Has Tyler Perry Found His Voice? Some Thoughts on 'For Colored Girls'

November 08, 2010




Despite many predictions, 'For Colored Girls' is not a debacle

Has Tyler Perry Found a Voice Within Black Feminism?
by Mark Anthony Neal | TheLoop21

Despite many predictions, Tyler Perry’s screen adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls was not a debacle. The film was by far, the most nuanced and accomplished film in Perry’s oeuvre, owing much to the power and genius of Shange’s original work, the most consummate cast that Perry has worked with, and perhaps all those days on the set watching Lee Daniels at work filming PreciousFor Colored Girls may represent Tyler Perry, perhaps finally, finding his own cinematic voice.

Directors like Kasi Lemmons and Julie Dash might have been better choices to direct Shange’s classic “choreopoem.” But in all fairness, despite their considerable talents, neither of those women would have been able to deliver the kind box office opening that has made Perry so bankable. Say what you will about Perry, if you were to ask average Black filmgoer to name a film by Lemmons and Dash you’ll likely get blank stares. You might also get just as many blank stares if you were to ask those same viewers if they’ve read Shange’s play.

For all of its status as “classic material” Shange’s work is not widely known among American audiences, particularly young folk, and this more than explains why Shange was willing to put the project in Perry’s hands. The $21 million opening for For Colored Girls may be below Perry’s usual standard, but it’s a major success for serious African-American drama. The Secret Life of Bees and The Great Debaters both had opening weekends of $10 million, for example.

But there’s a greater achievement in the opening weekend numbers ofFor Colored Girls. The film’s commercial success marks one of the visible moments for mainstream Black Feminism, within a national culture that has been largely ignorant of Black feminist writing and art. Unlike the work of Terri McMillan or the work of any number of Black women artists, who simply have a critique of the tired men in their lives, Shange’s For Colored Girls is the real deal, as evidenced by the staying power that it has in Black artistic and intellectual circles.

Read the Full Essay @ theloop21.com

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