For Colored Girls…Interrupted

Like many Black women of my and the generation before mine, Ntozake Shange’s classic work For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the RainbowIs Enuf changed my life as a young girl. I was captivated by the book and wowed by the stage adaptation of the choreopoem. I had never heard poetry performed that way on stage before. Seeing girls and ladies who looked and sounded like the ones in my family, and indeed, like me, complete with wrapped heads and flowing skirts rocked my world.

Read this if you haven't already.

Fast forward to the early ’90s. I am working on my first book. Writer and award-winning video director Nzingha Stewart, (pictured below) who I met through the fierce and amazing singer-songwriter Res, agreed to interview with me for it to share her insights and challenges on being a Black woman writer director who wants to bring projects to the big screen. When I learned that she had optioned and was screenwriting For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide… I was elated. She seemed a perfect fit to birth and lens the project. Having shot videos as divergent as Bilal’s “Soul Sista”, Common’s “The Light”, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Ya Money”, I knew she’d bring a nuanced creativity to a filmed version of this work, which, if it were going to be made at all, needed to be handled with grace and integrity. Otherwise, a lot of sisters’ feelings would be hurt.

Can't wait to see what she does next.

Fast forward again to 2009. The buzz begins about Tyler Perry producing the film. I’m skeptical, but remembering that Stewart was on board, I wasn’t mad. His name had done much for the eyeballs and awards love Precious received. And, though his films are not for me, he’s a box office ringer–and he’s African American. Sounds like a great collaboration. Nzingha’s vision with Tyler’s machine. I exhaled…until the buzz amped up and Perry was now producing, writing and directing.

Mr. Perry, you don't have to do it all anymore.

I tweeted that if Madea showed up in a monochromatic costume I was calling The Reverend Al Sharpton! Suddenly, there was no talk of Stewart being involved and it seemed like the train had left the station without her; casting was set, production was underway. My heart went out to her. It took me 7 years to birth my book; I could only imagine how long she had worked on Shange’s adaptation. Shadow and Act posted a piece about the politics of the situation looking shady…then that post was gone, replaced with an interview with Stewart who was now being credited as Executive Producer (and rightfully so) and being very delicate about how when Perry gets involved he tends to do so…fully.

While I was very unhappy about the personnel change, I was glad Stewart was getting compensated and credited for what truly is a passion project for her. I don’t get that sense from Perry; I think for him, this was an attempt to get deep and expand his base. For me, this would be the first film of his I would support at the box office. Proof already that he was expanding his reach and gaining the interest of a new pshychographic of Black woman; one who doesn’t go for gut-bucket, cross-dressing humor. Sidebar: I actually saw Why Did I Get Married on cable and really enjoyed it, so don’t mistake my citical thinking about For Colored Girls for “haterade”. I actually want this film to win for too many reasons to name.

I attended a group screening and discussion organized by Nicole Moore of and Imani Uzuri. I paid my $14.50 and thus, as a customer, am entitled to my opinion. I will also share some of the anonymous feedback that women in the discussion group had, so you can get a feel for how this film left many of its viewers. My take:

The Good

This cast is phenomenal. Even the actors you may have your issues with are on point in this film. I went to support them and my sista girl the Executive Producer, and in that sense, I was not disappointed. These women own Shange’s words and reminded me of why I loved the book so much. Even the male supporting actors are strong in the film–but we’ll get to the images they portray later.

I needed a group hug at the end too.

I was surprised to see Shange’s poems dominate the dialogue in the film. I really didn’t know what to expect as far as the script was concerned, given how ambitious an adaptation this is. I also frankly had low expectations because the writing I have experienced from Perry’s films is made for mass black consumption, often lacking dimension or room for the viewer to draw their own conclusions before the “lesson” is smacking you upside the head. There was less Perry and more Shange here, and from a writing perspective, less was more.

