November 11, 2010

Category: TV/Film

For Colored Girls, For Goodness Sake

For Colored Girls, please for goodness sake do not be another Diary Of A Mad Black Woman,’ I thought on the train ride down to the movie theater where I was meeting up with almost 40 other women to see Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking, powerful call-to-arms for Black women “For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.” I can say, with relief, FCG is TP’s best work and much better than Diary. At times though the suffering of the girls in FCG resembled pathology more than just the pain and heartbreak of this specific group of women. Like seriously how many times is TP going to have Kimberly Elise dragged across a floor by a Black man? For Colored Girls is no Boyz In The Hood, but its no Booty Call either. Due to racism, sexism, capitalism and a lack of positive, personable portrayals of Black women, sometimes it’s hard to watch Black folk suffer and in pain and tore da fruck up without reading it as pathology; without thinking and feeling that this on-screen drama defines our off screen real lives.

For Colored Girls, for goodness sake please give us something we can feel.

The TP haters were definitely in the house, or more specifically, in our collective and in no mood for his usual melodramatic antics. Not even 30 minutes into the film the heckling started: “I’m so sick of Tyler Perry and his sh*t,” one woman yelled out while another said, “Lawd, this is so sickening. I don’t think I’m going to make it through to the end.” There were equal amounts of drama on the screen as there were in our theater, for better or for worse. I admit that over-the-top opera scene juxtaposed against the horrific rape scene and burning chops was nauseating, but my wooziness was eased a great deal by the brilliant performances of the ensemble cast especially Loretta Devine, Macy Gray, Anika Noni Rose and Thandie Newton. As I watched the movie I tried to both forget and remember Shange’s original. I read the book in high school and during my sophomore year of college I snagged the deliciously, rambunctious role of the Lady in Orange. Needless to say, there were times in the movie when I was transported back to that stage production with Shange’s words bare and un-adapted for us to consume and engage like when Loretta Devine’s Juanita (aka the Lady in Green) says “goodbye” and when Macy Gray declares “I live in Harlem now.”

But there were other times like when Janet Jackson’s Jo (Lady in Red) spoke to her ‘down-low’ hubby about infecting her with HIV/AIDS, that I felt TP’s Madea coming home to roost. That cough and that atrocious dialogue (“you getting bent over now”) made a mockery of homosexuality, of homophobia and of AIDS. I thought the Oprah interview with Terry McMillan and her ex was kuhrazy, but Tyler Perry took it a notch lower with back alley clichés, dramatic side eyeing and his Devil Wears Fashion Fair homage. I was also uncomfortable when Phylicia Rashad who plays Gilda, a den mother of sorts, told Kimberly Elise’s Crystal (Lady in Brown) that she had to take some responsibility for the murder of her children. Huh? In my real colored girl life, women like Gilda would have been organizing a way for homeboy to get shanked on the inside. I got downright pissed, however, when during our discussion one of the ladies, Jennifer, enlightened us that in the book, Lady in Brown, leaves her husband and that the babies are thrown out the window as a response to that act of independence NOT some dang chauffer-driven town car. Tyler Perry’s lack of imagination is one thing, but I take offense to him manipulating texts in order to punish Black women for being strong and courageous. On Oprah he introduced his aunt who inspired the Madea character. She is a flesh and bones, gun-toting, no lip-taking, fierce Black women who saved his mom (her sister) on more than one occasion from his abusive father. It is ironic, sad, just trifling that when given an opportunity to honor the defiant spirit of his aunt without cross-dressing, TP stumbles and instead wags an incriminating finger.

For Colored Girls, for goodness sake why do the brothers have to be buffoons? My biggest shakedown of FCG is the one-dimensional, superficial, stereotypical, spiritless, gutless depictions of Black men. Male privilege is very real for colored and non-colored girls alike, but a rapist, an adulterer, an alcoholic, a molester all with no back-story and no backbone was just too much. I feel like TP in FCG is telling Black women to be strong cuz Black men ain’t sh*t. Be empowered because being married is a bitch. We should be strong and empowered because discrimination in the workplace is worse now than ever, because of lousy healthcare and public schools, because of harassment that we get from Black, white and Latino men on the street. The men in Shange’s work were silent shadows and they had more resonance than the monsters in TP’s movie.

