Nov 08, 2010 @ 12:37 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 12 Comments
I have been anticipating the film release of ‘For Colored Girls’ since I heard the announcement. I was elated that Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf was going to be introduced to a new generation of women who might not have ever discovered this piece of Black literature on their own. Although I was happy the choreopoem was going to be made into a film, I had dire concerns and apprehensions because Tyler Perry was involved. Tyler Perry was not adding his name to a finished product like he and Oprah did for the film Precious he was going to be producing and directing the film. I studied the choreopoem in college and I just remember reading it and seeing myself and my fellow sisters in the stories in the play. Shange wrote about date rape, abortion, domestic violence, and dysfunctional love all themes that every woman in my immediate circle including myself has dealt with in some form or another.
Finally November 5th came along and I saw the film. The film was everything I expected a Tyler Perry production to be. Everything about the film screamed Tyler Perry instead of feminism. The one thing I loved and appreciated about Shange’s choreopoem is the fact that the play is told by seven women who are represented not by name, but by colors which in doing so these seven women represent all women. Each of the women suffers from a different aspect of oppression, but by not giving them a name their story belonged to every woman. Therefore by Tyler Perry taking universal feminist issues and turning them into characters the universal message I believe gets lost in translation. I hated the fact that Tyler Perry took so much creative license with the work. Whoopi Goldberg’s character doesn’t exist in the original work and I really do not see the purpose her character played in the overall theme and telling of the movie. Perry has an obsession with preaching in his movies and inserting religion. Which in theory isn’t a bad thing, but Tyler Perry doesn’t understand the art of subtle storytelling and tends to turn everything into a gross exaggeration. Whoopi Goldberg’s character was the stereotypical overly religious prude who comes off asexual and emotionally detached from the present world she lives in because she is so “heavenly minded.” I hated Whoopi’s character because her character wasn’t allowed to claim her power as a woman and Shange’s chorepoem is all about women finding their own inner strength and moving to ends of their rainbow where there is hope. I don’t know if Tyler Perry knows that a woman can be a Christian and still have a libido one doesn’t have to cancel out the other. Every woman in the film finds the strength to rise and overcome except Whoopi’s character and I don’t like the message that is being conveyed about women of faith. Another faulty character depiction that I found problematic was Thandie Newton’s character who I feel Tyler Perry dug up the tragic mulatto stereotype and played it up to the 20th degree. Why must the bi-racial Black woman always be painted as being downtrodden and miserable? I refuse to believe that is the norm. Although in the choreopoem Thandie Newton’s character is promiscuous I did not find her to be pathetic in the choreopoem, but Thandie Newton’s character in the film appeared to be very pathetic which plays into Tyler Perry’s preaching and demonization of women’s sexuality which is prevalent in all of his movies. Perry being a man who subscribes to patriarchy painted her the way society paints all women who own their sexuality, he painted her like a vapid soul-less creature who is the victim of her sexuality rather than in control of it. Perry then gives Thandie Newton’s character a little sister who has a back alley abortion which I found very hard to believe that in a movie set up in a modern world a woman would have a back alley abortion when she is not living in an under developed country. That part of the choreopoem did not translate well into modernity. Now to the character of Jo played by Janet Jackson’s character to me seemed like Tyler Perry reprised Janet Jackson’s role as Patricia from the movie “Why did I get married” and combined her with Miranda Priesly the character from the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada.” Once again Perry uses the stereotypical strong Black woman who emasculates her man and terrorizes the people in her path. I find this particular stereotype very annoying because the media is so obsessed with vilifying the successful Black woman as a train wreak in heels who sabotages her own life because she dominates in her career and doesn’t know how to “let a man be a man” when she comes home. I am so tired of that trope and it needs to be buried. Then Perry ups the ante by giving Jo a down low husband, why? Here we go with the “down low boogey man” which I wrote a blog about bearing the same title. Every gay or bi-sexual man is not dying or living with HIV/AIDS. Homophobia is already a serious issue within the Black community why would Tyler Perry further sensationalize that issue? These types of stereotypical portrayals does nothing to smooth over the rising tensions between Black men and Black women if anything it fuels the anger and the animosity that is already so visceral.
I will commend Tyler Perry for using a lot of the original words of Shange, but I did not like the way Shange’s words seemed to be haphazardly sprinkled throughout the movie. Often times Shange’s words seemed ill placed within the film. Tyler Perry’s voice and Shange’s voice did not blend seamlessly at all. Even if you do not know the words of the choreopoem practically verbatim like I do you can definitely tell the shift in consciousness and voice within the characters. It was very weird hearing modern day Blacks use the term “colored” although this movie has definitely put that word back en vogue again. I applaud Perry for helping Shange bring her work to a wider audience, but I am not sure if Tyler Perry’s faithful viewing audience is well equipped to digest the magnitude and depths of Shange’s masterpiece.
For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf is about women claiming themselves and realizing that they’re already enough and that they don’t have to go outside themselves to find the strength and love that is already running through their veins. The choreopoem is about being comfortable in your skin and accessing your power. I don’t think Tyler Perry is comfortable in his own skin nor does he understand the beautiful magical complexities of women and therefore the film suffered because of it. Based on what I have read on facebook/twitter people love the film, the acting was superb in the film, but I think the movie was mediocre and as people of color we shouldn’t settle for less than stellar portrayals of ourselves.
What did you think of the film?
Categories: Mind Over Chatter