Kevin Powell: Tyler Perry’s ‘For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide’

Push pause before watching for colored girls….

People either love or hate filmmaker Tyler Perry—that much is clear to me. Weeks before I decided to see Perry’s “For Colored Girls” on opening night I could hear the extreme reactions to the fact he was adapting, producing, and directing a film version of Ntozake Shange’s classic 1970s choreopoem/play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.”

“I think Tyler is the worst filmmaker ever,” one pal of mine said, an amazing actress and writer, who is completely traumatized that Perry was even permitted to touch Shange’s writing.

And then there have been all the pre-film blogs written and passed around which have, in the main, been attempts to prepare viewers, particularly Black women movie goers, for the worst. Indeed, one blog I sampled encouraged women to read Shange’s words first, to go as a group, almost as if bracing themselves for a natural disaster. Another blog demolished Perry as a proprietor of modern-day minstrel shows in real-time Black face. This woman’s blog was so detailed in her point-by-point critiques of Tyler’s pictures, that it set off what appears to be at least 100 responses, most supporting her views, with a few not, and a handful saying she was an extremist, and, better yet, a hater. And this last blog and its comments are from a year ago when it was first announced Perry was tackling Shange’s piece.

(A not-so-humorous side note: From the hardcore reactions to one Tyler Perry, you would think his films have done as much damage to Black America as, say, racism, HIV/AIDS, failing public schools, rampant unemployment, crime, drug dealing and drug abuse, gentrification, the prison-industrial complex, police brutality, Republican right-wingers and the Fox News Channel, ghetto dictatorships and lazy leadership in the form of certain very identifiable Black politicians and Black preachers, corner liquor stores, fast food restaurants, and every other challenge you could name….)

Since then it hasn’t helped that the trailer for the adaptation doesn’t do the actual film any poetic justice. You see Janet Jackson far too much (it is clear Mr. Perry has an acute fascination with Ms. Jackson in spite of her well-meaning but limited acting abilities), and you see a plethora of quick-cut imagery in the film, but unless you’ve closely read the Shange book yourself, or have seen the words interpreted on the stage through the years, you come away from the trailer not really clear what the film narrative is.

As a result I was really torn about watching “For Colored Girls.” First off, I have seen some of Perry’s “Madea” films and, yes, they have made me cringe. How could they not when I know very well the history of Black images in America, how destructive so many of these images have been to our collective spirits, psyches, and bodies, be they mammy, big momma, tragic “mulatto,” gangsta, thug, pimp, prostitute, thief, hustler, or bumbling, stumbling coon or buffoon. If there was a true and intentional balance to what we colored folks are given to digest on television, in movies, in music videos, in video games, and now on the internet, then there would hardly be a whisper about Tyler Perry’s films. And if he had stayed in the urban Black theater scene—our theatrical version of the famous “chitin’ circuit” for Black performers—then no one, save poor or working-class and or church-going Black folks, would probably even know who Perry is today.

But it is precisely because those poor or working-class and or church-going Black folks flock to venues like the Beacon Theater in New York City, every time one of these plays is announced on local urban radio stations, that Tyler Perry is famous and fabulously wealthy. The plays are simplistic, but with enough Black around-the-way humor and morality lessons that serve as a necessary escape from the grind of our daily Black lives. Who would not want that? And is it little surprise that Perry’s career first skyrocketed during the Bush II years, and continues to be an entertainment outlet for the souls of many Black folks during The Great Recession? No, he is not a great writer, not a great director, not a great actor. Not yet, and I have no clue if he will ever be any of those things. But Tyler Perry is an astute entrepreneur, a marketing genius, someone who has filled a huge void for working-class Black America, for church-going Black America, with film after film. Up until “For Colored Girls,” Perry has not pretended to be an artist, or a super-talented director in the vein of Julie Dash, Martin Scorsese, or Kasi Lemmons.

Tyler Perry

No, what Perry has done is exactly what pioneering African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux did from 1919 to 1948: give Black people themselves on screen on a regular basis, something that, as evidenced by Perry’s huge box-office receipts with each film (including approximately $20 million this past opening weekend for “For Colored Girls”), we desperately crave. Indeed just as Oscar Micheaux steadily fed the Black masses with his 44 films and 7 novels (including one national bestseller) over those 29 years, Perry too has been relentless with his productivity and his work ethic, churning out, it feels, a film a year, if not two. This is on top of his plays, his television shows, and the running of his new state-of-the-art film and television studio in Georgia. But please be clear that Tyler Perry is not the first African American to own his own film and tv compound. No, that distinction belongs to Tim Reid and Daphne Maxwell Reid and what they built and opened in Virginia in the late 1990s. But Perry has taken the best of the hustle and flow of Micheaux, the bravado of Blaxploitation wonder-man Melvin Van Peebles, the make-Black-films-by-any-means-necessary mantra of Spike Lee, and the business savvy of the Reids, remixed the ingredients, and given us Tyler Perry, the baddest Black film mogul this side of the 21st century. And that begets a taste of power that makes Perry the Booker T. Washington of Black filmmakers. In other words, like how Booker T. was hotly debated in his day for his dealings with Black folks and issues of race, so too is Tyler P. hotly debated in his day for his dealings with Black folks and, yeah, issues of race (images).