Colored girls today have been exposed to way more images of Black life, love and loss today than they were in 1975. So even though I crave to see myself on the big-screen, it’s not life-defining for me. I’ve seen Eve’s Bayou, Daughters of The Dust, Love Jones and The Secret Life of Bees. I’ve bought magazines with Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Roshumba on the cover. And now I have Michelle Obama as the First Lady in the White House. Iyanla Vanzant said once, “we begin to adjust our lives to the deficiency we see around us.” So I watch movies like I used to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches back in the day. I would take the crust off and just eat the slice of bread smeared with jelly. I totally enjoyed the acting in For Colored Girls minus a few exceptions. I inhaled Juanita’s rich chocolate skin and rum-raisened lips, Tangie’s cafe au lait arms and Whoopi’s eboned face just glowed in her all white attire. I also loved seeing Black women helping each other when they couldn’t help themselves. When Gilda put the ice pack on Tangie’s face and Tangie touched her fingers that moment was supreme for me. In the face of Real Housewives of Atlanta, America’s Next Top Model, and Basketball Wives where every episode revolves around Black women fighting each other, throwing drinks at one another, snapping, dissing and as Coral from The Real World once declared, “beating bitches down,” FCG offered another perspective. It reminded Black women that we are and can be intimate, supportive and loving of other Black women and that there is power in that. However, unlike Shange’s choreopoems where friendship and sisterhood soared beyond redemption to loud-mouth liberation, the sisterly love of the movie version is satisfied with a chicken noodle soup for the soul, hand-holding, Kumbaya type of love, which is fine sometimes, but not all the time in all matters.

When The Rainbow Is Enuf. This for me always read as a new thought in Shange’s title. It was an extension of the aforementioned consideration of suicide, but this revelation stood alone because it could. When the rainbow is enuf is revolutionary. When Black women, heck Black people, stop needing validation from mainstream society; when our beauty and our selves are joy enough then, whoo chile, what a day of rejoicing that will be. Unfortunately Tyler Perry didn’t get this couldn’t get this (I know how the movie industry operates and Hollywood ain’t trying to have us on no Black power ish especially since that currently means Box Office suicide like when Rosewood and Booty Call opened the same weekend many years back and BC made almost three times more money than Rosewood. That kinda changed what was green lit from that weekend forward. The dismal numbers for Bees and Bayou prove this fact too). That’s right it’s all about the big ole pot of gold at the end of the rainbow nowadays. Eff your Technicolored meteorological illusions! Folk wanna get paid, send their kids to college, pay that mortgage, pay their annual WGA and SAG dues, wanna buy a Range Rover and Louboutins. And by folk I mean Tyler Perry, Ntozake Shange, Nzingha Stewart (the original director for FCG), Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, Hill Harper, et. al, and many of us reading this. Rainbows fade, but gold, like diamonds, well that’s forever, right? I’m not a fan of Tyler Perry, but all of this ranting about he sold his soul to the devil is juvenile. It’s like being mad at the snake cuz it shot its venom at you and not being outraged at the snake charmer. Be clear, Hollywood likes controlled freaks not control freaks. So of course it’s so apt that the Lady in Orange isn’t even orange in the movie version, she’s tangerine (Tangie) and her sexual freedom is muted and bound here and there. This is American cinema. If Hollywood suits can turn Carrie Bradshaw’s sexual fierceness into a middle-eastern mince pie mess of cultural mockery and sexual tomfoolery what the hell do you think they are going to do to Black women?

