I have to say, I really enjoyed ‘Secret Society’ and ‘Secret Society 2: Never Enough’; there was foolishness aplenty, but messages, too
OPINION: The movies that follow the stories of Tina and Celess are full of lies and deceit, but who in the world put up the money to rent all those expensive items??
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
To know me is to know that I spend a lot of time watching movies on various streaming services that most folks don’t know, don’t show or just don’t care to go check out (or care about what’s happening in the hood). I go to Tubi—first—for many of my viewing pleasures followed by Amazon Prime. Tubi is home to many of the films I watch with usually questionable acting and/or scripts but oddly a pretty high level of production value. So when the homie hit me up the other day to ask if I had Tubi, I knew foolery was afoot. When I informed her that I did, of course, have Tubi, she asked if I’d seen Secret Society.
I had not. I told her I would though. And then a funny thing happened; I started seeing social media commentary and reactions to Secret Society making me think this was a film that must have just dropped. Except it didn’t; it was a film that came out in 2021. But when the socials get to chirping that lets me know it’s time for me to mosey on over and check out a film.
Secret Society (and the sequel, Secret Society 2: Never More) didn’t disappoint. So boom: Secret Society (the movie) is the film adaptation of the book written by Miasha Coleman back in 2006. She caught herself a book deal with Simon & Schuster for more books and eventually, she financed the film, which stars Reyna Love as Celess and Erica Pinkett as Tina and features Prison Bae Jeremy Meeks and a small role for Vivica A. Fox. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again; all Black movies are made better by including Vivica A. Fox or Clifton Powell.
The film centers around two women—Celess and Tina (and eventually Si S—played by Adejah Parris—instead of Tina)—who are essentially scammers, moving from city to city hustling various men out of money, trips and cars. They’re from Philadelphia but have turned Atlanta into their home base. The movie turns on its head when a secret about the women comes to light and leads to some really significant problems for them both. While they’re living the high life of mansions, fast cars, cash, clothes and money, the men attached to them are being played and eventually, well, you can guess what might happen. But here’s the curveball—and it’s true for both films—there are a few lessons here about being true to oneself and using that self-awareness and honesty to empower others and better yourself. The messages aren’t the cleanest and easiest to get through, especially considering what’s happening in the film, but they’re there. I want to tell you what they are but that would ruin the entire film…and some of the flashback scenes.
There is one thing that I noticed in both films that I’m really curious about and I suppose if I ever get a chance to ask Miasha about it, I will: Just what was the budget for these movies?? Seeing as the movies are about women coming up and “running G on men” to eke out the finer things in life, the only way to present that is to actively show the women living that life. And while I’m sure you can fake watches and luxury accommodations and amenities and, I suppose, pretend that Florida is Mexico, you can’t fake luxury cars. There are several Bentley’s driving in the film and an assortment of other luxury vehicles that people are actually driving, as opposed to being decorative. I’m really curious about the film budgets.
Not to mention the cameos. I mentioned Vivica A. Fox already, but Trina makes an appearance in the sequel as does Felicia “Snoop” Pearson of The Wire fame. In Secret Society 2, Snoop is basically playing the same character from The Wire, except she lives in Philadelphia, not Baltimore. Listen, I want to tell you the plot so badly but truth be told, you need to see the movies yourself to truly appreciate them.
I also have to mention that as somebody who has watched a plethora of movies that are all straight-to-DVD in their execution, I am really appreciating the production value in the movies that come out that would constitute Black cinema. There was a time when those movies would all look low-budget, but with the same advances in technology and reduced costs of the factors of production that allowed anybody to be a rapper, the filmmakers really have been putting a lot of care and effort into the movies.
Secret Society and the sequel are two movies that represent this new vanguard to me. The movies are as well made as any movie from the major studios. The difference is always going to be in the script and acting, but honestly, if you put Tyler Perry’s name on either of these films, you’d not blink twice. And that’s not a knock on anybody involved; Tyler Perry is very successful so if anything, it’s a compliment and Tyler Perry better watch out.
If you’re a person who needs some Black cinema to check out that has both foolishness and a message, then Secret Society and the sequel are your jam. Also, I’ll be looking out for more work from the mind of Miasha Coleman; she’s alright with me.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.