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Tyler Perry’s Contravention of For Colored Girls

November 4, 2010

Editor’s Note: The audio and text below delve both into the new movie and into the original poems.  If you aren’t familiar with either, you should consider this post a spoiler.

Colored Girls

A few days ago I recorded the above commentary exclusively for SV readers after seeing a sneak preview of Tyler Perry’s take on For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.   I’d like to clarify a few things and flush out a few more.

First, my review is targeted at anyone who has ever read the beloved choreopoem by writer Ntozake Shange.  If you haven’t read it, you may find yourself distracted with the great acting (despite the horrific script) by each of the beautiful and talented women in the cast.

But if you have read the book, you won’t be impressed when you realize (very early in the film) that Tyler Perry decided the best way to tackle the work was the mix up the rainbow- literally.  He attributed pieces of and entire poems to women they weren’t ever intended for in the source material.   It made watching the movie (for those well versed in the poems) …frustrating.

Think of it this way; who said “we’re not in Kansas anymore…”? Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, right? Well now what if the movie was remade and suddenly the Tin Man was the one saying “we’re not in Kansas anymore…” It wouldn’t make sense because the Tin Man was never in Kansas to begin with. That is one of the worst aspects of the movie.

The second, is the generally negative way each of the women (and most of the men) are portrayed.  They’re bitterness, victim mentalities- the way life just generally sucks for each of them- is wearing.  There is not a single happy scene in the entire movie. Not one.

As if that misrepresentation of the original material and the perception of Black women weren’t enough- the way Perry blatantly dishonors the poem ‘a night with beau willie brown’, which tells the horrific story of the murder of 2 children.  The poem is intended for the Lady in Red, but Perry chose to shove the words into another character’s mouth. He completely changes the behavior of the children’s mother, Crystal.  In the book she’s an antagonist, fully invested and participating in the cycle of abuse and the toxic relationship with the children’s father. In the movie she’s portrayed as a victim.  The only hint of accountability for the death of her children comes after the fact and is fleeting at best.

When I speak in the audio commentary of Tyler Perry’s childhood “stuff” clouding his lens, that’s what (in part) I was referring to. He needed the Black man to be the villain and the Black woman to be the infelicitous standby.  It was outrageous.

Finally, there is Tyler Perry’s version of the Lady in Red.  Again, a fragmented, inconsistent character that has almost nothing to do with the source material.  The DL storyline he threw her into was eye-roll-inducing and stale. It was also, yet another aspect of the movie which made viewers cast a side-eye at Perry himself.  Was this storyline necessary for the character- or necessary for Perry based on his own life experiences?

At the screening I made a comment about the condition of many Black women, as well as the perceptions about us.   What I basically said is the most difficult life experiences Black women have aren’t known or considered when it comes to the perception of who we are.  I also said that we- as Black women, don’t deal with our “stuff”, either because we’re afraid, or because of stigmas and shame or whatever the reason. We carry it around with us much longer than we should. The same can be said for Black men. Thus the cycle of dysfunctional relationships lives on.  We need to deal with our stuff.  The movie does serve as that reminder. Yes, the disproportionate number of negative portrayals of decayed and defective Black women in bad situations (and usually getting worse) is real, and we are sick of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that the women and situations portrayed in the film do exist.  For me, awareness of that reality made the moving-watching experience somewhat paradoxical.

If you want to really experience For Colored Girls- buy a copy of the choreopoem.  Better yet, if you’re in the greater Seattle area, come to Hidmo Saturday Nov. 6th @ 8:00pm and experience a full reading of the choreopoem, led by the incomparable Christa Bell, with Storme Webber, Rachael Ferguson, Davida Ingram and yours truly, SV.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 9:05 pm

    Wow…nice. I haven’t seen or read “For Colored Girls”—-but after reading and listening here—I’m going to opt for a reading first. —and then, yes, I’ll view Perry’s work. I’m interested in seeing exactly what Tyler Perry’s agenda is….

    But, more importantly, I’m always up for some GOOD poetry. Thanks for “puttin’ me on,” Sable.

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