If like me you believe in rainbows I urge you to read the book and see the movie so you can be apart of the conversation and not just a “part” of the convo. If you still can’t bare to buy a movie ticket then please for goodness sake use your $10, 12 or 14 and make a contribution to support the IFC, Imagenation, NBPC, UrbanWorld and other platforms that support indie Black film.

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10 Responses to “For Colored Girls, For Goodness SakeComment RSS feed

  • Tiffany
    November 11th, 2010 7:03 pm

    Nice post. I actually kinda felt Gilda saying that she needed to take some responsibility, for the fact if you sit there and let some one beat you and your kids, you can’t just point the finger and it was all him. I know it is hard to leave situations like that but you ca’t just simply say it was all him. The play is much better this TP ology stuff.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  • Nae
    November 11th, 2010 11:08 pm

    I agree with Tiffany.

    Elise’s character had a sense of freedom/independence because she went to work albeit for a controlling, mentally abusive boss (a woman). She knew she was not going to marry her kid’s father because of his drinking, abuse, inability to provide for the family. She even knew enough to leave the kids with her neighbor, she also knew he was going to hurt those kids, she held them back when he told them to come to him. Knowing all of that as a mom, it was her responsibility for the sake of those kids to get them out of that harmful situation before it was too late. The rainbow (beautiful kids) should have been enuf!

    I think Tyler Perry was making an effort, while it was a poor one, to bridge generations with the low down/down low comment. Down low is a common term used today. I think a married woman of our generation that found out she was sick because her husband is having affairs with other men would definitely make derogatory comments in the heat of anger. Again, I think the point was that she knew her husband was interested in men, she knew for a long time and still forced the relationship. The rainbow ( a great job), should have been enuf!

    I’m disappointed that I’ve not heard one woman give accolades to Hill Harper’s character. As usual we Black women overlook the hardworking blue collar worker–yet “there are no good black men.” No good ones or none good enough? (LOL & sarcasm) Despite learning his wife had an STD that barred her from having kids, he said it didn’t matter. He also committed to hunting down the rapist.

    The point I got from the movie is that sometimes the rainbow is enuf! Sometimes you must be thankful for what you have. The rainbow should be enuf! All the characters possessed “rainbows” but it was not enuf for any of them!

    Sidebar->In defense of Tyler Perry I thought The Family that Preys with Kathy Bates was also a decent movie.

    ~ When you reduce life to black and white, you never see rainbows. ~ Rachel Houston

    Good post and interesting perspective!

  • theHotness
    November 12th, 2010 4:36 pm
    Author's Reply

    Thanks ladies. I understand Gilda was saying to Crystal that because she stayed in the relationship she is partly accountable for their murders. I understand, but I don’t agree. That’s like people who say the parents of Aiyana Jones who was shot by a cop while asleep in her bed are also to blame for her murder because her uncle or father who lived in the same house was an ex-convict and shady. Sorry I don’t blame the grandmother or anybody else in that home for her death but the shady police officers! What I’m pissed at is that in the book the Lady in Brown has the courage and makes the right decision and leaves her husband! Why does TP make her stay? Why does he choose to portray her as a coward and weak?! So many more women could have been empowered by her decision to leave.

    Yeah Hill Harper is a positive character and I’ve read many blogs where they do applaud his positivity. I’m still reeling from the 9 (NINE!!!) other roles of Black men in the movie who were straight ill that I forgot about lil ole Hill. I’m just saying where’s the balance in those depictions? Outta 10 brothers only one is not an adulterer, molester, rapist, killer? C’mon son!

    And I don’t know of “The Family That Preys”. I’ll make sure to check it out!

  • Nae
    November 12th, 2010 5:47 pm

    I don’t think Gilda was saying because Crystal stayed in the relationship that makes her partly accountable. I think Gilda meant that what she chose to do for herself is just that. When you have children they come first and as a mom, she knowingly chose to put her need to keep him around first even though she knew full well that it was not healthy or safe for her kids.

