In 2001, Mariah Carey’s film Glitter was released in theaters. 17 years later, its soundtrack is at the top of the iTunes albums charts, prompting the viral hashtag #JusticeForGlitter. Despite being a proud, self-professed lamb, author Michael Arceneaux had never seen the movie—until now. Here are his thoughts.
I have been carrying a dark secret with me for more than a decade now. Although I consider myself an ardent fan of Mariah Carey—skinny legend who sits at the tippy top of the high note hierarchy—up until a few hours ago, I had never seen Glitter. When I recently revealed this to a friend, his response was immediate condemnation: “I honestly can’t believe this is your first time seeing it. You’re not a real lamb.”
In my defense, I had seen Precious, Tennessee, and WiseGirls—so it’s not as if I totally neglected my responsibility to support Mariah Carey, thespian. Moreover, I love the Glitter soundtrack. Y’all told me the movie was so bad that I never bothered watching, but that didn’t deter me from embracing those ’80s-inspired bops she gifted us!
Even so, I failed Mariah—and for that I am so sorry. I am a recovering Catholic, so I already have immense guilt and shame. This piece serves as my confessional, so feel free to boo hiss me and maybe throw holy champagne at me in disgust. I’ve earned it.
After seeing Mariah’s tweet proclaiming #JusticeforGlitter, though, I decided to spend a cold morning renting her cinematic debut and enjoying an herbal refreshment. And you absolutely need an herbal refreshment to watch this movie because ohmigod, what in the hell is this? This is, like, the longest Mariah Carey video I have ever seen.
My immediate reactions to the first five minutes of Glitter are as follows:
The fonts alone let you know this movie is going to be tacky.
Wait, is that Thandi Newton on stage looking like Ella Mai’s mama? Oh, that’s not her. That’s that woman who plays that other woman’s mama on that show with the title I can’t remember.
Well, if the font didn’t let you know how bad this movie was going to be, when Yung Mimi begins singing, it’s confirmed.
The lip syncing Mama Mariah is doing on stage is giving me unqualified drag queen. Why was she singing this inappropriate song at the bar anyway? God, call CPS.
So we just gon’ jump from foster care to Mariah dancing harder than I have ever seen her try in real life, while wearing leopard she found at an Off Broadway garage sale?
Is that the woman from Top Chef doing pop/R&B, which makes her Nicole from The Pussycat Dolls?
I could go on, and of course, I will.
I love how, at one point, Mariah (Billie) and her friends—including Da Brat L O L—look like a PG-13 version of Vanity 6. And then, during the more sinister parts of the story, the background music evokes Dynasty (which I also only discovered recently). Generally, it is hilarious watching Mariah Carey not try to act like Mariah Carey in this movie that’s clearly loosely based on Mariah Carey.
I actually find Mariah Carey to be a solid actress, but not in this movie, and to be fair, it’s not her fault. This script is absolutely terrible. Why does it jump around so much? Why is the dialogue so cliche? What are these cheap graphics inserted at select parts of the film?
Let’s also discuss Mariah Carey’s boyfriend in the movie, Dice. Dice is like a Canal Street Fonzie from Happy Days. At one point during the film, we are supposed to believe that, even though they are in different places, they are both working on the same music—him, the melody, and her, the lyrics and arrangement, I guess (but that would work so much better together?). Then, before they finally do get back together, Lucious from Empire shoots him because he reneged on paying the $100,000 he offered to get Mariah out of her contract doing the Milli Vanilli thing for Top Chef Chanteuse.
That would be romantic—if only Dice weren’t an awful man. Sure, he realized Mariah (I don’t want to call her Billie) was the real star, but someone else could have noticed that eventually—including Mariah herself. But because Dice assumes he made her, he gets mad that her star trounces his, and the label won’t let his insecurities get in the way of cashing out on their investment. Then, once the relationship hits rock bottom, he brings up her drug addict mama who couldn’t take care of her, thus thrusting her into foster care. Why should I be sad Fake Fonzie is dead? Good riddance. That jealous thot didn’t deserve her. It reminds me of The Devil Wears Prada, when they tried to make me rally behind Andy’s friends when, in actuality, they were bums who didn’t deserve to lick the sole of her designer shoe that she got for free.
I hate these people.
Then we get to the last few moments of the film. Mariah shows up in the country part of Maryland and arrives at what looks like Mister from The Color Purple’s house. She just stands there for a few minutes looking at her mom—who is now clean but apparently couldn’t pick up the phone and call her kid—before they embrace and cry together. The end. Girl, what?
This movie is like the Trump administration, in that it overwhelms you with terribleness. Having said that, I have not seen a movie this entertainingly bad since Howard the Duck. I hope no one expected me to laud Glitter just because I took the longest time imaginable to see it.
It’s not good, but it’s so good.
Hush, that made sense. I cannot believe I took this long to watch. I’ll probably never watch it again unless I’m having a “splash” with friends, but I would like to volunteer my services helming Glitter 2. I would love to see Mariah on the other side of mega fame, probably fighting with Celine Dion and Toni Braxton on some TV talent show on Facebook Watch before joining Celebrity Big Brother: Singapore, Dancing with the Stars, or The Real Housewives of New York and finding a new love who reminds her of Eric Benét’s character.
So call me, Mimi—as soon as you forgive me.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of the recently released book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.