This past weekend I, like many African American/ Black (depending on how you self identify) women flocked to the theater to see the Tyler Perry adaption of 1975 play by Ntozake Shange “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” It was the black Sex in the City! Scores of women met up for their “girlfriends day” followed by very stiff drinks and discussions, which were NEEDED after the 2 hours of sadness and despair that was projected on the screen. The woman behind me walked out the theater after the babies fell from the window. The lady to the right of me wept silently. Someone upfront laughed inappropriately during the rape scene, and my friends had to keep shushing my commentary. Shrug…I couldn’t help it. Whatever the response, the room was filled with various emotions. Emotions and controversy.
Like everything Tyler Perry does these days, a bigger controversy has erupted over this film, and people are extremely divided. Some are angry at the apparent misogynistic themes in the movie. “Tyler Perry hates black women”, “Tyler Perry hates himself” are some of the most common quotes I have seen. There are those who praise the film, loved the movie, and in particular the all star cast. They give glowing reviews such as “Best movie all year” and “Great adaptation.” Then of course you have those who hold the play dear to their hearts, but have a deep seated hatred for Madea Tyler Perry and the positive images of blacks images they believe he sacrifices to build his empire. Being the reader I am, I have read tons of reviews and blogs about this movie, but when it is all said and done, I have the same question…So what’s your one-sided point exactly?
Here are my issues… the current discussions surrounding this film seem to be misplaced. How can you criticize the negative portrayal of Black men in this movie without acknowledging that “For Colored Girls” was a book and play originally written by a black woman
, not Tyler Perry. That the original work is one that the African American community, in particular black women, have enjoyed and held dear to their hearts. How can you ignore that the original poems deal with love, abandonment, rape, and abortions, etc. I mean seriously…was the content of the movie THAT big of a surprise? It leaves me wondering if the critics are those who aren’t actually familiar with the original work or are just jumping on the I hate Tyler Perry bandwagon. In fact, if I remember correctly, much of the initial outrage was that Tyler Perry was turning this into a film, not that the story itself was being brought to film. Many wanted another director to tackle the very sensitive themes…basically ANYONE but Tyler Perry. But let’s keep in mind, no matter who directed it, the themes would not have changed.
I also hear arguments I agree with about movies in general and the way they negatively portray African Americans. Agreed. I am sick of the black villain characters. I am sick of the stereotypes. I am sick of it. But my issues with these films is not that they exist, but that they exist in abundance and to some to some degree in exclusion. What I cannot understand in why this has become a discussion of what should not exists, instead of a referendum of what should? Why instead of the criticism, there isn’t a call get behind some young, black film makers, put our money where our criticisms mouths are and support stories that craft the images we want to see? In fact, there is film coming out next year which appear to be a breath of fresh air…Jumping the Broom. Let go support that! Create a balance, not recreate reality. Because there is good and bad within the African American community (as in all communities, and nations around the world), so we should not have to pretend that there are no place for stories like For Colored Girl or that they don’t represent some people’s reality.
As a matter of fact, I saw aspects of myself women I know in many of the characters. There is the friend whose man doesn’t beat her as often as Michael Ealy character did, but who has occasionally adorned a black eye, but won’t leave him despite all the warning signs. I doubt he will be dropping their two kids off a balcony, but the one before him might have. Yes, surprise, her abuse and lack of self love is a cycle. There is the friend who despite her pretty face and privileged upbringing still can’t seem to keep her legs closed past the first date, yet seems surprised that men don’t respect her and her “relationships” never last. “Why wasn’t he just honest with me”…. Baby girl, because you aren’t honest with yourself. Shoot, I can personally identify with the Loretta Divine character. No I don’t let a man run in and out of my life and cheat on me, while taking him back. Of course not, who doesn’t grow up and learn. I pretend I am stronger than that, but can’t say I haven’t been in a place before where I delivered the self-love speech to a room of captivated women all admiring my strength, while deep down wonder why he wasn’t calling me back. I had to learn to apply the “I know better” speech before engaging with a man, instead of post-mortemly.
Right now I am dealing with a 15 years old girl who trusted me enough to reveal she was being molested at home and is now upset because as a mandatory reporter I had to reveal it. It is this type of woman that for colored girls was created for. The play was suppose to be a healing, safe space where women who had been through tragedies could find healing, peace and take some degree of responsibilities for the roles they may have played…i.e. didn’t leave her abusive husband, was promiscuous, etc. This was done through the poems, the ones you saw in the movie. They were identified as colors (red, blue, green, etc) to create that safe space and not give a name to the person or the tragedy.
Whatever your feelings about this topic, can we stop making this a Tyler Perry, this movie, this song issue? There is a larger issue at hand and it is present in our music, schools, movies, lack of awareness of issues, AIDS rates, unwed pregnancies, low voting rates, and general lack of engagement. It really comes down to one of the major themes I took from “For Colored Girl”, one people seem to be overlooking…RESPONSIBILITY. I don’t think the movie demonizing black men as it did try to make women see and take responsibility for their own actions…responsibility for the men who we LET in your lives, what we ACCEPT from them and WHY. If this movie opens up real dialogue about issues that genuinely affect some women, I think it has done its job…