Brief Review of For Colored Girls*

When I saw the all-star cast of For Colored Girls – Thandie Newton, Whoopie Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad – I somehow convinced myself that in spite of the misfortune of having Tyler Perry as the director, this film would still be a true gem. Of course, I was wrong.

For Colored Girls is an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Described as a “choreopoem” – a staging that fuses, poetry, music and dance – the play is comprised of a series of twenty poems that follow the tumultuous lives of seven different African-American women who are each represented by a color). Although the film adds two more women (and subsequently two more colors), it generally sticks close to its poetic roots.

Herein lies the main problem. Throughout the film, the lead characters recite powerful poetic monologues right in the middle of dialogue. These abrupt shifts from the conversational to the poetic are painfully annoying. A mother and daughter physically assault each other and then relieve themselves by simultaneously reciting spoken word? Lying on her side in the emergency ward of a hospital, the survivor of dangerous illegal abortion freestyles to a police officer? Really? Apparently every Black woman in existence is secretly a poet. Come on, Tyler Perry. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. Save the melodrama for yo mama (seriously, her demographic loves soap operas).

Another qualm I had with the film was its lack of depth. Perry googles abortion, infidelity, infertility, domestic abuse, rape, sexual promiscuity and occultism, but rather than seriously investigating how these issues affect Black womanhood, he lazily skims the wiki pages and contently closes the browser. A great example of this occurs when Thandie Newton’s character, Tangie, a woman who shuns relationships and lives only for sexual intimacy, reveals that she was abused by her father. Rather than exploring why Tangie enjoys her frequent one night stands, Perry defaults to the abuse cliché. I do not mean to undermine the fact that she was abused because that is certainly a traumatic experience, but I have truly grown weary of seeing unconventional sexual behavior portrayed so dryly. Contrary to popular belief, not all women who enjoy unromantic sex are victims of sexual abuse.

If you were to write “Tyler Perry” on a napkin, I would wipe my ass with it. If you were to give me a Tyler Perry film as a Christmas present, the following holiday season I would celebrate Hanukah. If you were to personally introduce me to Tyler Perry, I would personally introduce our friendship to an abortion clinic (Don’t ask me what that means because I don’t know either). In short, I am not a fan of Tyler Perry. Nevertheless, I truly attempted to be unbiased in my viewing of this film. As I said earlier, I wanted to like it and I actually did like the parts that weren’t terrible. It was definitely a plus to see so many women of color in lead roles. I hope to see more of this in the future. However, I would prefer for those roles to be good.

C-

*This review is rather short because it’s going to be printed in my school paper. I’ll probably write a more expanded post in the future. Although I didn’t like the movie, it raised some questions that I want to address at some point.

Review of Precious

This was originally written for my school paper. I’m uploading it as a charitable deed for an interested party.

Review of Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

3.5 out of 5

Precious is the story of Precious, an extremely marginalized young woman. She is sixteen years old in junior high , very, very corpulent, socially alienated and reading at the level of a second grader. Sadly, there are many young Americans that can be described this way, so of course, it get worse. Her mother, played by Mo’Nique (The Parkers), is brutally abusive verbally and physically, disgustingly lazy and most importantly, frighteningly real. Her father is absent throughout the movie except for when he rapes Precious in a flashback. Because of her low academic performance and the fact that she is pregnant by her father [again], it is recommended that Precious attends an alternative school. This escalates the tension between Precious and her mother, which drives the plot of the film.

As an avid hater of spoilers, I’m going to stop here and start the actual reviewing.

If you aren’t sad by now, you are probably that heartless person that Kanye was melodramatically singing [whining] about last year. Anyway, the 3.5 isn’t as arbitrary a number as you think. My main problem with the movie was the recurrence of dream sequences. While incapacitated or experiencing something traumatizing, Precious would have lurid fantasies in which she is a celebrity or some other figure that is worshipped by others. Maybe the intention behind these sequences is to show that the fantasy world is the only world that Precious can be happy in. Or perhaps the sequences were intended to show why consumer culture appeals to the people that should hate it the most. I don’t know. However, I do know that they really irritated me and seemed to severely undercut the seriousness of the film. Also, the ending was a bit unsatisfactory. Telling you this is probably pointless because I am not going to tell you why it was unsatisfactory, but I could have said nothing, so appreciate my charity.

Nevertheless, the film has some things that I really, really liked. First, Mariah Carey has officially redeemed herself as an actress. If you’ve seen Glitter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve seen screensavers with more depth than that “movie” (I’m not sure if can actually be considered a movie). Second, there are two lesbians presented in the movie as normal people rather than as hypersexual nymphs that do nothing but scissor and French kiss (Transformers 2 is so terrible). Also, there is a really depressing scene where Precious looks in the mirror and sees a young, petite and pretty white girl, showing how ashamed she is of herself and implying that acceptance entails complete self-destruction and absolute conformity to the norm. Finally, I saw the fact that Precious was able to get to junior high school despite being functionally illiterate as a criticism of the inadequacy of urban school systems and I agreed with it.

