Single-Minded: For Colored Girls When Tyler Perry Isn't Enough
I read the book over and over again when I was a kid. Now I've watched the movie trailer over and over again. And I am afraid. Very afraid.
It's scary what Tyler Perry can do in just two minutes. When it was announced last year that he would write and direct an adaptation of Ntozake Shange's 1975 choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, the first thought that ran through the minds of most little brown girls-turned-grown women was, "Dear God, don't let Madea strike again!" Shange's seminal work is a bible to some.
I found a decrepit copy in my mother's bedroom when I was about 9 and read it out loud to myself, not knowing what most of it meant. But I knew it was for me. It said so right on the cover. Ten years later, when I was a freshman in college, Page 52 got me through more than a few frustrated nights: "didn't nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars cuz of sorry … if you called to say yr sorry call somebody else. I don't use em anymore." The woman in yellow on the book's cover -- staring intently at something we can't see -- is an icon. Symbolic of every "ordinary, brown braided woman with big legs and full lips," she is the anti-Madea.
But when the official trailer to Tyler's (Madea-free) version of For Colored Girls was released last week, many of those ordinary women took notice and dared to hope. I watched the trailer several times over with my good friend Bassey Ikpi -- five-time Def Poet, Twitter celeb, mother of a hilarious man-child and overall awesome lady. What follows is our real-time reaction to the trailer of the movie every black girl over 30 swore she wouldn't see.
Me: My first thought? Women of Brewster Place.
Bassey: Um, try Women of Madison Avenue.
Me: Really, you thought it was too sleek? Too Hollywood? To me it feels like Tyler cheated off of somebody else's paper.
Bassey: I was distracted by the shoes and the clothes. Is that awful? It was very "A Very Special Episode of Girlfriends." They just looked so fancy to me. My memory of the play is that it's about these women who could be everybody and anybody. Tyler giving them names strips us of that identification.
Me: Let's watch the trailer again right now and discuss our real-time reaction. Ready? Set. Go! [We both hit "play" simultaneously.]
Bassey: I'm not sure opening with Janet was a good idea. I'm sorry. This looks like Why Did Beloved Get Precious, Too? They all look so miserable. We're colored girls; are we supposed to be this miserable?
Me: Who the heck is Whoopi? It looks like she's reprising her role as Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Bassey: She's God!
Me: "Sorry" is my favorite poem -- ever. I feel stingy, like I don't want anyone else reading it out loud.
Bassey: Mine, too! Don't you think it's weird hearing modern-looking people say "colored"? It keeps jumping out at me. And I hate not knowing who the colors actually are.
Me: I'm trying to guess right now. Janet's in red, but "sorry" is the lady in blue's poem.
Bassey: And do they all live in the building together? Are they all best friends? Why are they in a hospital? Why's Michael Ealy in jail? And did you ever even see Phylicia Rashad? I have questions!