I did appreciate how Perry connected the characters in the setting he conceived for the story. The downside of this is that it came across as very ‘The Women of Brewster Place’ with everyone except three female characters cooped up in a five story walkup in the ‘hood, intercating primarily with Social Services (embodied by Washington), the local hospital, and NYPD (Hill Harper). Stereotypes on Parade. Which brings me to The Bad.

The Bad

As a music supervisor and former music industry executive, I was deeply dismayed by the score. Talk about a downer. The vibrancy of these women was not reflected in the music. Shange’s poems are musical in and of themselves, and deserved better accompaniment at certain points. Huge missed opportunity, especially given there is a great soundtrack for the film, and many places where music could have been playing as part of the texture of the film: hel-lo! We are Uptown, baby! Black people are big on music…even when things aren’t going well–actually, especially then!

Speaking of music, the one time we get an extended play of a song, it’s during a very awkward opera scene which is intercut with a violent scene (no spoiler), diminishing the impact of the latter in an effort to feel epic. Epic fail. Don’t go there Tyler, that’s Coppolla territory.

The scope of the enviornment was very narrow. Low income living is the norm in this film. Their emotional struggles aren’t enough apparently, they have to be hoarding (in the case of Whoopi’s character), scheming for money (see breakout star Tessa Thompson’s character), or scraping out of pocket to give back to the community (Loretta Divine’s character). We don’t even see anyone in the building eating a proper meal. Only the characters with means come to the block; the tenants are never seen off of it (except for Kimberly Elise’s character, who has to leave since she works for Janet Jackson’s character in the City–and Thandie Newton’s bartending character). Perhaps this was purposeful, but the Colored Girls I grew up on were not limited by their location; their sense of freedom was evident. These women felt trapped and downtrodden.

The Ugly

Women’s bodies are under assault in this film–and not just by some of the characters Shange created, but by Tyler Perry himself. Sexual freedom is tied to whoring out of being molested; losing one’s virginity is a near death sentence; reproductive choice is thrown back to pre Roe v. Wade in its portrayal, with abortion  unequivocally struck down as a sin; HIV becomes the payback for one character being a cold, callous, untrusting boss and wife. A down-low brother violates one Colored Girl (not in the original book or play). A rapist violates another; a serial abondoner yet another. The one woman in a healthy marriage destroys her chances of childbearing with an untreated STD (not in the book or play).

Thandie as Tangie: Washing away her sins?

The message Tyler hands Black women is that sex is bad, dirty, dangerous, deadly, and forced upon you–and you are pretty much powerless to stop or change it. This is not how Shange portrays women’s sexuality. A proundly disastrous example of what happens when the director’s point of view about women’s sexual experiences and power taints the adaptation.

Spirituality and non-traditional faiths take a hit in the film as well. Goldberg’s character is a religious zealot in white whose own demons show up in her relationship with her daughters, which are fractured and devoid of communication without arguments or fights (so much for piety and peace).

I Put A Spell On You

Her version of prayer drives a wedge between her and her daughter instead of bringing them together. Is this a comment on religions or belief systems that differ from the Black church? Sure made the Yoruba look unattractive.

For Colored Girls leaves out the core transformative element of the book and play, where these women are confronted with horrific circumstances, and yet they find God in themselves and love her fiercely as one poem asserts. They rise above and learn the greatness and beauty of who they are in the process. In Tyler’s version, they commiserate and hug, almost reluctantly, laying on hands, yes–but metaphorically throwing them up in despair at the same time. If there is any victory for these women, it’s swallowed up by the tribulation, leaving a real sense that Black women are defined by pathology and not their responses to it. It’s like we spent two hours spiraling in multiple forms of emotional hell only to find out that resignation had won. These colored girls’ growth was brutally interrupted. This better not mean Perry has a sequel in mind.

I must add here that this film has heavy adult and sexual themes and should not be seen by tween girls or boys and younger until you see it first. I felt bad for the moms who took their girls like ours did to the play. NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL. Screen this movie first. Parents got blindsided by trauma after trauma and I’m sure had a lot of unanticipated explaining to do afterward.

