This screenshot from Mo Better Blues urges viewers to think critically about the role of women in Bleek’s life, and in the context of other men in the film.
There is no definitive way to read this scene, where, mid-coitus with Bleek, Clarke reaches for his trumpet only to have her hand pulled away by Bleek. (1:07:40) Initially, I took the scene as Clarke’s involvement with Bleek holding her back from her own musical aspirations. However, thinking about the other ways in which women interact with men throughout the movie, I reached the broader conclusion that Clarke’s, and Indigo’s, existence was always in reference to other men.
Mo Better Blues is a movie about a man trying to figure out what role women are to play in his life. For Bleek, women exist primarily in terms of their relationships to him, be it a sexual object or a mother to his children. They can be mothers and daughters. They can be the currency with which a man buys people’s opinions that he is an alpha-male or the seductive musician. They can be tools which Shadow uses Clarke’s body to spite Bleek. In every case, whether they are assets or liabilities, they are objects.
Bleek’s musical success seems to require that he avoid relationships with women that could distract him from his true love– Jazz. He never makes love with Clarke or Indigo; he has sex with them. What makes the movie so frustrating is that when Bleek loses his ability to be dependent on Jazz, his true love, he channels all the energy to be dependent on a wife. Women always take a back seat to Bleek until external factors allow them assume a more important role for him. Rarely are women people, and when are, they are a lesser form of human.