For this piece, I could have given it a more imaginative title, but I want it to be clear from the outset how I feel about Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. Since there are so many negative reviews of this film, mostly from Black professors and scholars who don’t think Tyler Perry is tutored enough to do this film, I want to offer a positive view of the film as a Black scholar who loves it. In a sea of negative reviews of Perry’s film, my piece should be refreshing to those who love it, but have not been able to find any positive reviews of it. When you read some of the reviews of some of the Black scholars and professors who have composed negative reviews about Perry’s For Colored Girls, I want you to investigate what they have written about him and other popular Black artists in the past. You just might discover that some of these Black scholars and professors have waged a concerted war against him for no apparent reason other than they hate him or they are envious of his success.
Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls is based on the classic American choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (1975), written by Ntozake Shange, a Black woman playwright. Perry maintained a fundamental commitment to the authenticity of Shange’s work, although he intentionally strays away from the original choreopoem at times. For instance, Whoopi Goldberg’s character is not in the original choreopoem. Perry did not, however, leave out accounts of rape, domestic violence, and child murder that are found in Shange’s work. Some people have told me that these aspects of the film and more make Black people look bad. Well, you cannot hold Tyler Perry accountable for this—these elements are critical aspects found in Shange’s choreopoem.
One thing I appreciate about Perry is his unwavering commitment to presenting disquieting, unsettling, and unnerving aspects about Black life that many Black people want to conceal and not engage in serious discourses about. By taking on Shange’s work, Perry presents to the world issues about abortion, rape, domestic violence, and homosexuality that many Blacks would rather he not show to them and White people. These are real issues, however, that the Black community must be willing to wrestle with and do it through open, inclusive, and public discourses. Perry’s film empowers us with a critical opportunity to begin serious discussions about these controversial issues the film engages.
Although I really love Shange’s work, I enjoyed the film better. Perry was able to enspirit the choreopoem for me. The film gives you the opportunity to see a range of complex problems Black women have to face. A sophisticated presentation of Black female sexuality is offered. The power of the film for me lies in how it is able to unveil a serious revelation about Black women: Despite great traumas and challenges being malevolently inflicted and imposed on them, they find ways to overcome them. At the end of the film, I contend that there is utopian energy. All of the women gain a sense of redemption through solidarity with Black women, through reflective discourse about the traumas and challenges they have faced and how to move past and conquer them, and through resisting self-estrangement by seeking community (evidenced by all of the women meeting together and talking with one another and their holding of one another at the conclusion of the film).
I highly recommend that everyone go out and see this film! Tyler Perry has given us a postmodern gem. We should seize on the opportunity this gem affords us. Although the play and film does not proffer an affirmative view of Black men and Black masculinity, it does depict some social realities about many Black men and parts of Black masculinity and Black male sexuality. Go and see it today!
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison