I went to see Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” recently. I was overwhelmed by the totality of the presentation from the soliloquies-particularly from Phylicia Rashad and Loretta Devine – that were woven into the dialogue, the depth of the poetry and by the growth of Tyler Perry as a film maker.
I was a college student in my early twenties when Ntozke Shanges’ work hit the street. I avoided reading the work or going to the play. I knew that it was a manifesto of liberation against the oppression of women by men and against the atrocities that women commit against each other. I knew that women in the know used it as a springboard to address their grievances against men who abused them. I saw the book and the play as a unifying force for sisterhood and empowerment of women but that was what my head had to say.
I avoided her work and the swirl that accompanied it during “political discussions” and on campus forums on relationships between men and women. I took advantage of the luxury of existence at the university where I could wrap myself in the comfort of academia with little concern for the outside world-the real world. And no man in his right mind wants to make women on a campus where the ration is 7:1 mad at him.
A few years ago I heard that Tyler was developing For Colored Girls for the silver screen. I would finally be able to see what all the commotion has been about over the years. I’m glad I waited.
For Colored Girls is a masterpiece on so my levels. I discovered over the years that Perry is a zealot. I knew I could rely on him to produce a worthy adaptation of Shange’s work. I tried to wait on the book that I ordered but could not. When I saw For Colored Girls I went into shock. I found myself verbally responding to the characters as I watched them on the screen and twitching in my seat. In a few instances I reverted not to 21 but to 16 or 17. And I was not the only one. The trio of twentysomethings behind me chattered during most of the movie. When Lady in White’s youngest visited Rose they became silent. One of the twentysomething’s cell phone dropped from her hand during that scene. I reverted to 16 or 17, as I sat glaze eyed, sitting upright in my seat.
I recently bought a NetFlix subscription. I’ve been watching a lot of films with subtitles. I’m a very jaded consumer of films and I write. In my late twenties, movies got very predictable, so it’s good for my head to be surprised by events on the big screen. I was riveted by For Colored Girls. From the onset I was intrigued by the dialogue. I finally got that part of the dialogue was from Shange’s poetic genius. Devine and Rashad put it in perspective for me. Macy Gray’s performance punched me in he gut.
I started reading comments and reviews about the movie the day after I saw it. I’m shocked but not surprised by some of the sentiment expressed by folks that have seen the movie. Most of it seems to be coming from thirtysomethings in the arts. I read a lengthy dissertation about Shange and Perry from one of my least favorite journalist. He has become the dude that everyone ask if his article has been read! I almost fell asleep while I read his constipated diatribe but I forced myself to read the entire article.
For days, I mulled over all that I’ve been reading while driving in my car. I don’t care what the thirtysomethings believe or that twentysomethings can’t shut up for more than 2 minutes. For Colored Girls has stayed with me since it imprinted itself on my cortex.
Henceforth, I will freely acknowledge Perry’s artistic genius. I will also stop writing poetry. All I write about anyway is seduction or being seduced. I am bored with myself as a poet! I’ve come to the realization that I don’t know that pain that Shange and Perry shared with me. I do know those men (except for the cop-never met one that noble) in bits and pieces.
I never underestimated the enormity of Ntzoke Shange. As a snobbish poet, I just ignored her until she was rubbed in my face.
A lot of people have been unable to wrap their minds around this gift we have been given. Only time will reveal it to some. I hope that the Academy will recognize some of the actors in the spring but we’ll have to wait and see. It took 35 years for For Colored Girls to emerge for the underground. I heard a song by Parliament on a television commercial about medical health insurance (!) recently, so it must be Ntozake Shange’s time.
See the movie over and over until you get it.