On #ForColoredGirls *Spoiler Alert*

Production Still of Female Leads in For Colored Girls

I got to see an advanced screening of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls promoted as a fundraiser for Sistersong and Sisterlove, two of my favorite social justice organizations and collaborators in a campaign called Trust Black Women. Before the film, Loretta Ross, black feminist warrior activist, described their work to get billboards taken down in Atlanta that compared black women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancies with genocide. They represent some of the fiercest women of color reproductive justice organizers in the South and beyond, and like the fierceness of Shange’s original choreopoem, their brilliance was smothered and silenced by a black man who feels like he can tell our stories better than we can. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, I can say the critics got it right. It’s a whole lotta mess: anachronistic, unbelievable, over the top, basically like any other Tyler Perry production. But there are moments, moments where seasoned actors stretch beyond the limitations of the director and a disjointed script to make magic. Can there be an Oscar for colored girls who do the damn thing in a Tyler Perry film when the writing is not enuf? Kimberly Elise FTW and Macy Gray was fire too. And I love me some Anika Noni Rose, even though I always feel like she’s doing the big drama of stage when she’s on the screen (worked nicely though for the choreopoem). In spite of some fabulous performances, For Colored Girls completely misses the original’s tone and message. From Shange’s work we get themes of self-love, pleasure, hurt and healing, decentering men in our lives, etc. Tyler’s framing leaves us with the exact opposite understandings; sex leads to pain, pay more attention to the men in your lives, know your role, and don’t forget you are some how responsible for whatever misery life brings you.

*spoiler alert*

What I really want to talk about is Tyler’s obsession with men who have sex with men. I mean in every film there is always some plot point or dialog that includes a man who looks like he just walked off the set of Noah’s Arc talking about how gay he isn’t. In this film, Janet Jackson, channeling Meryl Streep a la Devil Wears Prada, has a cough (people with HIV cough faintly, didn’t you know?) and a husband who in one of the first scenes is literally caught with his pants down receiving oral sex from a man. Carl is a stock broker who is so emasculated by his wife that he needs to get his submission elsewhere. “Walking down the street holding hands with a man, that’s gay!” he says in total disgust before he goes on to admit to having sex with men.

Though this plot point was apparently penned by Shange herself in her new edition of the text, this scene felt like a window into Tyler Perry’s and a lot of ostensibly straight men’s hearts. Showing genuine affection for another man is a sin but having sex with a man to reclaim your masculinity after being emasculated by women who don’t know their role is another story. There’s no discussion of Carl’s desire here. Bitchy black women are not only responsible for rape (how couldn’t she see the signs that we so clearly see as the audience?), their children being thrown out of windows (if she’d just left him earlier it couldn’t have happened) they are also the reason that black men must “bend” turn to each other for sex. In other words, black men have sex with men because black women won’t play their position, which is one of submission.

The film leaves you with a sense that  there’s something these women should have done, could have done differently to prevent these things from happening to them. What was a choreopoem of colored girls self-redemption becomes a PSA on how black women need to make different choices to forestall the violence that befalls them. The men however are simply reacting to the poor choices made by these women and as such are never truly held accountable for their actions, a posthumous slap to the face and forlorn gaze from a prison cell notwithstanding.

Perry was able to squelch condemnation from the very organizations most able to raise constructive criticism regarding his simplistic narrative by providing an opportunity to screen the film in advance for their benefit. What could have been a powerful moment to add the complexity that Perry missed, instead became an opportunity for Tyler Perry Studios to ask us to spread the For Colored Girls gospel for them as we were implored to tell our friends to go see it opening weekend. A brief talk back that included not one criticism of the film left me feeling confused and disappointed. If these women warriors could (would) not bring much-needed nuance how would other audiences (with less contact with the realities the film attempts to portray) react?

Black people have some healing to do. Tyler in particular needs more than his plays, movies, and TV show to work through his boyhood traumas. Like Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album and subsequent performances, trying to work your sh*t out publicly in your art doesn’t always provide the most liberatory frame through which to process. Self medicating through art may seem better than other more obvious self-destructive drugs of choice but when your own wounds keep you from acknowledging that you are capable of and culpable in inflicting others trauma begets more trauma and a vicious cycle is created (an important point we could have learned through the film itself).

