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Film / What's Love Got to Do with It

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Judge: You’re going to walk out of here with absolutely nothing.
Tina: Except my name.

What's Love Got to Do with It is a 1993 Biopic, based on the 1986 autobiography of Tina Turner. The main stars were Angela Bassett, Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly, and Laurence Fishburne. The film was directed by Brian Gibson, previously known for such films as Breaking Glass (1980) and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986).

The film covers the life of Tina. She's first seen as little Anna Mae Bullock (Kelly), a child born and raised in Tennessee. Then teenage Anna Mae (Bassett) moves in with her mother Zelma Currie-Bullock (Jenifer Lewis) and older sister Alline (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney) in St. Louis. Her sister introduces her to the nightclub scene, where Anna Mae meets musician Ike Turner (Fishburne).

She at first works as Ike's vocalist before becoming his partner "Tina" and then his wife. The film goes on to examine both their music careers and turbulent personal lives through several decades as Ike becomes increasingly unstable and abusive. Eventually, she leaves him (they separated in 1976, and the divorce followed in 1978), and goes solo in the music world to great success.


This film provides examples of:

  • A Minor Kidroduction: The first few minutes of the film delves into Tina Turner's formative years in 1949 ab-libbing lyrics to "This Little Light of Mine" only to be scolded by the choir director and returning home to find her mother walking out on her and her father and taking her older sister leaving her behind.
  • Actor Allusion: This wasn't first time Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne had a rocky marriage.
  • Adapted Out: Raymond Hill, who was Craig Turner's biological father, is not portrayed in the film. In fact, Craig is depicted as Ike and Tina's first of two sons together. They only had one child together, Ronnie, who was given an Age Lift in the film to make him several years younger than his brothers.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Tina defends Ike's abuse of her (just minutes after a beating), one of her backup singers comforting her, Jackie, then fires back at her: "Is he sorry for all the other times too?"
  • Artistic License – History: A lot of events depicted in this movie were historically inaccurate. One such example was calling Private Dancer her first solo album; it was her fifth. You've also got "Proud Mary" first being performed in 1968, a year before Creedence Clearwater Revival made it a hit as their original recording. And Tina's 1968 suicide attempt (by downing sleeping pills before a show) taking place in the early '70s.
    • The Other Wiki has a whole list dedicated to some of the inaccuracies.
  • Award-Bait Song: "I Don't Wanna Fight" by Turner.
  • Berserk Button: For Ike, being told that all his songs sound the same and that he's got his "own style." This triggers the first scene explicitly showing his physically abusive nature.
  • Big "NO!": Tina yells one when she sees that Ike has tracked her down and forcefully takes her and the kids back.
  • Broken Bird: The film features Tina Turner's take on her own tragic backstory.
  • Bungled Suicide: Tina attempts suicide by overdosing on a whole bottle of sleeping pills. Thankfully, her backup singers immediately notice something is wrong and she is rushed to the hospital.
    • Lorraine attempts to kill herself with a gun. She survives and is rushed to the hospital.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Ike curses up a storm at Tina when he's stressed out, angry and high on cocaine.
  • Composite Character: Frost (Chi McBride) is a composite of several members of Ike and Tina's backing band. Likewise, Jackie (Vanessa Bell Calloway) is a composite of multiple backup singers (the Ikettes) and Tina's real-life friend who introduced her to Buddhism.
  • Control Freak: Ike dominates everything around him, not just his wife, but also his band, and doesn't like anybody telling him what to do. He even has the gall to tell a judge not to instruct him in divorce court.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Tina develops one after being raped by Ike and tries to commit suicide.
  • Disappeared Dad: He leaves Anna Mae at an early age. His eventual fate is not covered.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Inverted. When Tina finally left Ike, the only thing she pursued to keep was her marital name.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After years of abuse and domination by Ike, Tina finally snaps and gives him a nasty beating of his own in a violent dispute in a limo. He still tries to give orders afterwards, but a Death Glare from Tina leads him to back off, signing his gradual loss of dominance over her.
  • Domestic Abuse: Several scenes depict Ike abusing Tina.
    • The opening sequence shows a young Anna Mae being abandoned by her mother who left so that her husband could beat her no more.
  • Driven to Suicide: After being raped and beaten repeatedly by Ike, Tina attempts to kill herself by swallowing an entire prescription of sleeping pills. However, she is saved at the last minute by her backup singers.
    • Jealous of Tina, Lorraine threatens her with a gun, then goes to the bathroom and shoots herself in the head. Lorraine lampshades this, sobbing "You drove me to this, Ike!".
  • Drugs Are Bad: As the fame grows, Ike turns to cocaine and other substances for stress relief and it is never good.
