First off, have you ever seen a young James Earl Jones or James Earl Jones getting busy? If not, this move is a must. Unless you’re not interested in either of those things. Inspired by Reanna’s story, I sought out a movie that showcased what it was like to work and have still need help. A quick Google search led me to Claudine from 1974. A rarity at the time, it was a movie starring black people and was not blacksploitation. It was a one part love story, one part a story about the system and how it may be bringing people down instead of helping them progress.
Claudine is a single mother of six living off her wages she makes as a housekeeper. She can’t afford to take care of her kids without the assistance of Welfare, but has to keep her work a secret or else they’ll take away her food stamps – and her kids will starve. What’s crazy is that back then, they’d actually send people out to your house to make sure you weren’t living beyond your means with their help. Anyways, when Claudine meets Rupert and they hit it off, the Welfare office says that if they got married and he lost his job, he’d have to get on Welfare or else they’d be hit with a fraudulent charge?
While in love with Rupert, Claudine says she’s already married to the Welfare man and then notes how she has to beg him for what little he provides and adds, “”If I can’t feed my kids, it’s child neglect. If I get a little child on the side and don’t tell them then I’m cheating. If I stay at home, I’m lazy.” It was like she’s damned if she did, damned if she didn’t.
What’s insane is that this is still the case. Look at Reanna. The cost of living may have risen lately, but watching this movie – it seems like it’s always been hard for a working class family to get by without some help. Now Reanna is unlike Claudine because she’s had her help cut off. What the Welfare people don’t realize is that people can be working x-amount hours a week and still fall short when it comes to surviving.
On the flip side, Claudine’s son Charles made a good point that the government, even then, needed to do more to provide job assistance instead of just giving out handouts. He felt that Welfare was a way of keeping the low class down and out. Which, it doesn’t take long to think about and realize – he has a point. The people at the Welfare office don’t ever push a flyer your way to help you find a job. They just toss some papers your way and tell you to pick a pin number.
Claudine, on the surface a love story about a working mom and a garbage man with his own history but when you dug a little below that you saw two sides of Welfare.