Tyler’s rage at the black women who didn’t protect him comes through in every production he’s been associated with and perhaps his desire to understand their neglect might be better directed in the service of telling his own story, a story of a brown boy who wasn’t man enough for his father but man enough for the mother of a friend who molested him and the THREE men who did the same.  What might it mean for Tyler to tell his own story such that Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande might have had a more receptive public to hear their truths? Tyler’s hurt haunts For Colored Girls, muddling the intricate and multi-layered tapestry that Shange constructed, and leaving this colored girl with little recourse but to reach back for the rainbows of the original.

moyazb

moyabailey.com

50 thoughts on “On #ForColoredGirls *Spoiler Alert*

  1. Wooork! You nailed it. Love the idea of powerful artists self-medicating/self-placating through art. Tell the truth already, Tyler Perry. It’s not about us, it’s about you and your pain! Thank you.

  2. Very rich, candid, truth-telling critique. I haven’t seen it but when I do, I’ll email you.

  3. Moya, I love you! Really. You are straight bring-ing IT!! Yes. Whew, Amen, Halle-luJAH and all that good stuff. Parts I resonated with: that Tyler Perry should tell his own story and use that to work his ish out. So glad to know I wasn’t the only one appalled at these assertions that the women should have done something different. That scene where Phylicia Rashad holds Kimberly Elise responsible for Beau Willie’s horrific act: I was like, really? Are you serious?! I am also so disturbed that he did the whole DL black men are responsible for the AIDS crisis thing. Be original please. Dude’s problem is not that he likes men, but that he can’t be honest, and that he stepped out on someone he was committed to. AND I’m not gonna even start here on how Miss Celie’d Whoopie. Paying homage to prior films is one thing, but that was some straight cooning. I have more to say, and will blog tomorrow, but thank you for helping me to get my thinking together.

  4. I absolutely love this critique. Fair, honest, and irrefutable. Sharing with my girlfriends, who are horrified that I refuse to support TP and his work. Thank you.

  5. *sigh* As I expected, but I was hoping the very beautiful preview was going to show me something different. I’d heard Shange read the additional plot line you talk about here, and I wasn’t so sure I liked it then, and I shudder to think what a Perryian framing of it might look like. A friend of mine said that the end of the film, unlike the play ever did made her feel “beat up.” I think this is interesting… Shange and others definitely write about Black women’s pain and painful circumstances yet the reading of those works as Black women as perpetual victims seems to really be androcentric and dichotomous. Dichotomous because there can only be two options: victim and abuser, and androcentric because such a reading centers the men (who are actually not supposed to be present!) as opposed to the women who are written in the most centered portion of the text. If one is reading the text for the women… such a dichotomy cannot exist. Anyway… I will have to see it… interesting what a readership will do.

  6. Tyler’s rage at the black women who didn’t protect him comes through in every production he’s been associated with and perhaps his desire to understand their neglect might be better directed in the service of telling his own story, a story of a brown boy who wasn’t man enough for his father but man enough for the mother of a friend who molested him and the THREE men who did the same.
    ======
    Moya bear, the thing about it is, many of us have NOT forgiven the folks who failed to protect us as children.

    Telling one’s own story IS a liberatory act.

    See Anita Hill, Tawana Brawley, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, early Rap Music…etc.

    Baldwin said to act it is to commit and to commit is to be in danger.

    Perhaps TP isn’t ready to commit. If and when he does, ummp.

  7. I guess I will stand as the lone voice of dissension. I loved the movie, the stories it told, and the opportunity for women to discuss our pain.

  8. I intended on going to see this. My love for the original Choreopoem demanded it. Given Tyler Perry’s penchant for de-powering women in his productions through the Christian world view (not to mention the holding Blackface buffoonery down in the character Mr. Brown). I was unaware of his personal history. I agree that Mr. Perry needs to tell his own story and until then i really cant support this movie now

  9. but if Perry came clean, he would lose his church going audience who come to all of his productions no matter what..

    DOPE piece btw..
    again, when i heard Perry was doing a production of this, i cringed and i felt that the message of Shange’s work would be lost.

