The Holy Grail of Black Literature: ‘For Colored Girls’

Sep 27, 2010 @ 10:28 am | By TheFeministGriote | 2 Comments

“ever since i realized there waz someone callt a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag i been tryin not to be that & leave bitterness in somebody’s else’s cup”-lady in orange

I make no qualms about not being a Tyler Perry fan I don’t hate him, but I do have my reservations about him and his stereotypical portrayals of Black people in his shows, films, and plays. I can stomach Tyler Perry, but I don’t really take his artistry seriously. Although, Tyler Perry tries his hardest to depict Black life and family I never really connected with his vision. The intentions are very good, but often times I believed that Tyler Perry’s execution and message would always get lost in translation between the melodramatic scenes, the over acting, and the larger than life characters he has in his movies Tyler Perry just didn’t really do it for me.

With that said, I understand the vital role that Tyler Perry plays within the Black community especially the church going Black community that love going to see his plays and support his artistry as a whole. Although I find the character of Madea to be over the top and deeply rooted in “Connery and buffoonery” as Spike Lee called it I still watch a great deal of his movies (supporting a Black man’s hustle.)  Once again I was never a fan of Tyler Perry, but I always felt that Tyler Perry wasn’t making movies for people like me. When I say people like me I hate to sound like a Black snob, but people like me meaning people who like ‘high art.’ I like my art to be multi-layered and suggest rather than make the message blatantly obvious. I like art with substance and that has intellectual weight rather than mass appeal. I never really got the impression that Tyler Perry was trying to speak to the Black intellectuals I always felt that he was trying to talk to the masses and entertain the masses and that was his niche.

Therefore I was shocked and somewhat appalled when I found out that Tyler Perry was going to be producing one of the most prized pieces of Black literature found in the literary canon.  The holy grail For Colored Girls who have considered Suicide when The Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. The title alone sets the stage of the heaviness of the content you are about to embark upon. I honestly did not know whether I should cry, scream, be thankful, or organize a boycott. This series of 20 poems that is set to music hence the term choreopoem, represents the tenets of feminism, sisterhood, and what is means to be a Black woman and the fight we Black women undergo trying hard not be tragic and colored at the same time. Ntozake Shange used these seven women in this choreopoem  to discuss some very serious issues that women have dealt with personally or know a sister who has. The play touches upon domestic violence, abortion, rape, love, and abandonment. This play came out in 1974 a time and space when the agency of Black women just being formed. Long before the hoopla of the film adaptation of  The Color Purple there was ‘For colored girls’ and because of what this work has meant to Black Literature and the Black Arts I am not sure if Tyler Perry is a worthy candidate to take on this piece of greatness.

Tyler Perry  does have name recognition, he has the money to foot the bill, he has his own Hollywood movie set, but does he have the artistic fortitude to undergo a project of this magnitude. Although the choreopoem is only 64 pages long is multi-layered, multi-faceted, its poignant, and emotionally engaging all that in only 64 pages can Perry bring that play to life on the big screen? Tyler Perry appears to be convinced that he is the appointed man that can bring Shange’s work to the big screen. Tyler Perry is so convinced of his ability that he ensured he assembled an all-star cast which includes Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Loretta Divine, Anika Noni Rose, Janet Jackson as well as other notables. Tyler Perry even pushed for the movie release to go from early next year to this November so that the movie can be considered for the Oscars. Tyler Perry has lofty goals. I don’t want to come off as a hater, but as people of color only very specific and generic parts of our story ever get told and produced in Hollywood and when a different story about us comes to life it is both exciting and scary, because if that film doesn’t do well both in numbers or garner critical acclaim it makes it that much harder for another story about us to get told. One hand I am ecstatic that Ntozake Shange’s work will be introduced to a new generation and will be on a global platform again, but I fear that her choreopoem may not get the respect and love it deserves from Tyler Perry. I definitely want Tyler Perry to exceed my expectations and do me and EVERYBODY who loves this play justice, but the stakes are so high that if Tyler Perry fails as a literary snob I may never forgive him.

What do you think? Do you think I am exaggerating or do you think Tyler Perry can pull this off? FYI: I tried hard not to write this blog, but I was bursting at the seams also I will blog about the movie when it comes out which is slated for a November 5th release.

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

2 Responses to “ The Holy Grail of Black Literature: ‘For Colored Girls’ ”

  1. My biggest fear is not that Tyler Perry can’t pull this off – it’s simply that it shouldn’t be done on film period. I would be far more thrilled to see it on stage again. The book is so vague, it can be interpreted so many ways and I think that to put For colored girls… on screen will take away from the creativity of the book. I’m glad I got my copy while it is still on bookshelves.

    I wonder why Oprah did not produce it…

  2. I agree with you 100% this stage play is very unique & may not be the best choice to make into a film. The seven women in the play have no names they’re only identified by their colors which makes them more universal. Those seven women represent us all and by giving them names & putting them on the big screen the play may lose its universal feminist appeal. I wish we had someone else within the Black community other than Oprah that we could trust to tell our stories.

    I wasn’t too thrilled about the tv movie “Their Eyes were watching God” it was a good attempt, but not GREAT!

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