It was the news heard around the world, heard in every black café, posted on every Facebook mini feed, screamed in abject horror in every black theater class, whispered in body stealing tones in every black feminist mind that Tyler Perry also known as Medea also known as He Who Has Oprah’s Seal of Approval meaning it’s safe for white suburban soccer moms will direct, produce, and perhaps even star as the woman in red in a film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
When I heard the news a part of me laughed and said, “Seriously you’re kidding right. How can a black man who always portrays black women as prostitutes (i.e. Madea Goes to Jail), drug addicts (i.e. Diary of Angry Black Woman), controlling spouses (i.e. Why Did I get Married), abused women, psychopathic black mothers (i.e. Family Reunion), and emasculating black women (i.e. Daddy’s Girls) direct and produce a film about black women finding and owning their voices?” And of course, the answer to my question is that unless he works with Julie Dash or Aishah Simmons his work is doomed to silence black women.
Okay, I will admit I’m no saint. I’ve watched some of Tyler Perry’s movies because I can’t afford HBO so I watch TBS the home of all things Tyler Perry. And sometimes family gatherings entail a Tyler Perry’s Marathon where my great aunt proclaims in her best evangelist voice, “You can talk about my Jesus, and perhaps my momma, but nobody better talk about my Tyler Perry.” I say all this to say I’ve seen his movies to know their limitations. Meaning, I cannot fathom let alone imagine how Tyler Perry can cinematically enrich Shange’s play whose very origin was a critique of black male violence against black women.
Perhaps, he has not read the play therefore he’s unaware of this critique or perhaps he has read it and assumes that the character, Madea, can throw hot grits on all the violent black men in Shange’s play and that will end violence against black women. If it was only that easy then Quaker Grits would be in every domestic violence handbook around the world. So, once again I ask the question, how can Tyler Perry produce and direct a film that speaks to the souls of black women? And the simple answer is he can’t. To say the least, I am pissed. Furthermore, I find myself ruminating on how he will adapt my favorite line from the play, “I found God in myself and I loved her I loved her fiercely.” Perhaps, it will become Vickie Winans’ gospel song, “I found King Jesus and I don’t need nobody else.” Perhaps it will become, “I found da lorde in dis good black man and I loved him, I loved him fiercely.” Or, perhaps it will become, “I did not find enuf in myself as a colored girl so I committed suicide.” Yes, the last translation is wee bit dramatic, but given Tyler Perry’s track record it seems quite probable. So, for those who love the play, For Colored Girls what are your sentiments about Tyler Perry producing and directing the play?
So, I decided to end this blog with pictures from various performances of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Sucide When the Rainbow is Enuf to show how powerful this play is and how Tyler Perry cannot do it justice.