Still No Excuses for Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls”

Sofia Quintero takes Perry's apologists to town, and still waits for more black female directors.

By Jamilah King Dec 03, 2010

The initial reactions to Perry’s version of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf were troubling enough. To say that they were heated would be a massive understatement; they often held that at best, Perry’s work is melodramatic, and at its worst, it’s downright minstrelsy. But the past month hasn’t seemed to calm matters any. Over at Racialicious, writer Sofia Quintero shows little patience for Perry’s apologists who argue that he’s the only director who could have taken the work mainstream. In an interview with writers Joan Morgan and Mark Anthony Neal, Quintero voiced displeasure with the work. Here, she takes it a step further by offering that despite the film’s success, it’s still not opening doors for other black filmmakers.

Almost one month after its release, the blogosphere remains abuzz with equally strident critiques and defenses of Perry’s treatment of the Black feminist literary classic. One particular defense of Perry has inspired my absurdist train of thought: had not Perry been attached to write and direct For Colored Girls, a major studio would not have financed the film. The argument further implies that he guaranteed box office success that would otherwise evade the project if it were even made, stunting future writing and directing opportunities for other African American filmmakers.

This argument rests on several assumptions that keep Black cinematic representation so stagnant. To compel the film industry to take both the business and politics of our representation seriously enough to increase and diversify the stories it produces, we must reconsider them. Perry’s adaptation of For Colored Girls should urge us to question three assumptions in particular.

Quintero then dissects those assumptions, point by point. It’s worth a good read.