    The Aiyana Jones story is not comparable to that! Her uncle and or father were not the direct perpetrators of violence upon her. But if they were then yes, I would expect a mom to try and get her kid out of there eventually, sometimes the women is a victim too and is too weak to do so. But Crystal was not that weak, she worked, told him to stop drinking, worked (because many victims of domestic violence are not allowed to work by their spouses or abusers etc., She showed some strengths, she stood up to Janet by telling her about her appointment. There was no way anyone in that home of Aiyana Jones thought there was a possibility of that happening and it was at the hands of the police which is a different topic.

    On the other hand, because Crystal was getting beat down on a regular and the implication was that he beat the daughter, the bruise on her head, the social worker visit, etc. the inference was that Crystal knew he could possibly hurt them, she confirmed she knew by the deliberate act of leaving them with the neighbor even though dude was home.

  • Nae
    November 12th, 2010 5:58 pm

    But I see your point full well!!! In the heart of that tragedy, its hard to say to someone that just lost her kids that way, take some responsibility and hard for someone, a mom, to take that too, when they themselves did not commit the actual act.

  • florence tate
    November 12th, 2010 8:03 pm


  • To the point chic
    November 13th, 2010 1:17 pm

    I don’t know if everyone is a mother but what Gilda said is true, her children were in harms way and because of her own weakness she stayed. If you think for one second deep down inside the women in brown was not going over and over in her head what she could have, should have, would have did??? Your crazy… Most of her pain was probably from guilt!!! Let’s keep it real…..and as soon as Gilda told her that it was like she need to hear that, face the responsibility for her part, and the healing process began. Otherwise, she would have sat there and died from her own guilt and hurt… People need to be real w/themselves… I mean really dig deep and stop justifying things people do just because you feel sorry for them..

  • To the point chic
    November 13th, 2010 1:31 pm

    I also feel that this movie was made for just what it was about. If TP wanted the relationships to be gravey then it would be just that. The movie was made to hit specific situations. It was not a movie met to b about happy black girls in wonderful relations… This movie is as realistic as shut gets in this day in age sad to say. Everything in life can’t be portrayed as great, real funcked up shit really happens…oh and from where I’m from, you get involved with someone elses closed doors u might put yourself in harms way. She did rite by letting the social worker know what time it is, but u saw her azz was runnin up out of there too rite!!!

  • theHotness
    November 15th, 2010 3:26 am
    Author's Reply

    Great points ladies! @Nae: That’s right she was aware that her hub had violent tendencies and didn’t even leave them alone with him.
    You know I was reading a review by an older Black woman over 50 and she said there are so many Black women, like Crystal, that go to work everyday take care of their kids AND their dysfunctional husbands and we think of them as strong just because they are holding it down but then this older woman asks is that really strong or is that just making do. I’m starting to see Crystal as a much weaker individual than when I initially saw the film.
    @Florence: Thanks. There are other young sister friends of mine who feel the same way as I do so I gain courage from them and yes, I’ve read several reviews and notes by and about women over 50 and all of them loved FCG. Definitely generational!

  • Yo Boy Justy-Just
    November 15th, 2010 3:07 pm

    I remember *hearing* about your portrayal of The Lady in Orange, even though I missed the Billsville production (being much younger than you). Rarely can adaptations live up to the living, breathing performances on stage or our limitless imaginations when reading. I don’t like Tyler Perry because I don’t think that he is authentic or honest. Rumors of his own DL status are legendary, and it cheapens his attempts to portray complex storylines dealing with sexuality. His movies are a transparent attempt to create a “beard” of sorts. But folks eat it up! Don’t be mad at the person who creates drivel–be mad at the folks who consume it and don’t demand better!
    That being said, I will take the advice of Ms. Hotness, and pony up my $12 so that I can be a “part” of the ongoing conversation. 😉
    PS — I can’t wait for the Wayans to produce their “The Devil Wears Fashion Fair” spoof, and still laughing over Loubitons!