Monday, November 8, 2010

For Colored Girls: A Tragedy

As jilted women, church congregations, and self loathing men stampede to yet another Tyler Perry Movie, one has to wonder is this the TRUE voice of our community. Perry attempts to finally be taken seriously as a director and visionary in his new film “For Colored Girls” which is based on the 1975 Choreopoem/play “For Colored Girls Who Have considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange. I, believe it or not, was very excited to see this movie being that it appeared to be a staunch departure from Perry’s previous work. I didn’t read any reviews or editorials because I wanted to be able to make the most honest judgment I could. Put simply my optimism was in vain, because what I saw was disgusting, and failed to promote the image of African Americans, rather it reinforced stigmas and did little to empower women.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. This movie was saved by the performances of the ensemble cast. Thandie Newton was my absolute favorite. Everyone raved on Kimberly Elise’s performance, which was amazing, however I’m always excited to see an actor perform outside of their norm. Her Character was basically the town slut, and oh did she play it well. She was bold and unapologetic when it came to her very friendly sex life. I feel like she was only character that was actually empowering, even with her eventual realization that she as a woman should not sleep around because its more suited for men…sigh. Also I didn’t have a problem with the characters randomly spitting out random outbursts of poetry. Even though the wording of the poems was somewhat dated in the present day setting of the movie, it still was a unique approach that I never seen done before, and that I can appreciate. I will also give Perry credit for using a good range of pigmentation in the movie.
Unfortunately with the movies small successes come great fallacies. Firstly this film shows that Perry is a absolutely terrible director. He has no idea about subtlety and nuance. His obvious messages are pushed into the audience’s faces as if we cannot connect the dots without someone holding the pencil for us. The scene where the girl goes to get an abortion was cringe worthy at the least. Let’s be serious this movie is set in present day New York and you’re telling me that this girl has to dodge crack heads, pit bulls, and gamblers only to get a botched abortion from some destitute woman. We get it Tyler…you’re anti-choice, but using scare tactics in order to get your message across is exhausting and further discredits you as a legitimate film maker (not that u care since you hardly open your films to critics before the release dates.) It is evident that it is more important to Perry to pander to his core church audience, rather than to take a leap of faith and create a true artistic work that would compliment or even elevate the original work.
Through most of the movie I was irritated because in one scene it would take 2 steps forward, then in the next one trillion steps backwards, but towards the end I felt intense anger and sadness. First was the scene with the Babies falling out of the window. This is the moment that I felt the movie had completely gone to shit. Yet another example of Perry not giving the audience enough credit, and resorting to ultra melodramatic climaxes that drain the viewer. This scene was completely unnecessary and honestly unrealistic. I’m sorry I know this could happen but it is THE WORST CASE SCENARIO. Next up is the oh so tired “Down low” storyline scattered throughout the movie. Watching Janet predictably find out that her husband was secretly sleeping with men and ultimately infecting her with HIV was a tragedy to view. You could hear the women in the audience gasp and moan when the HIV was revealed. In that moment I felt like irreversible damage had been done to black gay men everywhere. The homophobic undertones were agonizing, and I felt absolutely helpless in a sea of angry black women ready to burn any gay man they saw at the stake. The problem is that their ignorance has been legitimized because the idea that bisexual men are the cause for the explosion of HIV in black women is on the big screen all across America. There is no message telling these women that there is no verifiable link with bisexual men creating the HIV epidemic among African American women. How can we…better yet how can I watch something like this and come out of theater exclaiming, “wow that was his best film yet!”, when I have been effectively demonized and drummed to a HIV vessel ready to pounce on the first unsuspecting woman I encounter.
Now comes the important question I’m sure you are thinking. Will I spend money in the future on a Tyler Perry movie? I want to say no, but the truth is I probably will since he is the only voice we have for now, yet saying that discredits this whole post right?