Tyler Perry May Have Moved Me, But I Still Prefer the Original

Tyler Perry’s movie For Colored Girls adds many aspects to the women originally found in Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/ When The Rainbow Was Enuf. As I have mentioned before, the play doesn’t give the reader too much information about the women in the play’s script. As a reader, you have to make up bodies and faces for yourself. Due to the medium of film, Tyler Perry adds faces, heights, races, ages, and even classes. I wonder how Tyler Perry decided what age or class these women would be. There are very little indicators in the play that leads us to believe they are of a particular age group or class. The added clue that they are of different generations stayed true to the idea that these women of color are not alone. It seems to be that the struggles they all endure are ongoing and their struggles are being handed down to their children just on a different plate. However, I felt what made the play so powerful is the fact that anyone can fit the stories. The people who read it can see themselves in throughout the poems.

In the play, the women lived in all corners of the United States. Something I noticed is that all the women in the film lived in the same city and, in some cases, were neighbors. The thing that worked in the film is the connection the women had in that they were sisters, co-workers, and friends. In the beginning of the film, the women seem separate and isolated. By the end of the film, the women are connected and together. For me, Perry’s decision to show this connection visually showed that our stories are connected with other people’s stories. There’s a strength in unity and community. For example, at one point, the poems are used in a conversation between a daughter and a mother.

It was interesting to see Perry play around with the text of the choreopoem and insert the lines into his own script. The poems in the play were said through rants, conversations, gossip, etc. For me, the play spoke to me in a spoken-word style. I never thought of the poems being able to fit something else. Although some parts worked well in the film, there were times when it was just awkward. It didn’t fit well. It didn’t fit the language of the script. I remember when one of the women enters the kitchen and starts reciting the poem. In the poem there are pronouns being thrown around but you have no idea who she is referring to. I felt he could have made the poems fit a little better. He forced a ball into a square hole, it might have gone through but it didn’t fit into the context very well.

The prologue of the play which was originally said by the lady in brown, was actually distributed across the women in the film. I felt it was a good way to show the community and the relationships these women have with each other. It also shows that these hardships can be shared by multiple women. As the film progresses, Perry also distributes the poems to different women. Instead of colors representing something, it was bodies representing something. The idea of women of color was lost.

Men. How did they fit into the story? When I read the play, men weren’t really in the picture. I guess Perry wanted men to join in on the conversation, or open up the audience to whom the movie may concern. When I read the play, they were there but didn’t play a significant role. The only time I remember visualizing a man of some sorts was during the scene about the children being killed.

However, I felt the film spent too much time finger-pointing. I felt as if the film said these women have horrible lives because the men are so horrible. For me, the play wasn’t about that. The play was about sharing stories and “talking from the I perspective.” One of the things that is very powerful that I learned from school and from this year’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in San Diego, is that speaking from the ‘I’ perspective makes it more personal and more unique. In the film, there was not one male character that was ‘good.’ They were all demonized and villianized. I really wish he didn’t do that. It made seem as if their struggles come directly from men, and for some, that just isn’t the case.

The only gay character in the film was gay, was on the down-low, has HIV and is sleeping around. Wonderful. Exactly what we needed. I really didn’t think that it needed to be in the film. After having a conversation with two people on the flight back home from San Diego, they told me that apparently the down-low scene is a huge problem down in the South. I just felt that the topic of it could have been carried out in a more thoughtful manner.

A funny part of the film as a whole is the advocacy for safe sex. There was sex happening everywhere. Many times there was the direct message to use condoms or the portrayal of women’s stories as a reason to use condoms.

One thing to notice about the film that isn’t in the play is that over and over the women in the film are asking to be listened to and heard. (I was actually expecting Beyoncé to sing at some point). The phrase ‘listen to me’ or ‘listen’ was said at least once by each woman. That is the core of what the message of the play is: listen to these women’s stories.

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