    HOPEFULLY , it will shed more light on her work

  10. Very courageous critique.

    The amazing thing about this production is that it introduces the work of Shange to a new audience of women who had never known of this work. I went to see the film on opening night, paid my nine dollars and fifty damn cents because I knew that it was important for me to bear witness to this. Because this was my story that this man was attempting to tell. Because I was initially mad as hell when I discovered that this movie was to be written and directed by a man. And so, I trudged into the theater excited and anxious (meaning terribly afraid), praying that Tyler Perry wouldn’t fuck this up, but knowing that there was no way that he could not.

    I agree that many of the women characters where villianized in a horrifying way. Janet’s character read as aloof towards the end of the movie, which should have been her phoenix moment. Phylicia’s character disgustingly held all of the characteristics of what a “proper” woman should be like. Thandie’s character, while played extremely well, was a sensationalized version of an ever-so-common story that only a woman can tell and still retain a hint of gentleness and nurturing and understanding.

    Like someone mentioned above, I and the five women who accompanied me to the movie left feeling battered and bruised, not healed and liberated. I felt it necessary to apologize to them for putting them through it. I also felt drained, like I had just done intense healing work for every colored woman who ever lived in this pained place. The latter is a reaction that the story itself begs. The former is a byproduct of having such a delicate story be handled by male hands.

    I will say that For Colored Girls wasn’t what I feel like I usually see from Tyler Perry movies and I think he really tried to be serious about this. But I also feel like his unhealed wounds were barriers for him, along with his maleness, in bringing our story to life in a way that would leave us feeling liberated.

    • Okay, “Bitchy black women are not only responsible for rape (how couldn’t she see the signs that we so clearly see as the audience?),” you lost me. Were we watching the same movie? Nothing about Anika Noni Rose’s character was bitchy. She was the polar opposite. Seriously.

    • Ekua, I’m sorry my first comment was not directed at you but the post. I don’t know why it showed up as a response to your response.

  11. And is there anything wrong with Perry using Carl to articulate what many “down low” black men say when confronted with their sexuality: “I’m not gay. I don’t hold hands with men on the street. That’s gay. I just have sex with men.” Down low men make that exact argument again and again, on tv after tv show. Perry clearly wasn’t saying that it was right but that that is simply the argument made.

    • Hey Berneta- Anika Noni Rose “bitchy-ness” is manifest in her initial hesitation in going out with dude and her seeming obliviousness to the snakiness of said dude (who even has a Snake tattoo down his back!). As an audience we are privy to what’s coming and she’s seemingly too self-absorbed (reminiscing about dancing while he looks on somewhat impatiently) to notice that he’s unbuttoning his shirt and getting full on naked in her house. There’s something about that rendering to me and even Mr. Good Black Man Hill Harper alludes to that she may have provoked or done something to deserve it. Through her tears she tells us otherwise but it’s a hard sale after we been knew he was going to rape her from his greasy demeanor.

      As for Carl, my issues is not with DL articulation but more with how its framed. He’s not owning his desire to have sex with men. That could have been brilliant! “I don’t identify with gay men but I do like having sex with men.” His homophobia, how ever real, is not the issue. It could have even opened up as my friend Rian suggested a deeper conversation about sexuality. What would it have been to open up a conversation about desire? Is their room for Carl in the world if he likes sex with men and women? Is their room to discuss men getting off on anal penetration in the context of a heterosexual relationship i.e. would she be willing to strap it up? He didn’t say he liked having sex with men he said it was something he did, like taking $200,000 out of her bank account. Not only that but he explained that it wasn’t because he wanted to but because she didn’t make him feel like a man. That’s what so upsetting to me. As opposed to addressing his unprotected and repeated infidelity, the fact that he’s having sex with men is the reason that he has HIV (which is not AIDS so again, I don’t understand the coughing). And again it’s also Janet’s fault because she saw and didn’t leave him.

      Hope that helps!

  12. this piece lays out some of the problems i had with tyler perry’s writing and his additions to the play for the film adaptation. great work!

    -L.

  13. Very well said. I just couldn’t over the “Over the top” actions he placed in the movie. Then everyone around me was responding to every little thing like it was Why did I get married, Madea’s family reunion or one of his many other movies that makes the audience react like they are at a sporting event hooting & yelling back at the screen. It was for me just too far from what I remebering seeing & receiving from the play & reading in the poems.
    Also one thing that I & many of my friends in various cities across the US that went to see the movie noticed that many people came to this movie with their children who are under the age of 12! This made me so mad because the child behind me really was not able to understand the “Over the top” things that were being portrayed & the poor child kept asking questions that weren’t being answered. Many people think because its Tyler Perry, we should go & bring the whole family too but some (really all) of his slap stick so called meaningful comedies are in my opinion really damaging but of course many people don’t see that. Whew!! Thanks for this post. I really needed to unload my thought with people who share my view because where I live (Baltimore), many people find this movie to be the best movie that Tyler has ever done.

  14. I agree that Tyler Perry brings to this film his perspectives, that are wrought with his own issues ((his)tory, experiences, beliefs, etc.) ….this is not unlike any other filmmaker. I also wonder why a woman did not take on the role of directing this film…although this likely speaks to the ways race and gender intersect for black female movie directors that leave them in a marginalized space where they are less respected than their black male peers, have less capital (or at least are viewed as having less) than say Tyler Perry, etc. I also agree that the connections of HIV to the LGBTQ community in the movie only continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about LGBTQ folks…especially the already strong beliefs in Black communities and families.

    However, I enjoyed the movie. It was heavy and I did leave feeling some kinda way…mostly remembering that we are all connected, can collectively be stronger, the need to tell our stories both the struggles and the celebratory. I think the stories are important to share as many people (black, brown, white, and in between) don’t think about black women and SOME of the experiences they may be going through. I disagree with the assertion that themes of self-love, pleasure, hurt and healing, and decentering of men were not present. I felt all of those things while watching the scenarios play out. Perhaps it was because I could see a little bit of myself in each character. The little bit that no one ever asks about, the little bit that no one seems to care about, and the little bit that could make one consider suicide when the rainbow is enuf! Empowerment was throughout the poems and stories. And those characters, whether wholly, partly, or pieced together, represent women you or I know.

    And YES, SOME women do need to make different choices and/but don’t for very valid reasons….but that doesn’t mean that in SOME situations you can’t take some amount of responsibility for what is happening to or around you. While I am unsure of what is meant by the use of “anachronistic” in this context, I think this film is quite appropriate, especially since we (society broadly) tend to think of many of the issues brought up as done, finished, non-existent, rare, or worse, not issues for black women. This film is timely and necessary.

    While most will not understand it…take it in a different context…not respect it for its directorial ties, I think it has its place. Not a perfect movie…but certainly not complete garbage.

    • I agree, responsibility is important but it’s always assigned to the individual, you know? There are structural issues like the way we treat veterans who are often black because they recruit us from high school and promise us opportunities that we’ve been systemically removed from that make going to war for a country that doesn’t care about us seem like a good idea as we shoot other brown people to help maintain a level of living that most of us won’t ever have access to.

      What does it mean that in each and every one of these situation there is no accountability on the part of the men? They don’t even speak to each other. I know part of that is the reality that there are no men in the original but in other Tyler films men don’t feel any responsibility to themselves or the women in their lives to hold other men accountable for anything. It’s just particularly striking in a film like this.

      The idea that Kimberly Elise’s character should have left earlier was particularly troubling given the realities of domestic violence.

      “Up to 3/4 of domestic assaults reported to law enforcement agencies are inflicted after the separation of the couple.
      About 75% of the abused women seeking emergency medical services sustained their injuries after leaving the abuser.
      Almost 1/4 of women killed by their male partners were separated or divorced from the men who killed them. Another 1/4 of the women killed were attempting to end the relationship when they were killed.
      Women are most likely to be murdered by the abuser when attempting to report abuse or leave the abusive relationship.”

      This needs to be explored and our general understanding that it’s their business and not ours as community members, neighbors, etc. is part of the problem. When will there be accountability that goes beyond the woman abused?

      As for the anachronisms, a back alley abortion in 2010? With a midwife of sorts who is smoking as she does it and using her own alcohol as an antiseptic? There are so few people with the skills to perform an abortion (they don’t teach it in med school unless students advocate for it).