Alright. Now for some of the reactions from the room in the lively and thoughtful discussion I attended afterward. We were asked to go around the room an introduce ourselves, adding a word to describe how we felt after seeing the film. Some included: exhausted, reflective, angry, robbed, violated, not surprised, surprised, drained, cheated, still processing.

There was great issue taken with a progressive black feminst work being adapted by what one person called “a right wing conservative Bible thumper”, and that knowing this, the outcome of the film makes sense.

It was felt that the film, while flawed, would bring a new generation to Shange’s work and audiences to the play, which has been in the works for a return to Broadway since 2007, so in that sense, people appreciated that the film got made. One younger woman said that seeing these women go through these things will help other women make their own choices.

One woman loved seeing such great Black woman actors perform Shange’s work. That was breathtaking without a doubt. Another woman remarked that there was far too much trembling from the cast, as if they were barely holding it together or awaiting another tragedy, even in benign conversation.

A couple mothers of young Black sons were dismayed by the rehashing of ‘brothas as dogs’ in the film. To be fair, many of these characters are in Shange’s book, but there was a missed opportunity to give them more dimension or elicit some compassion for their plight, especially in the case of the war veteran suffering from depressive illness that drives him to do the unthinkable. Another noted that the one redeeming Black male character, played by Hill Harper, is also a representative of law enforcement, which gave them conflicting feelings, given the presence of police terror in our communities.

I am hoping that my contribution to the box office that placed Tyler at #3 this weekend will enable more serious black subject matter by other filmmakers, producers and screenwriters of color to get greenlit. Here’s to Nzingha Stewart getting to see her vision through from start to finish the next go ’round. She and Gabrielle Union are producing partners and have an adaptaion of The Vow in the works, so make sure you support that! You can learn more about Stewart in her very telling interview with me from Put Your Dreams First here.

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Did you see the play or read the book before or after? If not, do you plan to read it? Post your comments here and let’s talk this thing out!

29 Responses to “For Colored Girls…Interrupted”

  1. CristalBubblin Says:

    I had the same fears about Tyler’s involvement in this project but was pleasantly surprised. I don’t feel like sex was portrayed as punishment or dirty or that Janet’s character was “punished”- whether Tyler added it or not, these characters exist in real life. There are rapists, abusers, loose women, men on the DL, nosy neighbors, & people in on/off relationships and it doesn’t always end with people being rich & finding true, good love.

    Tyler had a great base with the book & I THANK God, Allah, Buddha, & Confucious that he kept Madea out of this movie. I didn’t see income level, what I saw were normal everyday situations and it’s more sad that these things are just as relevant today as they were in the 70s when Ntozake Schange wrote the play.

    We cannot continue to get upset when we are portrayed as criminals or violent in movies if we aren’t doing anything to stop it. The men in the film, most were in the book, are not mythical creatures. There are war vets that came back mentally unstable & harmed their families, there are Black police officers that love their wives & aren’t out to hurt the community. There are men we date or consider friends that attack us. There are women who have been abused and become very promiscuous because it’s easier than dealing with the pain & there are actively gay men married to women that have no clue what their husband is doing.

    I think the discussion should be more how do we stop these behaviors before they get into books & movies not that its wrong for being there. It’s funny people don’t support Tyler Perry because they think his films are low brow & play to the lowest denominator but when he gets involved in something serious and leaves Madea, the church, & the light skinned male save- a- sista behind he’s STILL not good enough.

    Yeah, its about balance however, that’s not what FCGWCSWTRIE was based on. It told the stories of these women based on what happened to them, from their point of view and I think that was represented well.

  2. Jamella Says:

    You bring up a lot of valid points here. I saw the film and found it to be very poingnant and heavy too. I left feeling burdened and self-reflective. I was able to identify myself in each character, even the Macy Gray character.

