Veronica Hendrix

*The reviews of Tyler Perry’s “For Color Girls” have ranged from disappointing to damning to powerful and poignant.  It’s a mixed bag sure enough.

Yet decidedly there was no rainbow in the movie’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange 1970’s Broadway production of “For Color Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”

When the smoke cleared and the enchantment subsided, Perry’s foray in telling the stories of characters so masterfully conceived by Ms. Shange casted his efforts into the heap of “the usual suspects” of African American films. It was a valiant effort gone painfully awry.  

When I went to see film, the kinetic energy that filled the lobby of the theater at the sight of what seemed like a meadow of colored girls in every shade imaginable was the same kind of energy I experienced when I went to see the play as a college student when it opened in Los Angeles.  Just as I and other women did then, we nodded and eyed each other in collective anticipation that we were about to experience something inordinately authentic and stirring.  We did. And we walked away from the stage play with a sense of empowerment over the issues that bifurcate and intersect our lives as women.

But those of us who walked out of the theater after watching Perry’s adaption of Ms. Shange’s work walked out with a composite of sorted feelings colored and clouded by the riveting and powerful performances of Kimberly Elise and a stellar ensemble cast.  While the acts of violence such as rape and domestic violence were implicit in the prose of the play, they were explicit in the movie. It was a painful journey, one I found hard to watch. One of my girlfriends equated the film to a horror movie she just wanted to end.

You’ve heard the reviews about the awkwardness of the poetic monologues of the play woven into the movie. You also have heard about the creative license employed by Perry with introducing newly contrived female characters  and harrowing  black male characters into the movie that weren’t in the original play. All this is true indeed.

But I am bemused by Perry’s interest and motivation in making this play into a movie which would have been a formidable challenge for anyone, particular a man. I’ve read some of the bleeps and blurs about how he was asked to take on the project twice and it became an omen of sorts that convinced him to go with it and dive in.

Was that “enuf?”

Ms. Shange conceived and wrote the piece at time in our culture when we as colored women were calibrating the compass of our newly found liberties and choices in the face of vulnerabilities we couldn’t be inoculated against because of our gender. It was as much a cry about the  plight of women and as it was a decree about the power of womanhood. It was a coming of age piece as our position as black women began to shift and change and transcend our tradition roles in life.  The film wasn’t any of that for me. But then again, perhaps it was an unreasonable expectation.

However, for many who saw the film, it was just another exploit in emasculating and vilifying black men. I’ll give it that in part. But movies that target the pocket books of black women  too often demean and demoralize them  with story lines that demonstrate their consistent, inane and destructive choices in their pursuit of love as if it where an innate character defect encoded in their DNA.  And the kicker is that many of these characters are depicted as smart, well heeled, successful women whose deep sense of insecurity and low self esteem makes them desperate, pathetic and tragic victims of their own choices. The men in lives though equally dysfunctional and flawed, are just ancillary figures. But these women are the real devil of their undoing.

I can’t tell you how weary I am of these images and portrayals. I believe most women are the antithesis of these characters and not their equivalent. But this is the steady diet that writers and film makers feed us and like moths to a flame we flock to them.

Sometimes I just want to scream during some of these films and say, “Come on, you simply cannot be that foolish. Surely there were was an exit ramp you could taken in that relationship before you careened and took you family with you. Did you blink and not see it? You have got to be kidding, can you be that naïve?” But you know how annoying it is when we talk to the screen at the movies.

All I am saying is that black men don’t have the market in crying foul about how they are portrayed in these alleged chick flicks that target colored girls. If black women take off the rose colored glasses, we’ve got reason to cry foul too.

(If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to [email protected])