09 September 2009

Roy G. Whiz

Uh oh.  It's a code red (black and green).  The bat signal is out.  bell hooks has started spelling her name in all CAPS.  Call up your elders, pray to your ancestors; conjure up your inner fairies, spirits, and goddesses.  Tyler Perry is turning your favorite play, excuse me, choreopoem into a movie.

The film version of Ntozake Shange's for colored girls--whose rights were procured by director Nzingha Stewart (she directed the First Born Second's music video for "Soul Sista")--has landed in the cork-blackened hands of Mr. Madea himself.  Perry will be not just producing, not just directing, but also writing the screenplay for Shange's Obie award-winning play.   Yes, the words of that rainbow shall be given film direction and dialogue by Mr. Perry.  Take a minute.  Read it again.  Deep breaths.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Good.  Chill out, unknot your headwrap.  It's going to be ok.  But just in case, bring those sage incense.  Right there on the mantel.  Next to your Yoruba statue.

I might know what you're thinking.  My advice?  Forget about it.  Forget about how patriarchally formulaic Perry's black Christian parables are.  (If you've seen one, you've them all, right? Gee, I hope so.  I've seen 2 flicks and 30 seconds of House of Payne.  I can't stomach any more.)  Forget about the fact that every black woman character Perry has ever created is characterized as insubordinate (hat tip, Moya B.), and therefore deserving of a smack on her face, if it stops her from talking to her husband all out of her neck like she ain't got no damn sense.  Forget about Perry's overly played out All a black woman needs is a good, not perfect but hardworking and well-meaning black man theme.  Forget about how real the acronym C.R.E.A.M. has just become to you (thanks, Wu).  Forget about the fact that there are plenty of black feminist women directors out there who would do a magnificent job turning this play into a movie.  Forget about the fact that some of those black feminist directors, who shall remain nameless, might make said movie more boring than, well, some black feminist films; we're talking principle here.  Forget about Perry's oeuvre, which features black women, characters with about as much depth as a Beyonce interview and attitudes that rival the stench of a cesspool.  Forget about how, in matters not fiscal, putting Perry at the helm of this endeavor makes no sense.  Forget about making sense.  Forget about the facts; forget about meaning.  Just forget about art; right now, it's as useful as your degree in the humanities.  While you're at it, forget about (a purposeful) life.  You'll just get a headache.

Tyler Perry directing for colored girls is an awesomely good idea. And if you think otherwise, you lose.  So get on board.  Support a brother.  (Have you forgotten all the lessons of the Black Arts Movement?)  Don't be so divisive.  Stay black and proud, baby.

I get it.  I get it. You performed the Lady in Purple's monologue at the '94 ACT-SO awards, so you feel particularly close to this play.  But in this doom and gloom world, pessimism is such a cliché--and totally unsexy.  So, let's look on the bright side.  Some good things can come out of this.  And, since I've decided to turn a new leaf by no longer visiting despair.com on a daily basis (where will I get my inspiration now?), I've decided to provide you with a list of some of those awesome possibilities.   Shall we?

1.  Jill Scott might be in itI'm going to take my tiiiiiime!  In a word, Jilly from Philly is theatrical.  She exudes epic.  She has the resumé.  She's worked on stage, television and she has a book of poetry.  (It's probably better than Alicia Keys' Tears for Water.)  And, if it wasn't for Ms. Scott, Angie Stone would be the queen of the Support a Strong Black Man through Song Crew which, it seems, is right up Perry's alley.  Can't you just hear her singing "Shortnin' Bread"?  You know you can.

(The discussion of how she ruined "Watching Me" with her spoken word verses will have to wait for later.)

2.  Better yet, Beyonce might be in it! Can she upgrade this film?  Well, if she can do for you what Martin did for the people, the answer is a resounding hells yes!  for colored girls the flick can do for Matt and Tina's daughter what Dreamgirls didn'tIf you haven't noticed, Beyonce is bank at the cinema.  That crap of a movie, Obsessed starring Sasha Fierce and Stringer Bell debuted at number 1.  (Did I see this film? No. But my guess is it was crap.)  $11 million on its first weekend.   And isn't that this is all about?  Besides, Beyonce needs the acting practice, no?  Yes, now is a good time for Lady in Yellow jokes.  Start now.

3.  You can play a game.  Guess who will star in the movie.  This is an ensemble cast.  There are seven colors of the rainbow, which makes seven roles for black actresses.  Last time I counted, I think there were about 14 black women in Hollywood; that does not include Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, or the black lady in the Pine Sol commercials.  Set up an office pool.  Whoever correctly chooses the most actresses wins.  Will Taraji P. "Jody, you a black ass lie" Henton get the nod as the Lady in Brown?  Is Sanaa Lathan up for the role as the Lady in Red?  Will Zoe Saldana pass as black--again--for the role of the Lady in Orange?  Is Kerry Washington still too busy campaigning for Obama?  Bet some wheat grass shots or something.  We hate money, remember?

