Didn’t we see this coming. Now that Tyler Perry’s big screen adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf has hit theaters, confused critics are asking exactly who is ‘For Colored Girls” for—as if the title doesn’t say enuf?
The most disappointing thing of all is that Tyler Perry himself, and cast members Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, and Anika Noni Rose have stated that “For Colored Girls” is for everybody. Newton told ComingSoon.com, “It’s not just for colored girls, it’s not just for colored anybody, it’s for humanity.”
But why can’t “For Colored Girls” be just for colored girls? Isn’t that the point of it all?
I have no doubt—albeit not having been born yet—that when Shange penned her original “For Colored Girls”—belting out jazzy Black feminist verses, and later dancing about the Public Theater stage in 1975—that every syllable of her prose, every pointed foot in her movement was done for colored girls. Now that this Black women’s work has been reappropriated, remixed and re-staged for the 21st century audience—and lest we forget with the critical expectancy to yield millions—it seems that being just for the colored woman is no longer enuf.
It’s the very title in itself that makes people uncomfortable. “For Colored Girls” is too non-inclusive, too exclusive, and too pre—and presently— racial to be accepted as a venerable film in a so-called post-racial world.
We must have been kidding ourselves to think—in a mythical beyond color climate and at a time when the First Lady of the free world is as brown as Lady in White—that a big screen effort would be said to be just for us.
Is it entirely impossible to engage in filmic spectatorship without the optical experience of looking like screen subjects? Or to even remotely identify with their experiences? This is the typical theater-going experience for Black women in America, but it seems White America isn’t so pleased with having Oscar buzzing movies not all about them—no White lead cast member in sight, even the studio itself, 34th Street Films, is Black. Say what you want to say about Perry, but he’s giving Hollywood a colored experience unseen before—he’s a complete shout-caller who doesn’t answer to any folks—colored or non-colored.
It’s saddening that the once chitlin’ circuit crowd pleaser who had no interest in crossing over is using his “most mature work yet”—a work authentically designed for and by Black women—to reach audiences and empathies for which it is unintended. My advice to Perry and the “For Colored Girls” cast: don’t compromise the work of the film—already deemed stellar and powerful by reviews—just to reach the top box office spot.
If there is any confusion as to who “For Colored Girls” is for, let me be so bold to say to White America and Black men, you are welcome to the picture show, but this flick is not about you.