cutting it off; to being draped in gold, to designer jackets; from being pampered and provided for by a King, to having to work a 9-5 at a restaurant. Akeem and Semmi go from being among a powerful and set-apart people, to a downtrodden and despised people. They go from being in line to inherit the blessings, to accepting of the curse. In America, Akeem is not proud of his cultural heritage, he is ashamed of it.
Even the end of the movie is significant, but I will leave that part alone for the 2-3 people reading this who have not seen Coming to America (smh).
Funny Movie Mistakes:
When Akeem and Semmi get their apartment, the landlord says that the room has only one window facing a brick wall. But when Akeem is out on the fire escape, he yells out to a street, not a wall. And there are two windows.
Watch the movie and see if you can spot the knot!
“What’s your favorite movie? Is this among your collection? Why do you love it?”