*I wrote this shortly after the more recent announcements of Perry’s involvement in this project. I didn’t have a blog at that time. This is pretty much an older piece I wanted to share just the same.*
When it was announced that Tyler Perry was directing the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1976 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, the reaction on places like Twitter and other forms of media was astounding. I’m no big fan of Perry’s work, nor do I think he necessarily constructs the complexities needed in writing female characters, but I will not decry his worth as a Black man in Hollywood bucking the odds. That said, I know many people – and most of them Black women – who are clearly perturbed by the news. And yes, I am in full agreement a woman should be handling both the writing and directing.
Thanks to blogger/writer Melissa Silverstein and her entry, I discovered that director Nzingha Stewart was slated to direct the film. Announced in March of 2009, Stewart was reported to be working on the film as recent as August of 2009. I just read an interview with Ms. Stewart that dates back to August of 2007 – so apparently this has been in motion for some time. Whatever happened between the film company Liongate and Stewart remains a mystery. In my searches, I couldn’t determine the reason for the switch but what is known is Tyler Perry has strong drawing power. I’ll concede to the fact that he has fans who will support anything he’s a part of, even if it’s drivel – and I realize that’s my own personal stance on much of his work. Nevertheless, would Perry, knowing the importance of this work to so many, really try to reinvent this classic to fit his aesthetic?
I often found Perry’s movies and characters to be one-dimensional, rote depictions of Black people. I would even say that his handling of female characters is rudimentary at best. I do find that many of his films promote morality, faith, and other family values – in that regard, Perry is a rare find in Hollywood. So given that Shange’s play hasn’t any male characters and the subjects present in the work are touchy subjects largely relative to women only, it would make sense that Perry would call on the advisement of female actresses who have handled and know the work. As noted in the first hyperlink, there are actresses he could employ to help craft his vision. Some could say Perry’s involvement is a ploy to get more famous actresses involved. I can’t rightly say that Perry’s handling of this project is going to be the train wreck that the blogosphere and much of the entire world seemingly believes it will be.
So I ask, should we trust Perry to adapt this film and direct it with the sensitivity required to bring this classic work to screen? Is it that difficult to believe Perry will do his best to match the play’s heights? I just can’t see how Perry will ruin this one. I don’t see him doing anything foolish like inserting Madea into this work. I would hope he does keep the screenplay true to the original work and not try to update it to the point of being unrecognizable. Right now, I think we should try to trust this man’s vision. This is perhaps the largest project of his life, his first film he didn’t have a say in writing. A lot of riding on this, so I will stay tuned just like the rest of you.