4.  Hey, it could've been Spike Lee.  There is a valid argument that Spike Lee would do a better job, but do you really, really want him writing this movie?  She's Gotta Have it 2, anyone?  (Zora Neale Hurston angrily revolves in her previously unmarked grave!)  Furthermore, he did go to Morehouse.  'Nough said.  I won't bother mentioning Steven Spielberg.  I'm sure he's busy.

5.  Time to exhale.  (Shout out to my girl, Maegs.)  Remember the epic fail of trying to get your book club to read Toni Morrison?  Remember how homegirl turned up her nose at the idea?  Remember how you were so frustrated that you wanted to quit paying your dues and stop attending until your other homegirl pointed out that you had yet to get the club treasurer's bomb-ass spinach dip recipe?  Well, with Perry on board, this is the perfect time to add for colored girls to your book club reading list as this year's non-urban selection.  With the Perry stamp of approval, the ladies will gladly postpone that new Eric Jerome Dickey to February or March 2010, easy.  After all, surely there are some quotables that will make the movie, and there is nothing more pleasurable than sitting in the movie theater and reciting and laughing with the actors.  Make sure you bring it up before y'all get knee-deep into the Real Housewives of Atlanta.  (Who gon' check me, boo?)

6.  There will be an Oprah special...  And you will watch that shit.  (Ntozake Shange, we speak your name!)  I know you're conflicted about Oprah.  She's made a billion dollars on lightweight mammy game, but outright hatred is problematized (oh god, I can't believe I just typed that word in a blog entry) by your allegiance to black women.  It is a tough call.  But you have to watch this episode to make up for skipping Best Life Week and to make amends for believing in The Secret.  (Still waiting for my bike, by the way.)  There will be more black folks on the show since she opened up that school in Africa, and more black women on the show since, well, let me get back to you on that.  Maya Angelou will say something that sounds wise until you realize that said wisdom is merely a facade, a result of being hypnotized by her deep voice, wordiness, and poetic inflection that sounds nothing like the see-saw spoken word cadence you're used to.  You know Gayle is coming!  All the stars of the show will be there talking about how the play changed their lives.  Oprah will talk about how it changed her life and then tell the audience that it change their lives too, and the audience will nod in Pavlovian agreement.  Maybe Ntozake Shange will show. (You're looking for a rehab joke here, aren't you?  Not gonna happen.  I have standards now.)  If anything, it's worth tivo-ing; the visual dissonance of watching soccer moms cheer for this play and the copy of the book under their chair will be gnarly.  Trust.  

7.  March on. I know you like to protest.  It's what you do on your days off from your non-profit job.  So call up your homegirls, er, sistern.  Text the garbage bag, grocery bag, gucci bag, paper sack, nickel bag, booty bag, cheap sack ladies, and the baby baggin' mamas. Tell them to call their friends, and y'all have a vegan-friendly potluck and make some signs.  Then go up to Lionsgate headquarters or Tyler Perry Studios (because most of y'all live in Atlanta, right?) and walk around for a few hours.  It won't change anything, but I'm sure you'll be able to finagle a Facebook album out of the event.  Wear your best vintage denim jacket, and comfortable--but fierce--shoes.

8.  That said, you might get to meet Erykah Badu.   Ms. Badu makes the illest videos, and one of my favorites is the aforementioned for colored girls-inspired "Bag Lady."  If you make enough noise, maybe Ms. Badu will honor your cause.  Either way, follow her on twitter.  She's the best.

9.  There's still time to pray that Perry won't dress in drag for this movie.  When Madea throws that baby out of the window, it will be funny--right? 

10.  By the end, you'll forget you ever considered suicide.  (You might consider murder.)  Face it, dude.  Self-loathing doesn't befit everybody.  What you wanna go around killing yourself for?  The Tyler Perry version of this film is going to make you feel so much better; so uplifted, so inspired.  By the end, you might not love the movie, but you will love Jesus--and maybe the black man you left at home to go watch the movie with your girls.  And you will find God, He's nowhere near yourself, though.  You'll find Him in the church house.  And if Perry has anything to do with it, you will worship him--and your (new) black man--fiercely.

See!  Why did you ever get upset over this news?  You've totally forgotten all the reasons you opposed this move, haven't you?  Can't even remember the fact that "somebody almost walked off wid alla [your] stuff," hunh?  Don't you feel so much better now?  Good.  See you at the movies.

Note: For smarter, more serious accounts of this issue, please check out my internet husband, AC and/or my fellow black youth blogger, fabulous Fallon.  Their posts on this rocked.


AC said...


omg. loooves this.

z.bediako said...


Model Minority said...

Hey Love.

The link doesn't work on the Black Youth Jawn. Do you have another.


summer of sam said...

@model minority: sorry about that. try this: http://prathiasdaughtersvoices.ning.com/profiles/blogs/oh-no-he-didnt-tyler-perry

Wise said...

*I don't have a blog, but I wrote the below in response to all the Tweets and news regarding Perry's involvement in this project. It also has hyperlinks but I don't know how to import them as I'm a noob lol. Anyway, the sentiment below remains and I'm sorry for posting such a long comment.*

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.

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