    The overall message that resonated with me is to look for everything that you desire – happiness, love, spirit – within you. Be responsible for your happiness and destiny. I saw that they were suffering, yet managed to transform. I could go on but in the end, it did feel liberated through being reminded once again, to return to the source.

  3. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Thanks for commenting Crissi! I appreciate your POV and the twitter volley 😀 I also agree that our communities need to curb the behavior, but contrast this with the degree to which the same things happen at the ahnds of white men in America–it is not regurged in every film about them made. And this is because there is a commitment to showing the diversity of white life and experience that Hollywood doesn’t have. Tyler has the power to insert more than monosyllabic responses from Ealy’s character for example (like he inserted a TON of ther ish) and he fails to do so.

  4. Jacques Bordeaux Says:

    Saw the play back in the day. Read the book and shared it with my daughters as they transitioned from girls to women. The poster’s been on the wall for 35 years.

    My wife and I haven’t seen the movie yet and have trepidation about supporting Perry’s work. This work is at the top of the top of the Black dramatic canon with the best of August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry. We will go to support a Black filmmaker, but not to enjoy the artistic interpretation of a virtuoso. This is what this work deserved. This is what the fine assemblage of talent deserved. This is what the audience deserved. This is what Shange deserved.

  5. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Jacques I totally hear you and agree completely. I look forward to the play coming back to Broadway as a direct adaptation of Shange’s vision…

  6. Tarana Says:


    This is one of the best reviews/responses I have read of the film. I was going to post a blog, but I think I won’t – I will just direct folks to the best I’ve read others say about it, including this.

    I could NOT agree more with your assessment. Dead on!

    Can’t wait to see what Nzinga Stewart does next, hopefully her Exec. Prod. nod will help support her other endeavors.

  7. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Wow, Tarana, Thank You!!! I’d love to hear what you saw that I may not have covered…I didn’t even go into the cinematic issues I had, including the camera work/movement (or lack thereof)…and how all poor spaces were tight an dark, the well-to-do ones bright and expansive…I mean what was he trying to infer?! Ugh.

  8. Gary VanLiew Says:

    Great review. I’m suspect of anything Mr.Perry is involved in because of his portrayal of men as fractured serial abusers. We still haven’t gotten to the point where there’s more than one dominant voice for our stories. Hopefully that will change. We need more outlets to see these critical pieces of art brought to a broader audiences.

  9. Starr Says:

    Great blog, what a different prespective.

    As a black woman, I didn’t feel attacked, but it felt like a window into the lives of a few woman I might know or read about in the news. It was very real to me and the setting in NY (me being from NY) made it real to me.

    I do agree that the musical score could have been more powerful, but I am happy with the 7 women representing the seven colors of the rainbow, pretty realistic to me.

    I did notice that there was at least one supportive black husband in the movie. I am happy to be in a relationship with a beautiful black man, I didn’t feel that all black men or sex was bad aftet this movie, just that some real things happen to real ppl.

  10. rhonda cowan Says:

    Thembisa –

    What a fabulous review! You’ve taken my thoughts and put it to words.
    From the “good” cast to the “bad” music (or lack of score) to the ugly way in which sex was portrayed. The cast was perfect, particularly Felicia and Loretta. The music…well Tyler usually has good soundtracks, but poor marketing.
    He needs to sell those CD’s next to the popcorn at every theatre.
    And, sex…what does Tyler know about male/female relationships really?

    I am not a Perry fan, and this too is my first time paying to see a Perry film.
    I don’t get, and am offended by Madea, but appreciated Why Did I Get Married.

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nzingha Stewart originally optioned the rights and planned on making this film. Nzingha introduced herself to me at the promo shoot for Black Girls Rock where she served as director. She said something that I hear often, “Do you remember me, I was an intern at Def Jam.” If I had a penny for every person that said that to me…
    I immediately, felt proud. I selfishly wish this project had a strong all women crew to match the cast with Nzingha at the helm. I think it would have been a different film altogether, one handled with care.