      Almost all of them live in the same walk up that looks like its from the 1970′s? Thandie Newton is both sophisticated bar tender with an inheritance and living in this rundown apartment? Additionally, the use of the original dialog in the context of the modernized film was more jarring and tedious than transporting, to me.

      Thanks for your thoughts Natasha!

  15. Im not with the majority here. I actually loved Tyler’s take on this masterpiece….and I would go out on a limb that Ms Shange liked it as well or else she wouldnt have given the script her blessing. There have been many others who wanted to rights to bring this to film.

    My opinion as far as the scene with Rashad and Elise is…that Phylicia was simply saying to us…women who are in abusive relationships etc etc is that we do have a part in it by staying..you cant tell me if that man when drunk loses control with u…that he won’t do it with the kids too?? There are almost always signs..we sometimes just choose to look over them…like Elise’s character did. But as in Anika’s character…no there were no signs…she wanted to believe he was a up and up brother..which he slyly played.

    I agree that this movie catapulted Ms Shange’s work back into the spotlight for those who dont know it..and for that I congratulate TP. Whether or not it tied up the ends or left them for us to tie up in our own lives thats up to us….bottom line for me is its causing folks to deal with hurt from the past and unveiling yet again the ugliness we try to hide.

  16. I feel the same way. I’m also sorry that Ntozake put an additional plot in the poem. I always felt it was perfect as it was.

    Tyler has a lot of healing to do. I hope that after he’s finished with the publicity for this film he can sit down and articulate how’s he responsible for what a new generation of Black women are thinking about themselves.

  17. That sounds like a frustrating experience. I guess I”ll wait until it’s on instant stream on netflix before I watch this, I don’t want to give it box office revenues if it’s anything like how you’ve described it.

  18. By seeing the trailer I guessed the movie would be like you describe it. I’m not sure what Tyler Perry wants to achieve with his movies, except fortune and fame. Haven’t we seen enough movies like this one? Is this really the only story of black women? And is it right to let a man like Tyler Perry potrait it?

  19. Brilliant observations. I agree that we need the Tyler Perry Story because Shange’s work is suffering here. And Black women being responsible for the actions of their men? You hit that right on the head. I never peeped that Tyler may be transferring his resentment for being left unprotected by women to his work. Deep. Totally explains his need to *be* that woman a la Medea to overcompensate. My two cents are here if you’d care to read them. I’d love to know your thoughts Crunk Feminist Collective! http://www.thembisamshaka.com

  20. Just scares me. I haven’t had the opportunity to see the film yet because it’s playing somewhere that’s way out of the way for me…but I’m afraid to see what kind of havoc Perry has wreaked on this beautiful play.

    On the subject of down low black men…I think the reason some queer men speak about themselves in the context of the same frustrating stereotypes that are told about them is because there doesn’t seem to be the space for anything else. As a queer woman from a multiracial family…I thought for years after I came out that my family was pretty accepting, until one day I was blindsided with their reactions when the subject of queer black men came up – it was like all the facts they knew about how AIDS actually spreads, the fact that infidelity happens to straight folks too, etc. went straight the fuck out the window. It makes me wonder how queer black men are SUPPOSED to tell other stories when there is no space for it – all that gets repeated over and over and over are these debilitating, awful stereotypes. I’m not heartened by the fact that Perry seems to have just used the film to continue this.

  21. When watching the characters Jo and Carl on the bed discussing Carl’s infidelity and, thus, HIV virus transmission, I was catapulted back to February 7, 2001, which was the first mainstream “exposé” published in the Los Angeles Times that discussed the “down-low phenomenon.”

    We are at year nine. How much longer will we have to witness the sheer hatefulness of same-sex desire on the big screen? Many will have us believe that we are simply talking about “disclosure,” “honesty,” and the “potential behavior that could possibly lead to the increased HIV infection rates of black women.” While I think these are valid assertions when the rhetoric is tempered and the discussion critical, my question is one that centers on the reality of narrative creation. The cultural common sense; an epistemology—a way of knowing.

    For nine years, we have had to hear about the pathological behavior of men who have same sex desire and it has been effectively woven into the ways we think about terror, abuse, rape, sheer disregard, and other forms of violence that are a part of many women’s lives. “The Down-Low as pathology” has its own history now. Its own social, emotional, and intellectual trajectory. Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls has solidified its place in this history.

