Tyler Perry’s movie For Colored Girls, based on Ntozake Shange’s Tony Award-winning Broadway play, was lambasted by movie reviewers across the country. Critics called the movie “a plain disaster,” and naysayers claim he “over-extended his bounds.” The story of strong, intelligent, versatile and beautiful African American women on the big screen triumphing over their tragedy was just too much for some newspaper writers to handle (I guess).
To hell with those critics. I saw it and loved the film. I wanted to lend my support to Mr. Perry so much so that I bought tickets for friends and family to see the movie. I talked it up at my beauty salon appointments, defended it at the barber shop where my son gets his hair cut, and made it a topic of discussion in my Sunday school class.
This was the first time our stories were being so eloquently told on the big screen since The Color Purple, and I was proud. Proud to see myself in Phylicia Rashad. Proud to see my pigmentation resemble someone in a movie who was not being arrested or, worse yet, didn’t even have a speaking part (perhaps only serving up coffee to fabulous women dressed in the Chanel gowns having lattes on the beach in Dubai).
For Colored Girls forces Hollywood to see us in a new light and gives us that strong, yet complex voice we didn’t have in 2009. ’Cause Black women were doing bad last year at the box office, y’all. If we weren’t abusing our children (Precious) we let some White woman raise ’em (The Blind Side). And when all else failed, we were no longer human (The Princess and the Frog). So I looked forward to Mr. Perry’s film, and I figured other sisters would too; however, in its opening weekend the film debuted in third place, bringing in a modest box office total of $20.1 million. Lionsgate Films, the movie studio that green-lighted the project, says the figure was respectable.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s not acceptable. Hell, Black women spent that much money last month on hair-care products alone. How is it that a movie comes out praising us, putting us up on a pedestal and showing us in a new light, and we don’t make it the number-one grossing film in the country? Did we buy into the critics’ assessments and decide For Colored Girls wasn’t worth watching? We think Tyler Perry has enough money and doesn’t deserve our support? We think we’ve gotten beyond being colored girls and this movie doesn’t apply to us? Lord help us if that’s the case. That’s right, I said it — Lord help us!
By comparison, when Sex and the City II premiered in theaters earlier this year, White women were throwing money at the box office. Honey child, they had Sex and The City parties, developed Facebook fan pages and built websites all in honor of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.
Critics called that movie “a lame and fluffy version of female power” and “a big, dumb blockbuster that doesn’t require you to think very hard” — but it grossed $46 million in its opening weekend. Why? ’Cause White women are going to support their own. They were not going to let a movie like Sex and The City II, a movie for, by and about them, come in second place…no matter what anybody said.
How is it that as Black women we can make Gucci, Louis Vitton and Coach some of the richest retailers in the world by spending millions of dollars on their products (when God and our bank account know good-and-damn-well we can’t afford it), yet we can’t go out and support Mr. Perry’s theatrical efforts at the box office? Is it because the latest Jimmy Choo boots cover up the abuse we’ve been hiding since childhood while Mr. Perry’s film forces us to confront it? Or is it the fact that the new Coach purse we had to borrow money to buy masks the pain of insecurity that For Colored Girls requires us to deal with?
We owe Mr. Perry more than the $20.1 million third-place debut the movie garnered. We owe him a number-one spot at the box office for being man enough to take on this project and give us life on the big screen. We need to hold him up at the box office like he held us up in this film.
It’s not too late, sisters — we can do it!
Here’s the plan: I’m challenging Black women to support Mr. Perry’s movie this holiday season. Let’s make it a “For Colored Girls Christmas.” Buy tickets to the movie for your office workers as gifts. Treat the usher at your church to movie passes. Take the younger women in your life to see the film on Christmas day, so they can understand the journey that lies ahead. Get the tickets for your sister as a gift, so you can sit in the movie and cry together over the remarkable stories of women with experiences similar to yours. Pick up your aunt on Christmas afternoon and surprise her by taking her to see the film; she’ll appreciate her own struggles being played out on the big screen. And even though Grandmomma ain’t seen a movie at the theater since John Wayne was alive, get her and her scooter over to the picture show — they’ve got ramps for her wheelchair and handicapped seating right down front.
If you’ve seen the movie, see it again! If it ain’t showing in your town no more, then shame on you, but that’s no excuse. Find the closest theater where For Colored Girls is currently playing and take a road trip.
Let’s send Mr. Perry over the rainbow. Let’s show Hollywood that we support our own. Let’s stun the world by making For Colored Girls the number-one movie in America this Christmas.
Sheletta Brundidge is veteran broadcaster and creator of the Emmy award winning website Sheletta.com. She currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and 4-year-old son.