Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Why Must 'For Colored Girls' Be More Than Just a Movie?

4 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
I'll give Tyler Perry credit. His films can surely generate the buzz needed to maintain his bankable status, and for a black man in Hollywood, that's a monumental feat. For that, and in recognition of the underused acting talent he's keeping off the unemployment line, I salute him. (I also imagine one grateful makeup technician, providing an endless supply of glycerin tears cascading slowly down the cheeks of Perry's nonstop parade of wounded women.)
As I trudged off to see "For Colored Girls," his talked-about adaptation of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," it was more duty than anything else. Finally, I thought, I'll have an answer when the next black woman, and in a week there were many, asked, "Have you seen 'For Colored Girls' yet?"
Though the $20.1 million opening box office of "For Colored Girls" was lower than the openings for Perry's previous three films, according to The Wall Street Journal, distributor Lionsgate was perfectly happy with the performance of a serious drama that did not put Perry in Medea's dress. With marketing help, it's hoped that the movie will eventually break past an initial audience that was 81 percent African American and female.
But those black women turned out. At the showing I attended, a young woman, back for a second viewing, brought along her mother. The woman admired it, with reservations; the mother loved everything about the film and its numbing collection of abused women and deceitful men. "It was as real as I'm standing here," she said, explaining that she had heard similar stories and worse in her regular trips to the beauty parlor. My colleague Helena Andrews encountered similar mixed reviews.
Through reports from the field, I knew before the first frame that Perry's adaptation took liberties with Shange's choreopoem, mixing the poetry with literal-minded prose. He added characters, including a hard-driving career woman, played by Janet Jackson and dressed in dominatrix-like black leather when we first see her reducing subordinates to the quivers with a cold-hearted rant. (Must caring about your work and other people be mutually exclusive, Mr. P?)
We are definitely in Tyler Perry territory, the land of little nuance, where you can imagine him taking his actors aside and instructing them to "give me more drama" before the next take. Though Thandie Newton's promiscuous banshee is over-the-top scary, nothing can stop Loretta Devine from working her particular magic. There were some affecting moments, yet I was glad the sun was shining when I left the theater after a very long two hours and change. Rather than earning a moment of joy, at movie's end the women of "For Colored Girls" held onto each other for dear life.
The black men -- besides being beautiful to look at – were, with one exception, a pretty horrid bunch. That fact has garnered its own stream of criticism, as the reviews – judged both too harsh and too forgiving -- have become part of the Perry narrative.
It's just one filmmaker and his vision, and "For Colored Girls" is only a movie. It's not a documentary about the plight of black women in America. But it carries much more weight than it should. When there are so few portrayals of African Americans on film and TV, one movie means too much to so many, and that's a shame.
In the context of American history – when stereotyped cultural symbols have been used to justify shameful acts – images of victimized black women and brutish black men are not hard to find. Add to that Shange's work, a touchstone of black feminism and sisterhood, adapted by a successful and controversial artist, and there was bound to be a stir.
Yet, to criticize "For Colored Girls" is not to deny the reality of women who find it comforting. Finding fault with Perry's approach is not disrespecting his enthusiastic audience, despite his defenders' occasional effort to equate the two. And loving a movie does not mean you think that black men and women are one thing or the other.
In America, blacks have had to constantly proclaim their very humanity, their mix of strengths and vulnerabilities. It's no wonder we are sensitive to how others see us and how we see ourselves, particularly when projected on a movie screen.
Perhaps one day, a movie will be seen as less a political act than an artistic choice, to be judged on its own merits, without the cultural baggage dragged through hundreds of years, and portrayals of African Americans will be as complicated and interesting as we really are. Maybe there will be more big-screen choices for women and men so talented and lovely that they light up the cover of Essence magazine.
Until then, despite my less than glowing response to his latest melodrama, you have to hand it to Tyler Perry. I bought a ticket.
Filed Under: Race Issues, Woman Up, Culture
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN.com, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly

80%

Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
GE
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
CEO
Click2View
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Co-Founder
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director
WCG

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Follow Politics Daily


  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>