    I have loved Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf for many years. I learned through the women how to read, express, understand, and work through despair. Sadness was rearticulated for me and I learned about new ways of negotiating it. I will continue to love the chorepoem but I cannot and will not love the violence I saw operating throughout that scene.

    Let’s be honest, it’s not as if brothers who are “walking down the street holding hands with a man” are being praised for being “out,” “honest,” and “proud,” you know “gay.” And even if this sort of hierarchy were being broached, we should be very mindful. That is, “the out and proud black gay man vs. the pathological disease carrying down-low man” is beyond problematic.

    Nine years later…

    Moya, thank you for calling attention to this scene.

  22. I believe the same thing that happened with Spielberg’s version of the THE COLOR PURPLE will happen with this film: black women so rarely get a mainstream film that is marketed as targeted toward them (when it’s really not) that we will be willing to overlook the ideological flaws in the film no matter how much it bastardizes the original work. THE COLOR PURPLE is not sacred on my list of all-time favorite films, but I will say that Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Rae Dawn Chong and Margaret Avery were great in that film. If I were not so opposed to the idea of contributing money to anything Tyler Perry does, I might have thought about seeing this film just so I could see the great actresses in it. However, since I know that the box office returns more than anything else will contribute to Perry’s continuing to tell really flawed stories about black women, I simply refuse to even acknowledge this film has been made.

  23. thank you for sharing this. Two of my friends who are not going to see the movie discussed these same issues and also linked your blog to their profiles.

    i left that movie hurting. i felt like big ugly wounds were opened and I had to take responsibility for everything that has happened to me not because I’m an adult or I was careless but because I deserved it somehow. not true.
    I left tired of feeling like I got to give away all my stuff and settle for less than half in return.
    I left feeling like- is the rainbow enuf? wth?
    I need to get the book asap.

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  25. I decided agains seeing the movie because it was a Tyler Perry production and he has a habit of putting black women professional and otherwise in precarious positions or in positions of accepting blame for things that they have nothing to do with. Never is the man assigned blame or is the question posed what was the “man” in the narrative should do or should have done. With this in mind I skipped it. In addition, I did not want to leave sad, depressed, upset or angry. This movie, Precious and others drain me of emotions, and though it says much about the actors when this occurs usually, with these movies it simply is too much. I am going to keep my money and go so Jumping the Broom instead.

    I have a friend who wants to see this movie and asked me to go. I am not sure if I can.

  26. I’ve never seen the play, which I know is terrible, but – is there a version I might be able to get on video that is more true to the original? or am I best off just reading the book?

    • Yes Kathy, I’d read the original book/choreopoem. The 80′s TV movie is ok(Women of Brewster Place is a better movie dealing with similar issues)but not as good as reading it.

  27. Misogny, racial nihilism and penchant for bringing Black women down are ever present in Tyler Perry’s work. Shange’s portrayal of Black women’s sexuality is not represented in this film. Perry needs to work out his man issues off screen and stop attacking Black women. For Colored Girls is a cultural classic about Black women’s lives. Julie Dash would have done a superior job. Why Ms. Dash didn’t get the opportunity requires discussion.

    From a Colored Boy Who Considered Walking Out the Movie Because the Play Was Enough!

  28. Moya, what makes me sad about this review (although it is quite crunk) is what you reported about the response from the women of the audience that you viewed it with. Are you serious? What are your thoughts on the lack of “feedback’ , or dare I say fear of the audience?

    • Sorry for the epic delay!

      I think the audience was set up from the beginning. Perry had provided the film for this charitable purpose so it seems like the audience felt it had to be charitable in return…

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  31. Hear Hear! I finally saw the film this weekend and avoided all reviews & comments. I was trying very hard to give Tyler Perry the benefit of the doubt; crossing my fingers that he could make a film worthy of the original play/poem, and he failed. I also felt “bruised and beat up” and disempowered, which I did NOT feel after reading the play (I’ve never seen it performed live). I also used the word “anachronistic” to describe the film (pick one Tyler, either it’s 1975 or 2010. It can’t be both at the same time). And I was ANGRY that once again, Black women are punished for their sexual/personal choices. However, unlike some of the commenters here I didn’t have an issue with the Elise/Rashad scene, where Rashad told Crystal that she had to take some responsibility for her kids’ death. Maybe Crystal didn’t realize it at the time, but she had the power to leave. It was her DUTY to leave. She was the one working and making the money, so this wasn’t an issue of depending on him to get the bills paid. My father was basically Beau Willie when he returned home from Vietnam. My mother kicked him out of our house. I thank God for that every single day.