Despite the angst the dream sequences caused me, I do not think seeing it would be a waste of time. I just wouldn’t make it a priority.

Rage, of the Black variety: A Critical Response to Maafa 21

Right now I am incredibly pissed. I just returned from a viewing and discussion of Maafa 21, a heavily politicized and poorly constructed documentary that asserts that abortions, specifically those given by Planned Parenthood, are apart of a conspiracy – which allegedly stretches back to the time of Darwin – to destroy the Black community.

Before continuing, please stop and uncontrollably convulse and scream.

You’re welcome.

The film begins by vastly misrepresenting the American Eugenics movement’s development during the late 19th century. It asserts that the notions of superiority that were held by these Eugenicists only applied to Black people. This is false. Eugenicists believed that Blacks, Asians, Indigenous Americans, the Irish, “licentious women,” the mentally retarded, criminal, the “lazy,” homosexuals, the “indifferent” and basically everyone else that was not White, Christian, heterosexual, socially “normal,” and law abiding was somehow inferior and sought to prevent the dissemination of their “tainted genes.” I’m actually reading the book Eugenic Nation, which talks about the Eugenics movement in America (before WWII) and in it Blacks are barely mentioned. The book actually spends most of its time discussing how eugenically-influenced policies in the early to mid twentieth century primarily affected women, Asians, Mexicans and those of Mexican descent. So from the beginning , by presenting Eugenics as this historically anti-black rather than anti-[insert what we think are inferior], the film is destined to be wrong.

Using this misrepresentation of history as the foundation of its argument, the film begins to assert that because Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was affiliated with Eugenic organizations and had questionable morals, the ultimate goals of Planned Parenthood are eugenic and anti-black. The film then proposes that Planned Parenthood centers exist in urban areas because blacks live there and that this is evidence that abortions are marketed toward Blacks. After this, it makes a terrible proposition for why abortions increased after Roe v. Wade. There are many problems with this proposal.

First, there is a misunderstanding of economics. There was a demand for abortions before Roe v. Wade and it was being supplied way before Planned Parenthood. They just weren’t being documented. Abortions did increase after Roe v. Wade, but not just because Planned Parenthood started providing them. Also and most importantly, Blacks are not the only people that get abortions or the only people that live in urban areas! What about Miami? The Cuban population is the largest ethnic population in the city. So many Cubans live in Miami that it is considered an ethnic enclave! Do you know what enclave means? I fucking do. Also, renting space is cheaper when you do it urban areas. When you’re a nonprofit organization, you need to save money.

Second, Margaret Sanger was not for abortions and her eugenic beliefs did not necessarily deal with race. They might have, but honestly, even if Margaret Sanger was some paternalistic, eugenic-supporting, Black-hating, succubus bitch from hell, I could care less. Now, in 2010, Planned Parenthood supports comprehensive sex education, female reproductive rights, health care and many other positive things. It is a positive force in the community. There is nothing wrong with investigating the origin of something, but it is utterly stupid to make conclusions based just on that origin, especially if you do not understand it.

Incidentally, it is important to note that this film was sponsored by my school’s Pro-Life organization and shown as a Black History Month event (which really pisses me off). Additionally, the film features irate Black people talking about the issue, which is supposed to somehow prove how disturbing this is to the Black community. At one point the film randomly cites, without any evidence, that certain chapters of the Black Panther Party and Jesse Jackson were against abortions. No one under the age of 54 cares about anything Jesse Jackson has to say. By this point though, the message was pretty clear. Pro-Life organizations want more black members and they are willing to sponsor the shittiest documentary ever filmed to acquire them.

The most disturbing thing about the film is that it is marketed as “Black genocide.” Moreover, at multiple points in the film, aborted fetuses are equated with Holocaust victims.

Appropriately, there was an imbecile(who was unfortunately a black woman) present to defend the film. She is responsible for the recent offensive billboards in Atlanta. While I could list her terrible opinions and debunk them, I will just provide you with some of her memorable quotes and my [internal] responses to them.

“No woman would want to kill her child(fetus).” A fetus is not a child. It is a fetus.

“There are families everywhere that are willing to adopt. All babies can be adopted.” Sure they can be adopted, but they aren’t. Why do so many kids grow up in orphanages?

“Some women have up 15 abortions.” Bullshit(I literally said this out loud). These women are so anomalous they might as well not exist.

“We don’t have an overpopulation problem. We could fit the entire population of the United States in Texas.” […] (No response)

Update:

I finished Eugenic Nation last Saturday and I have an interesting quote.

“The dividing line between family planning and eugenics is murky” (Stern 202).

So there is some merit to Maafa 21’s accusations, but this merit is lost in the film’s heavy and slanted political message. Even if it was not slanted, it would still be committing the genetic fallacy.

For further reading, check out this article.

Update 2: I have closed this article for commenting.