    All in all, I was underwhelmed and disappointed. I thought maybe just maybe Tyler would nail this one; NOT.

  11. sherri williams Says:

    WOW!! Very Nice Review!! You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth!! I Will Definitely Pass This On.No Need To Write A NEW One.
    Ditto, On Horrible Music Score,Characters That Aren’t There (in The Book), Missed Opportunities On Giving Some Depth.The Poor Camera Scenes,The Fanthom of The Opera Rape Scene (Although The Sang Was Amazing!!) I Have Lived All Colors Of These Ladies,and When I Was Raped,No Beautiful Music Played In My Head!! So I Can Cut Him Some Slack On That One!!
    But Hoarding Crazy Yorubist Who Would Even “Consider” In Her Dreams Of Allowing Her Daughters To Blantantly Disrepect & Slap Her Around!!! No,Not Cool!! I Have Yoruba In My Family and Trust,That Is Not How It Goes Down!!
    I Agree,Why Did They Have To Live In Such A Dingy Environment?? Even Thugs Have Been Conditions Than All Of These Sista’s!!!
    And Please Explain Ever In History When You’ve Seen A Sista Get A Report That She Just Contracted HIV From Her Down Low Husband,And Remained Calm The Whole Time On Her Bed!! Real Weak Tyler!! I Have Issues With Janets Acting,But This One Was The Worse!! Real Weak!! And LMBO @ Forced Group Hug at The End!!……Nice!!

  12. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Rhonda and Sherri thanks for your observations. I didn’t know Nzingha directed the BGR! show. Not surprised, it was so well done. I know she’ll get her shot. She tweeted a thanks for my support of her and that really touched my heart; I know this journey ain’t been no crystal stair for her!

  13. Zaccai Free Says:

    Enough is Enough! Tyler Perry has produced enough films and plays for everyone to clearly see what his agenda/issues are. I will not contribute money to stereotypes of black folks while being fed a stream of Mr. Perry’s unacknowledged, untreated sexual, psycho-emotional trauma, my time and my mind are too valuable.

    “I am hoping that my contribution to the box office that placed Tyler at #3 this weekend will enable more serious black subject matter by other filmmakers, producers and screenwriters of color to get greenlit.”

    Please tell me when such hopes have been rewarded by hollywood? This is the pipe-dream that keeps us supporting art that is not in our best interests.

  14. Tracie Says:

    Hi, and thank you for your post. I am thankful to hear the wide array of challenges this movie brought up for women in your group, as I had never seen the play or book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew yhat if Tyler Perry were involved, that something would inevitably be missing. Given what you say here, I’m guessing that the only reason I enjoyed the film is because I was not part of the earlier movement; even in my enjoyment of the film, my praise is limited to the poetry and the work of the actors involved-not so much the production or storyline (I agree-far too much like Women of Brewster Place). Seeing the movie has motivated me to see the original work however, so if this was the work that would serve as that inspiration, then I think that ultimately makes it a good offering, in spite of its flaws.