  • Ear Ache: During the limo fight scene, Tina defends herself by ripping out one of Ike's earrings, tearing his ear in the process.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Ike's hair gives a handy indicator of what decade we're in: pompadour in the '50s, moptop in the '60s, afro in the '70s, and finally a more contemporary close-shaven look in the '80s.
  • Fan Disservice: All the abuse and rapes Ike inflicted on Tina.
  • Fanservice: Tina and Ike's first love scene.
  • Force Feeding: The infamous "eat the cake, Anna Mae!" restaurant scene. In which a drugged up Ike tries to force Tina to eat some cake and when she refuses continually, he shoves it in her face.
  • Foreshadowing: After getting together with Ike, Tina is noted by her backup singers to "eating a lot more" and putting on some weight. Cut to the birth of their first child, Craig, nine months later.
    • Ike telling Tina that he hates hospitals.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ike's own abusive behavior stems from the trauma of watching, at age 6, his father's death from wounds suffered in a fight over a woman. He also says that the smell of hospitals are a particular trigger for him.
    • Anna Mae's mother abandoning both her and her father because he was abusing her.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: While it's clear that Ike is grappling with some demons, he's also shown to take no personal responsibility for his behavior, and the abject cruelty he inflicts on Tina is nothing more than a toxic combination of ego and jealousy.
    • While it's understandable why Anna Mae's mother would leave so abruptly. To escape a life of domestic abuse. It doesn't justify her abandoning her child too. Her mother lampshades this when reunited with Tina as a teenager.
  • Good Stepmother: After Ike's ex Lorraine drops off their two young sons with him and Tina, she immediately comforts the children and brings them inside to play with some toys she has for her and Ike's son. Furthermore, not only does she try to escape from his abuse with all four of them in tow, but when they finally divorce, Ike's one son sides with her instead of his own father (though the other one eventually comes around, albeit sadly after being brutally beaten by his father).
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Ike starts to become more angry and unhinged when the crowd cheers for him and Tina, but the crowd's chants are "Tina! Tina! Tina!".
    • Lorraine holds hostility towards both Ike and Tina for their growing attraction. She then attempts to kill Tina and then attempts to kill herself.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Painfully subverted with some of Ike's abuse on Tina. Played straight after Tina finally snaps and mauls him in a limo, the shot cuts to outside, only hearing a loud pained scream from Ike. We next see them storm out of the car, both pretty bloodied and shaken.
    • Lorraine's suicide attempt. Only the sounds of the gun going off and her sobbing.
  • Groin Attack: In the middle of another beating from Ike, Tina punches him off her. Despite a brief shocked pause, he quickly turns on her again, this time earning a very painful kick in the groin.
  • Happily Adopted: After Ike's ex-girlfriend Lorraine drops off and disowns their two sons together with him during an argument, Tina befriends them and takes them in despite the circumstances.
  • Harmful to Minors: In the 70's, Ike and Tina's sons (biological and her step-sons) have to witness Ike abusing a bloodied Tina by dragging her down a hallway all the way to her bedroom by her hair. One of them burst into tears because of such a sight at their young age. Ike Jr also accidentally walked in on his mother Lorraine's attempted suicide when he was a toddler.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-Universe when Tina and Jackie are at the latter's house, having a good laugh mimicking Ike's mannerisms and distinctive way of speaking/talking down to people. While Jackie keeps on with the impersonation for a while, Tina stops in the middle, breaking down in tears as she is reminded that her situation with Ike is far from being a laughing matter.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Ike Turner's violent streak is exaggerated into the levels of a borderline thriller villain for the movie. The film adds fictional scenes of him raping Tina and later threatening her at gunpoint (calling into question why he was never charged). Expectedly, this film was largely responsible for destroying the real Ike Turner's career.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Before Tina (then Anna Mae) impresses Ike with her singing at the St. Louis club, several other women are given the mic to sing. They're all awful.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Jealous of Ike and Tina getting closer, she contemplates shooting Tina in her bed, then turns the gun on herself.
  • Jerkass: Ike's increasingly abusive and envious treatment of Tina in the film borders an out and out Sanity Slippage. Naturally the real life counterpart wasn't too happy about his portrayal.
  • Love Triangle: Lorraine/Ike/Tina.
  • Mama Bear: Tina becomes this to both her sons and Ike's sons, and seeks revenge when one of her sons (Ike Jr.) is beaten to a bloody pulp by Ike.
  • Marital Rape License: Ike Turner pulls a Type A as part of spousal abuse pattern.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Ike's first two sons were disowned by their mother Lorraine for Ike having an affair with Tina.
