It had been more than a decade since I saw Ntozake Shange‘s choreopoem (For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf) performed at Bryn Mawr College, so it was like I was watching it for the first time.
I’m glad that I didn’t delve into the criticism of Tyler Perry‘s adaptation until after I saw it. I heard a rumor here and there, but mostly relied on my sister network to send me to the theaters to form my own opinion. And I will allow you the same.
So, before I tell you a little bit about what the the blogosphere is saying, I have to say that despite how heavy and heartbreaking For Colored Girls was, I have to give props to all of the actresses. Each woman’s performance was powerful, moving. I particularly liked Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton and Phylicia Rashad. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing black women in the spotlight; there were no secondary roles here. The ensemble consisted of several generations, creating a diverse and accessible portrayal of women of color in today’s society.
Now to the critics. I won’t ruin the movie for you, in case you haven’t seen it yet. So I will give a quick summary of a few reviews, good and bad:
- The Nation: writer Courtney Young said, “What is the price paid when a director widely considered to be anti-feminist interprets a beloved black feminist text for film?”
- The Root: Salamishah Tillet opens with, “In the hands of Perry, one of Hollywood’s most conservative black evangelical voices, Shange’s feminist message of gender equality, reproductive justice and sexual liberation has been seriously compromised.”
- NPR: S. Pearl Sharp talks about how women of color face new challenges in society since the original text was written 30 years ago. “Now…what is different about a colored girl’s anger, love, her rainbow?”
- NPR: Jimi Izreal defends Perry’s interpretation of the choreopoem, “..his adaptation is fearless in a way we haven’t seen in black cinema for years.”
I also heard Ntozake Shange interviewed on NPR last week and she seemed pleased with Perry’s product. She expressed that if it brought women to the forefront and made young girls and women everywhere think about their identities, then she was happy. (Unfortunately, I can’t find this interview online for some reason)
I have to agree: whether completely true to the original work, this production has the power to make a contribution by presenting some of the voices, faces and messages of women of color on the big screen.
And, better yet, if it makes women everywhere go out and buy the groundbreaking work, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf, for the first time, then Ntozake Shange’s true message will never be lost, regardless of how spot-on the Hollywood adaptation was.
Most of all, I love that all sides of this debate are an effort to push the growth of representation of women of color to the next level, honoring their struggles and triumphs.