  15. Ashleigh Says:

    I had my issues with the movie, many of them expressed here. But reading these comments I’m struck by something–I wonder if, had all women produced, directed, written, and been crew on this piece, would it have been so thoroughly discussed, so deeply anticipated. We all say we want more Black women out there doing projects like this, but sadly, when opportunities to support them arise, our community just does not do it. Black women filmmakers have a bitch of a time getting attention and support for their work, evidenced largely by the fact that there are essentially NO major, mainstream Black female filmmakers even touching Tyler’s status–and as someone with unspeakable disdain for the pretty much every film he’s made, that makes me so sad.
    What would have been appropriate and poignant for me in this instance would have been for Tyler, acknowledging that, as a man, he’s completely unable to do *everything* on a film with so delicate a history and subject matter, and used his star power to usher in a phenomenal, far-reaching Black woman’s cinematic vision (perhaps Stewart, who cared so lovingly for the topic; I’m not familiar with her but her CV is definitely impressive). I think his involvement was worth its weight in gold–and not even just because of the machine he represents, but because I truly appreciate him, as a man, being open to *attempting* to give honor and respect to a brilliant Black woman’s artistic jewel (and undoubtedly delaying production on Why Did I Get Married and Who the **** Cares 10). For the Black moviegoing crowd that includes my father and his friends (quasi-conservative, over 60 Black dudes who celebrate Tyler’s success and see nothing limiting about his portrayal of our community nor acknowledge anything sexually confused and damaged about Tyler himself), I appreciate that they’re willing to take a second look at something they’d easily dismiss as a “woman’s” film. There’s something powerful in the union of a Black woman’s work and a Black man’s vision–that is, after all, both metaphorically and biologically speaking, how our community is built. That said, we obviously can’t ignore that there were some themes TP was just psychologically unable to master in this film. Even so, we can celebrate it for what it is, even while a bit saddened by what it could be.

    I, For one, felt an incredible sense of pride just from driving around town here in LA and seeing the boulevards littered with posters of Black women and actually seeing the words “For Colored Girls”. The highlight of this season for me, hands down.


  16. Solo Says:

    Point of correction: The DL HIV story was NOT Tyler’s sole doing, it was actually done in collaboration with Ntozake Shange.

    “Ntozake was a consultant all along on the film and has even written a new poem, ‘Positive,’ about HIV and AIDS to go along with a reissue of the play,” he explained.

    It’s in the latest version of the book and in the introduction she mentions how she had the idea to change Beau into an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran as well.

  17. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Hey Solo, thanks for those links I am going to check them out. I did see that she updated an edition of the book with that poem, but I wrote my blog based upon the original work. It’s disappointing that they both felt the need to make homosexual men and HIV the enemy in this film, but given Perry’s history and track record on film, I am in no way surprised. Did her cheating husband have to be a closeted man who has sex with men? No. Did HIV have to be the virus she got from him? No. I’m not saying these things don’t happen. I just believe this was a film where it didn’t need to.

  18. Michael Arceneaux Says:

    This is a very thoughtful and well-written review. I had always heard of the play, but never read it until recently in anticipation of the film. Based on what little I did know about it, I was nervous as to how Tyler Perry would tackle the subject matter. After reading the play and then seeing the film, I’m just further put off by him. I don’t mind him in theory and find some of his plays entertaining sans the songs (melodrama, two dimensional depictions, I could go on but I’ll stop), but this project deserved better than his current talent. He selfishly took a passion project away from a female director in pursuit of critical acclaim. The film lacks the subtly, nuance, and intellect of the work it stems from. I’m annoyed how he continues to further insert his sexiest views of professional women and his vilification of gay men into his creations. People won’t read the CDC report dispelling the myth that black gay men are these HIV-spreading boogymen, but they will take Tyler’s word. That is disappointing. Many of us enjoy melodrama, being told what to think and a random joke. That’s an uncomfortable truth. It’s fine, but everything has its place. Tyler should’ve let Nzigha have her film and muddle his soap opera theatrics elsewhere. That way I could’ve seen the film as [his] best work and not a bastardization of literary brilliance.