    • Tina's mother abandoned both her and her father when she was a child in the opening sequence.
  • Mood Whiplash:
  • An in-universe example. In a diner, Ike tells Tina to eat some cake, not too bad considering his character. But Tina refuses, saying that it's too early, and that Ike's high (and possibly drunk too). Then he gets forceful and smashes a slice in her face, and she angrily splashes her drink on her stoned husband, who's clearly making a scene. Ike gets up to beat her, but Jackie, her backup singer, stands up as well, and bears the brunt of Ike's violent rage, as he calls her out in front of the other customers in the diner for not "minding your damn business." Jackie storms out and urges Tina to leave before he kills her. Then, as if nothing ever happened there, he exclaims "Dayum, this cake good!", again offering some to Tina. That last line from Ike just makes the scene so outrageously over-the-top that it's hard not to laugh.
    • Several throughout the movie, with one infamous moment involving a fun pool scene go from fun to down-right terrifying when Ike starts to abuse her.
  • Mystical Lotus: The film opens with a Buddist quote about the lotus flower. Tying in as symbolism with Tina Turner and her eventual conversion to Buddhism for survival.
  • Never My Fault: Ike blames everything on Tina after putting her through several beatings and rapes.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The movie shows Tina's gradual defiance and divorce from Ike, culminating in a fictional scene in which she cooly brushes off a threat at gunpoint, upon which he finally gives up.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Tina delivers one to Ike in the limo after taking up self defense and Buddhism.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Tina's face after she tells Ike he has his own style and his songs sound all the same and he tells her "what you say?".
  • Only Sane Man: Jackie is the only one who sees how wrong the abusive relationship between Ike and Tina is and tries to encourage her to leave him.
  • Paper Tiger: Ike is portrayed as nightmarish in his abuse to Tina, though the first time she snaps and retaliates, he gets ripped to shreds. No longer dominant over Tina, his character degenerates largely into a spineless bully making empty threats for most of the remainder of the film, though he has no qualms abusing their son and threatening Tina with a gun at hand.
  • Parental Abandonment: Both parents abandon Anna Mae for years. Zelda invites a teenaged Anna Mae to move in with her. And makes clear she doesn't want criticism for the abandonment: "Now, don't think you're going to come live in my house and make me feel bad."
    • Being jilted, Lorraine disowns her two sons with Ike and leaves them at his and Tina's new home.
  • Pet the Dog: Tina's sister allows her to stay over at her place and teaches her Buddhism as a survival mantra.
  • Playing Gertrude: Jennifer Lewis and Angela Bassett depict a mother-daughter duo. Lewis was 36-years-old at the time, Bassett 35-years-old.
  • Rape as Drama: Tina is left broken down and crying after Ike forces himself on her in the recording booth. Not long after the rapes and the beatings does she attempt to kill herself.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The opening lines about the lotus flower by Buddha. Later, Tina takes up Buddhism to survive.
    The Lotus is a flower that grows in the mud. The thicker and deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms. The thought is expressed in the Buddhist chant: Nam myoho renge kyo.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Jackie quits and leaves after Ike hits her in a public restaurant for protecting Tina.
    • Twice Tina tries to escape her marriage with Ike and take the kids. The first time was unsuccessful. The second was more successful.
  • She's Got Legs: As Tina sings "A Fool In Love", the camera focuses on her shapely legs for a few brief shots.
  • Suicide by Pills: Tina attempts to kill herself by swallowing an entire prescription of sleeping pills after being raped and beaten repeatedly by Ike. However, she is saved at the last minute by her backup singers.
  • Survival Mantra: “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo...” Bonus points for being an actual Buddhist mantra.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Before their concert as a married couple to "A Fool In Love", Ike gives Tina a kiss on the cheek after forcing her to sing while suffering from a sore throat. A sign of things to change in their marriage soon enough.
  • Traumatic Haircut: While getting her hair bleached to look like Marilyn Monroe like Ike wanted, the hairstylist accidentally causes her hair to fall out. Luckily, she puts on a wig just before rushing onto the stage.
  • Wham Line: Before the first spousal abuse scene:
    Tina: I mean, but don't they all sound like the same, you know?
    Ike: What? I ain't hear you. What you say? Hmm? I ain't hear you. I ain't hear you. What you say?
    Tina: I said, uh, uh, I mean, not exactly, you know? I mean, but you do have your own style. (Ike slaps her)
    • After the abuse happens and Tina is comforted by Jackie:
    Tina: He's just got a lot of worries right now, you know, but I know he's sorry.
    Jackie: Is he sorry for all the other times too? He's a pig!
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Ike asks Tina why she makes him hit her, blaming her for starting their fights.
  • Woman Scorned: Lorraine is not happy when Ike and Tina become attracted to each other. So she threatens Tina at gunpoint, then turns the gun on herself.