Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play, For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, was coup of the year for Tyler Perry. Not only will he produce and direct the upcoming film version, the King of Coonery will also write the adaptation of what may be the most important work about black female identity ever. Ask any black woman, especially the artsy/moody/self-aware type, about For Colored Girls … and she will respond with a wistful look and fond memories.
I was Lady in Blue in a high-school production and have told more than one sorry dude, “insteada being sorry all the time, try being yourself,” quoting the Lady in Red (but playing it off like I came up with it on my own). This is classic material, and now we can expect the intentionally stripped-down aesthetic of Shange’s work to be replaced by style choices that only a closeted gay man could make. Even worse, Perry has announced that he’d like to cast the likes of Oprah, Halle Berry and Beyoncé to tackle the play’s issues, which include love, rape, abortion and relationships.
How did we come to such a low point in black entertainment? Sadly, money always talks. Did you know that Tyler Perry’s films have grossed about $319 million in seven years, while Spike Lee’s have grossed $372 million in 23 years? When you account for the inclusion of rather mainstream flicks including “Inside Man” ($88 million) in Lee’s canon, Tyler Perry is really in black folks’ pockets at an alarming speed. We’re going to see his movies in droves, and I just cannot figure out why.