  19. Christina Says:

    I am not a colored woman…. I’d like to contribute anyway… The disclaimer is: I had/have no expectations going in other than I knew I’d be deeply impacted. I have no biological history or experience with being a colored woman. I do not know what anything is based on. I did not grow up with these amazing stories…. I only know what it is to be “a woman”
    Going in, the only thing I knew was that Mr Perry was involved. My first TP movie “The diaries of a mad black woman” and I’ve been watching TP ever since. I’m not a huge fan of Madia simply because i don’t have that kind of humor but I’m also aware that a lot of people do find things funny. Although, some of the points…are still wisdom based. I will watch anything that he does that moves me because the stories, while they appear to be black stories on the surface. I can’t help but experience many of these things as human stories. Stories of trauma, survival, wisdom, community, family, dysfunction, love, gender differences. All of these things just hit me as being universal, authentic and very real for many people. His work, I don’t think it’s for everyone. I always walk away profoundly processing life in general.
    So when I walked into this movie-The first thing I noticed was I really was the ONLY white person in the room. Fleeting “ah, ok” type of notice, not anything major. The opening I felt was just beautiful. The opening was like a clue-ah,..ok…already written work was being spoken. I appreciated that awareness and my focus was on “listening” to the wisdom being sent to me. As the stories of each woman evolved…I had no concept of color other than when those words had been spoken as a reminder. For me, a raped woman is a raped woman. Her pain and her experience is what it is. If she fights or not is a matter of how she handles the shock and the violation of it as she is experiencing it. I did not see this as a portrait of a weak woman, not by a long shot. I saw this beautiful, fully alive woman experiencing something that took her by complete surprise and shocked her deeply. That father was clearly mentally disturbed and I feel there was exactly the right amount of information given to me to have me feel a deep sense of compassion for him as horrid as that whole scene was. He was clearly not of the right mind based on the war, not his color. I thought it was profound for the mother to take responsibility for not protecting her children prior to that moment, however, that even warrants a level of compassion. It was through her eyes that I was able to be compassionate to everyone in that case. I think I know plenty of women who are in and out of relationships with men they love. Allowing things until they get clear, their love for that man is not enough. Finally to reach a decision which only the woman in love can ever make…that she is worth more is often a process and a life lesson. As far as religion goes, there are people out there who act that way. It’s very common for a molested child to grow up not being able to know the difference between love and sex and confusing the two.
    I could on and on….
    My point is, I walked away with a sense of these things really do happen in real life, to real people of every color. I also walked away wanting to read where this work originated from…Suicide is also a universal concept. I have about five people in my life today who’s mothers, sisters or daughters commited suicide. So I ask that you excuse my ignorance and lack of being a colored woman. I hope you can hear this as intended. Just sharing, I don’t find TP’s work to impact me on what my vision is of any one of any race, but rather, of everyone in every race.

  20. Ivory Says:


    I enjoyed your blog. A friend of mine directed me here after she read my review on my blog of the movie. I think you’ll find we share similar viewpoints.

  21. David Belgrave Says:


    This is a great post. This is the most I have actually read about the movie and certainly the deepest analysis. I am NOT a Tyler Perry fan. Most of his movies bug me. I don’t watch his TV shows. I was not running to see this movie but I do hear you on supporting black box office. It might be worth it just so I can fully participate in the discussion instead of sounding like a Tyler hater. One thing is for sure. Once I do see the movie I will be re-reading this post.

    Great Job! Thnx!

  22. dasuntoucha Says:

    Champion post Thembisa! (^_^)

    I was led here by a link in a tweet of Bassey Ikpi who wrote two great pieces as well about FCG and I must say you ladies speak a valid truth in your critiques. While I’ve heard of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf I haven’t had the opportunity to read or see it performed…after checking out this post, I think I’d rather acquaint myself with the source material before I see this film.

    Thanks for sharing this brilliant breakdown of FCG…ONE::

  23. Nicole / theHotnessGrrrl Says:

    Great review Thembisa! So in depth. The point on how Tyler Perry made Yoruba Candomble look like witchcraft was insightful. The thing about TP is he has mad hustle but no imagination. In order for him to make something look good he has to marginalize something else. In order to empower women he has demonize Black men. Now about women filmmakers and Nzingha Stewart. I don’t feel like TP stole her shine & trampled her dreams. Nzingha optioned the rights & therefore TP couldn’t just make this movie unless she purposefully signed over the rights to him & gave her consent. Furthermore NS and TP are both repped by the same agent so these two are ‘in bed’ with one another more than most folks realize and want to admit. Filmmaking is big business, don’t sleep! Lastly as Ashleigh stated above we don’t support Black female filmmakers like we should. I only know of a few people who saw Secret Life of Bees in the movie theater and none of them went opening weekend. I did and the theater was only half-full. Same applies to Caveman’s Valentine. We love to complain but rarely do we show up when it really counts. Thanks for attending our group discussion. Please check my review:

  24. Thembisa Mshaka Says:

    Hey Nic,

    Yes, there is something to this, but the power dynamic cannot be put aside; Tyler is going to be deferred to by both agent and studio, so thank goodness the agent had to do some right by NS…it’s probably the relationship that kept her in the picture at day’s end. SOOOOO many people just get cut completely out of their own projects, because they are the little guy or in this case, lady…glad she came out with cash AND credit!

  25. Kathleen Says:

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion & it’s based on the movie alone. I read the book yrs ago & have never seen the play so this is about the movie.
    I don’t think anyone is getting ‘bashed.’ All the characters in the movie exist. Plentifully exist. I know them & I have been them. The ‘new’ character played by Janet Jackson is the one I could have lived without b/c it was a cliché. Successful woman forgets her roots & is unlucky in love b/c she’s lost sight of her values. Receives a life lesson and returns to values. There could have been a few more nuances there.
    Apart from that, the other characters exist. Everywhere. Without regard to race or economic status. They’re there. I would consider you very unusual if you either haven’t been involved in one of the situations presented or have known someone who has. And let me repeat, this applies no matter what race you are or what income level you are or where you live. JMHO

  26. Blanche Mackey-Williams Says:

    I thought the film was good- intense yes, but well done nonetheless. I can actually cast that movie with people I know. Some parts of the film left me overwhelmed. However, I think that black people take everything that sheds light into parts of our reality personal. We do not wish to expose too much, like, the fact that we have some foul brothers or women wrapped into religious beliefs to the point that it becomes a crutch or hazard to their health. Goldberg’s character was abused and so was her daughter (Newton’s character). So their behavior was explained by this-everything has a root, yes? I don’t know, perhaps it is easier and less disheartening if all black people pretend that its all gravy. I think we are wrapped up in what we think the outside world thinks of us that we need reassurance that it is not true. We are stuck looking at ourselves through everyone else’s lens. Essentially this means an inner conflict that is hard to resolve because on one hand, we want to expose these issues, but on the other, we are ashamed to.

    No, this is not every black person’s reality. We do have solid families, women with healthy self-esteem, and some beautiful brothers (I happen to be married to one). The reality, however, is that we also have situations like the ones present in this film.

    Perhaps, we could have done without the HIV or DL brother, but there are also parts of reality, like another poster said black or otherwise.

    Ms. Mshaka, thank you for your article.

  27. KMD Says:

    I to had low expectations for the movie, not because of Tyler Perry’s involvement but because movies very rarely capture the essence of a book or play. That being said I think that the movie was wonderful and adapted to fit what is happening in today’s society. I know people that could relate to anyone of the characters at any given time in their lives. The truth of the matter is that the black community is plagued by every issue that was addressed in the movie ( molestation,overly misguided religious elders,men on the down low and abuse) . The movie captured that undying love we have for a brother no matter what he has done and continues to do. It captured a career minded and driven black women who sees nothing else but being on top. Lorretta Divine’s character was not poor or down trodden,she was a successful nurse trying to raise money for the program she was running. The Dancer although a rape victim did not seem poor or down trodden either. The remaining characters seem to have less money because of their life situations. One working parent supporting a family of 4 and a young woman who was a bartender is real life. I personally know a woman bartender,nurse,social services worker and a woman who owns her own business. These characters are more than relateable they are real life! I do agree that the movie did have a very intense and dark overtone but equally present and displayed was resilience. Each one of the strong black women in the movie ushered through their adversities and survived as so many of us do everyday!

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