"New Age, Feminist Answers"
FOR COLORED GIRLS is an adaptation by Tyler Perry of the 36-year-old stage play by Ntozake Shange (“N-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay”), “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”
Though slightly outdated like its theatrically pretentious source, the movie offers excellent direction and some heartbreaking, soaring moments that may inspire some, or even many, viewers. The focus of the quality falls a little short, however, because of too many interlocking characters. And, sadly, the acceptability of the movie’s content falls way short because of far too much foul language, many frank and sometimes disturbing sexual references, a goofy religious character mocking Evangelical Christians, and a concluding line of dialogue from the play that celebrates the play’s New Age feminist empowerment for women, especially women of color.
The original play is actually a set of 20 poems about love, rape, abandonment, abortion, racism, and domestic violence read, and sometimes danced, by seven different African American women representing the seven colors of the rainbow. Tyler Perry, who was raised by his mother, aunt and grandmother, took about 14 of the poems and wove a story focusing on nine different women, interspersed with the play’s poetic monologues. At one point, the characters intersect at a hospital when one of the women is date raped and when one of the women’s two children are dropped out of an apartment window by her boyfriend, a crazed, jealous war veteran.
Besides the rape and domestic violence storylines, the movie’s plot includes stories about: 1) A rich woman whose husband gives her HIV because he has brief affairs with other men; 2) A cop’s wife can’t have children because she once contracted a sexually transmitted disease; and, 3) A woman running a health clinic and counseling center for other women keeps letting a two-timing man back into her life. All of these prominent female characters have been damaged in some way by society and/or by men.
At the movie’s climax, all the women come together. Finally, the mother of the two dead children, who tried to commit suicide, sums up everyone’s experience of female empowerment with the words, “I found God in myself. And, I loved her fiercely.” The dialogue in the play and in the movie gives this line even more religious connotations by calling the women’s collective empowerment a “laying on of hands.”
FOR COLORED GIRLS certainly contains some powerful dramatic, poetic moments, as well as a few funny moments to lighten the mood a little. The drama not only includes heartbreaking moments of tragedy, humiliation and rage, but it also has some quiet moments of revelation and profound hurt as well as soaring moments of hope and perseverance. Also, Tyler Perry shows a new impressive talent for beautiful compositions (what the French call mise-en-scene) and smooth editing.
The acting, however, which ranges from good to excellent, has some silly moments and moments that sometimes sound slightly pretentious. Also, there are too many characters in the story to completely captivate the audience. Perhaps trimming the script down to just three main characters representing the best of the play’s poems, with perhaps a Greek chorus of supporting characters quoting other passages, might have been a better choice.
One of the reasons for the artistic problems with the movie is that the Romantic worldview in the play, and thus in the movie, reflects the dated feminist worldview of the 1970s. While one can perhaps agree that African American women are among the most discriminated against and afflicted minority groups in modern society, one doesn’t have to resort to New Age, liberal, feminist empowerment schemes to help them overcome such racism and neglect. In this respect, it is interesting to note that among the visitors to the playwright’s parents’ home in St. Louis was W. E. B. Du Bois (“Boyz”), the civil rights leader who helped found the NAACP but later became a Communist who frequently praised the evil mass murderer, Joseph Stalin, even after the truth and extent of Stalin’s violent purges and mass murder campaigns was revealed.
As part of the play’s feminist notions, the movie includes a character, Alice, played by Whoopi Goldberg, who belongs to some kind of weird cult worshipping God but calling him “Elnohim,” a twist on one of the earliest Hebrew words for God, “Elohim.” Alice is the mother of two of the other women, Tangie and Nyla. She loves to condemn Tangie’s promiscuous lifestyle while helping Nyla attend a dance class, but her attitude seems a bit aberrant.
There’s an implicit feminist condemnation of Evangelical Christians in Whoopi’s character here. Also, the movie’s use of the term God and of the Christian phrase “laying on of hands” in the story’s New Age pagan finale of feminist female empowerment is also theologically unsound and, hence, offensive and abhorrent.
All this, and the movie’s graphic foul language and disturbing sexual content, drive FOR COLORED GIRLS into unacceptable territory. Since 76% of Americans say they are Christian, this is likely to hurt the movie’s chances at the box office, as MOVIEGUIDE® has proven time and time again for more than 25 years. Explicit heresy, as well as explicit sexual content, tends to turn off most American moviegoers, as well as moviegoers overseas. After all, more than 2.3 billion people in the world consider themselves to be Christian, though many are more liberal, and hence more theologically aberrant or heretical, than others. One can depict the harsh realities of sinful lives, however, without resorting to graphic content, much less values and ideologies implicitly or explicitly condemned by the Word of God, the Bible.
(RoRo, B, C, FeFeFe, PaPa, FRFR, HoHo, AbAb, AP, LLL, VV, SS, NN, AA, D, MM) Strong Romantic worldview with some solid moral, slightly redemptive elements speaking out against abuse and immorality but with very strong New Age feminist content and conclusion celebrating female empowerment for African American women, speaking out against social injustice and misusing God’s name in a New Age pagan fashion reflecting false religion, plus strong homosexual references when a husband gives his wife HIV after he has brief affairs with other men, Anti-Christian elements include one character is a member of an evangelical-seeming cult who prattles on and on about her God called “Elnohim” with an “n” (a strange, seemingly deliberate corruption of the early Hebrew word for God, “Elohim”) but one of her two daughters recalls how her mother actually took her to see an abortionist when she herself got pregnant, and some cliché anti-military elements when a woman says the American military turned her returned-from-a-war boyfriend, the father of her two children, into a disturbed wife and child beater suffering post-trauma stress; 67 obscenities, one strong profanity using Jesus and one light profanity; strong, sometimes disturbing violence, includes rape scene, man dangles two young kids out window and they fall to their deaths, threats of violence, hitting, implied abortion with images of tools, and references to possible child abuse; strong and light sexual content includes depicted rape scene (though much is implied), crude sexual comments, promiscuity, references to past incest by older relative now dead, trauma from rape, and implied homosexual affairs as man looks lustfully at a few other men; rear male nudity before rape scene, some shots of upper male nudity and shots of female cleavage; alcohol use and back alley female abortionist is drunk and it is mentioned later that she’s an alcoholic; smoking; and, infidelity, cheating, lying about needing money for an abortion, cohabitation, dysfunctional families, alleged religious hypocrisy, aberrant religious statements, and stereotypical abusive men could be seen as a reverse sexism.
FOR COLORED GIRLS is an adaptation by Tyler Perry of a famous 36-year-old stage play with a much longer name. The play is actually a set of 20 poems about love, rape, abandonment, abortion, racism, and domestic violence. The poems are read, and sometimes danced, by seven different African American women representing the seven colors of the rainbow. Perry, who was raised by his mother, aunt and grandmother, took about 14 of the poems and wove an interconnected story focusing on nine different women in Harlem, interspersed with the play’s poetic monologues.
Though slightly outdated like its source, the movie offers excellent direction and some heartbreaking, soaring moments that may inspire some viewers, or even many. The focus is not quite there, however, because of too many interlocking characters. Sadly, the acceptability of the movie’s content falls way short because of far too much foul language, many frank and sometimes disturbing sexual references, a goofy religious character mocking Evangelical Christians, and a concluding line of dialogue from the play showing the original author’s left-wing, New Age pagan, feminist empowerment ideology. Taken together, these motifs make FOR COLORED GIRLS unacceptable for media-wise moviegoers.