    I’m not sure if ANYONE could have adapted this into a cogent, flowing film with commercial value. But it would have been nice to see a director like Kasi Lemmons (who, BTW, I had to tell a Black actress at a party last night who she IS!) or Julie Dash try. I knew that For Colored Girls was too far beyond Tyler Perry’s grasp as a storyteller. And with him being the go-to Black filmmaker right now, it gives me pause.

  32. I watched the film and enjoyed seeing issues that are so prevalent in the African American community finally being displayed in a format that will do what it has so aptly done: stimulate conversation. While I was overjoyed at the obvious talent of most of the women in the film and the guts of the men to take on these roles. What I am terribly confused about is the obvious obsession of most in this conversation with Tyler Perry’s interpretation of the work than the hard issues. As is the case in most re-productions of a beloved art form, it falls short of the original in the eyes of those that held that initial offering dear. However, if the author of the original can co-sign the deliverance of the reproduction to a new generation why must you put so much emphasis on being critical of Tyler’s interpretation instead of dealing with the very real issues of domestic violence, heterosexual transmission of HIV, multiple sex partners, abortion by hacks, etc. We continue to major in the minor crap (criticism of sincere effort to tell our stories) instead of having a real conversation about how to deal with these issues. While Tyler’s interpretation may not have been your own, there are women and men that saw themselves reflected in these stories. How do we reach women who allow their children to be victimized by the men in their lives? How do we create an environment wherein our men can have a honest dialog about their sexual habits so that we can decide how or if we engage with them in relationship? How do we speak to sistas who believe that they are hurting men by having random sexual encounters instead of destroying themselves? Until we reach a level of maturity in our conversation wherein we can see past the package to real items on the menu…it is all just noise.

    • The problem Crystal is that you see our critique as impeding conversation and approaches to dealing with the issues rather than Perry’s representation. Representation is powerful, because particularly in Perry’s case, many Black women think he is telling the truth. So we walk away demonizing Black men and women and their sexuality and blaming D-L brothers for the AIDS epidemic BECAUSE they have same-sex relationships. The issue is that they are having unprotected sex and being dishonest with partners to whom they have pledged monogamy. Moreover, the CFC is composed of activists and academics who deal in our work and our lives in various ways with all the issues you talk about. It’s therefore not an either/or proposition. We can point to the ways in which Perry’s representation makes issues worse and also work to change those issues at the same time. We don’t have to choose. By telling Black women that we are responsible for the death of our kids, our rapes, and our unwanted pregnancies, TP participates in an long historical narrative of blaming Black women. Moreover, brothers walked away from this film hating sisters more. They weren’t empathetic. They think this is just another Black women’s male-bashing tell, which only exacerbates all the problems in Black male female relationship that you point to. In other words, by misrepresenting Shange’s text and demonizing Black men which wasn’t part of the original, Tyler Perry makes the existing enmity worse, and its Black women who get blamed for it when we didn’t do it. Yes, I agree that a new generation of folks will be exposed to this work, but they will get Shange’s words with TP’s message. You walk away from her text feeling healed, intact, whole, empowered and affirmed. Many women may walk away from the movie feeling like their experiences have been recognized but they will not have been given any strategies or modes of thinking for dealing. And that is all about the limitations of Tyler Perry’s artistic imagination. We’re gonna continue to call him out over here, because telling the truth is a critical part of the freedom process.

  33. Pingback: For Colored Girls: The Polarity of What We Think « F to the third power

  34. Pingback: Tyler Perry Might Have Not Been Enuf For Everyone « F to the third power

  35. Pingback: I Will Follow – A Movie Review « The Crunk Feminist Collective

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