I haven’t been a big fan of Tyler Perry in the last few years. In fact, I was kind of on the ‘you may be doing more harm than good, homie” bandwagon. Despite basking in the blessings of luminary figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Cicely Stretchedmouth Tyson, I’ve always felt that Perry’s movies severely lacked depth. His characters, while sensational, were often static and flat, saved by some religious proclamation or an ‘i’m too blessed to be stressed” type rhetoric. It was simple, formulaic, and sub-par.
Still, what I’ve liked about Tyler Perry is his steadfast allegiance to the life he knows. As a born and bred southerner with a family full of matriarchs, I get Madea; I get the Black ass life that Perry often seeks to portray; it’s sincere than a mug. I just always thought he could and should do it better. Inasmuch as we appreciate a humble beginning, the big screen is a long way away from the chitlin’ circuit. And as much as I respect the brother’s craft, I’m kinda good on a bunch of shuckin’ and jivin’ and signifyin all over my AMC theater. Not that such content is incapable of making for a decent movie. It’s just that the listlessness of Tyler Perry scripts to date simply couldn’t be overlooked — no matter how much I could “relate” to the characters, nor how marginally funny they were.
I’m happy to say, however, that I didn’t walk away from ‘For Colored Girls’ feeling like I wanted my money back. Although I suspect that the depth of story and dialogue in the film is mostly attributed to Ntozake Shange’s brilliant original work, Perry certainly held his own. I mean, Tyler Perry is
kinda gay Tyler Perry, and so there is always that element of over-the-top-ness. Remember when he had them black ass angels suspended in the air playing harps in Madea’s Family Reunion? No? Trust me, they was there. In any case, in the context of ‘For Colored Girls,’ the shock of what you see does help to make the overarching point. Which is embodied in one of the last lines of Shange’s work and Perry’s movie: “i found god in myself. & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely.”
Before we proceed, please spend a lil time with my disclaimer:
I acknowledge, without reservation, the legions of great men in great relationships, who take care of their women and their children. We know you’re out there, and we support you. And we love you, and we believe in you. In other words, if you aint fuckin up or haven’t fucked up some woman’s head, then this aint about you.
That being said, I’ve heard the same complaint over and over about how, once again, Tyler Perry has skewered black men. I disagree completely. ‘For Colored Girls’ is probably the first film since ‘The Color Purple’ to address Black women’s issues, and indeed women’s issues in general, from a Black woman’s perspective. And so, while I praise men who do the right thing, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge also that a great many have made life as a woman difficult to bear. For centuries, men have controlled the means of production, and thus, the message which was produced and distributed.
The mainstream conception of femininty pits beauty and desirability against intelligence/ambition/independence. Thus, our worth is often determined by our measurements, our attractiveness, our degree of assertiveness–wherein much is too much, and little can be just right. Cats like the idea of a Michelle Obama, but may prefer Laura Bush in reality. They like a strong woman in theory, but like to be “the man”, too. And in the absence of common sense, at some point those two concepts become incompatible, equating the “independent woman” with the slippery slope to the emasculated man.
Moreover, I believe there exists a kind of continuum which describes the schizophrenia of male behaviors. It’s an interplay between masculinity and predation. The masculinity is what we love — the opening of the doors, walking and talking real strong, lifting the heavy shit, and defending our honor. Predation, on the other hand, is masculinity gone horribly awry. It’s the feeling of being stared at and whistled at by a group of men you don’t know, and then being called a “bitch” when you fail to swoon at their ineloquent advances. It’s that moment when you’re engaged in the freaky deaky with the dude from the dance, and you realize that he realizes just how much stronger he is than you. And then uses it to his advantage. It’s Uncle so-and-so being a little too chummy in too weird a way with his niece — or nephew. It’s embedded in the questions, “well, did you lead him on? was your dress that short?” It’s even evident in the snide shit that men say about the intelligence of women, intimating that our emotions make us incapable of exercising reason and logic — long considered male/masculine traits.
Adding credibility to this last piece though, is how we go equally as batshit over attention from dudes who treat us right, and dudes who don’t. You ever seen two men fight over a woman who’s playing them both? Chances are, no. Because women have been led to believe that it’s all about having the guy. No matter if you’re successful in all other aspects of life, you aint shit unless you got a man.
But at what cost? Do you forego the full breadth of your ambition to snag or keep the guy? Some of us do. Because the statistics dictate that the higher up the socioeconomic ladder we climb, the more likely we are to remain single. Why should we settle, though? Of course, all men aren’t shitty men. However, a lot more of ’em could be doing a hell of a lot better. While the statistics are what they are, with gradations and explanations for why they are, the fact remains that many men are being outpaced. And for women’s attempts at self-empowerment, they are rewarded with “I mean, yeah, but you aint got no man. You can’t keep no man. And so…”
For me, ‘For Colored Girls’ filled in that blank. “So…what!? Although I’m only a woman, I am still enough. By. My. Self.’ This is the message that most women, regardless of race, frequently miss. Worth is not determined by who or how many “want” you, or how attractive they think you are. Nor is it defined by the perfect breast-to-waist-to-ass ratio. I mean, do you really want a dude who wants a bobble head doll with a bangin body? What does that say about him? More importantly, what does it say about you? He merely stated his choice; you chose to be his bobble head doll.
What I mean is, I think men and women have to figure out what our roles are in this new millennium. Somehow, it’s gotten all screwed up. Because women can pay for shit, and don’t necessarily need a man for stability or security, then men don’t seem to know what to do with themselves, and in turn, women seem to have the damnedest time dropping dead weight. In other words, the quality of being male isn’t enough to seal the deal anymore. We don’t need you to validate us. Rather, understand and acknowledge that it is possible both to complement and to lead, as the partnership is the very essence of the relationship.
In this regard, I suppose the first step is ours — women’s. It is looking in the mirror and loving and respecting the reflection that glares back — in all its glory, with all its flaws. It lies in affirming the God in us, and never, ever allowing anyone the power to sever that relationship. The second step is to read Ntozake Shange’s poem, or see Tyler Perry’s movie. Tragedy is triumph on deck — and the message, in my opinion, of both works is that loving yourself enough makes you strong enough to weather any storm. No matter how cute, or charming he