But what one cannot deny about either is that in an America where it has always been extremely hard for Black folks to own and sustain institutions, both built institutions that stand as unbelievable achievements of the human spirit, and in spite of entrenched American racism and White privilege in the realms of education (Booker T.) and Hollywood (Tyler P.). One could even go so far as to say that outside of Oprah Winfrey, Perry is easily the most powerful Black entertainer in our nation, and one of the most influential regardless of race.

For Tyler Perry has taken the business of Black filmmaking to another level. A level that Micheaux, Van Peebles, and not even Spike Lee could have ever achieved. Because Tyler Perry is not only the master of his own ship, the owner of his vision and his brand, but he is now positioned to tackle Hollywood racism head on without ever uttering a single word about it. For sure, Perry says he does not discriminate against anyone, and that is clear from his diverse team of production folks. But it is also abundantly clear he has added brick after brick to the Spike Lee foundation of hiring Black people in every position possible, to nurture and train them for long careers in film and television production. The kind of opportunities they would not get elsewhere. I mean, when I look at the credits to, say, Francis Ford Coppola’s epics, “The Godfather I and II,” it is not lost on me the numerous Italian surnames. Coppola was clearly looking out for his people. So why can’t Perry do the same for his?

But with the box office success, the full-fledged studio, the role as the most powerful Black person in Hollywood, and an uncanny ability to get every kind of Black actress or actor you can think of into his films (no matter the quality of the films), I imagine the question began to gnaw at Tyler as the refrain scrutinizing his filmmaking skills, or lack thereof, have grown louder and louder: Where do I, Tyler Perry, go from here?

Here, I believe, means Tyler knows, there in the underbelly of his Southern soul, that he cannot continue to make, solely, Madea films, preachy PG movies with one-dimensional characters and a gumbo pot full of plotlines. That he had to leave his comfort zone, had to create 34th Street Films so that he can begin to make more meaningful films, better developed and multi-faceted films, films written and directed by others, and perhaps others with extensive film training, who can bring to life the kind of Black tales seldom told, and seldom seen in the history of American cinema—

Push play: for colored girls unfolds….

Living in New York City for the past 20 years as both a writer and activist means I have seen and heard versions of Shange’s choreopoem many many times. I even once lived with and dated an actress who, like many Black actresses, frequently used a monologue from “For Colored Girls…” in one audition or another. What I learned from my then-girlfriend, and from my Black female actress friends through the years, is that there is an enormous scarcity of monologues written specifically for Black women, that what Shange wrote really is as timeless as Shakespeare. And as poetic and lofty, too. That when you enter the world of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls…” you are, in essence, entering high and sacred ground.


Which brings me back to my decision to see the film on opening night. The evening before I had visited my mother in my hometown of Jersey City, and there we were, in the same kitchen she has been in for 30-plus years. As I ate the fish my moms prepared for me, she sat, all 67 years of her, slightly slumped, in a plastic-covered chair by the stove. My mother looked both at peace, and well, very tired. Tired from years of being a Black woman in America. Tired from years of working in cotton fields, factories, and in the homes of the wealthy and the elderly. Tired of being tired, these several years later, from talking about how my father had wronged her. To the point, now, that she herself had aged with hints of sorrow in her heart and twinges of bitterness at the corners of her mouth. She, a colored girl, who had survived the hostile abandonment of my father, and all the would-be suitors who came to move in, not to love her.


She, a colored girl, who had survived acute poverty, minimal life skills, and an 8th grade education to raise me, a Black boy, to be something other than yet another wretched statistic. Who will sing the coarse songs of women like my mother? Who will tell their tales if not us?

The late Judge Shirley Torintino

And then to the other extreme of why I was in Jersey City Thursday night: Judge Shirley Tolentino, the first Black woman judge I’d ever met, had died, and I went to St. Aloysius Church on Westside Avenue to pay my respects at her wake. And what a wake it was. The church was loaded with all kinds of people, mostly Black, there to say good-bye to a Black woman many considered one of Jersey’s most powerful judges. I met her when I was a teen and driving my mother mad. I don’t even recall what the particular indiscretion was with the law, but there I was in front of Judge Tolentino, utterly stunned a Black woman, this Black woman, was about to decide my fate. For whatever reason, she gave me a break, I never went to a juvenile detention center, never landed in jail, so I had to see her one last time, even in that coffin box, just to say “Thank you.” I had thought of Judge Tolentino often through the years, long before I knew of Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth, or Ida B. Wells or Mary McLeod Bethune, or Shirley Chisholm or Angela Davis, or the ladies in Shange’s “For Colored Girls…,” or Michelle Obama, even. For Judge Tolentino, like my mother, represents a kind of power that Black women have always possessed, from the golden earth of Africa to the concrete jungles of America’s inner cities, a power that said you may try to destroy us by all available means but like that Maya Angelou poem, still we rise—

And somewhere in Tyler Perry’s life, ostensibly, he has been affected, aided, raised, prepared, by Black women like the ones I know. All us Black boys know them. No, I have not always liked the way Perry has depicted Black women in his films, but I also cannot ignore how many Black actresses he has employed, quite a few of them so remarkably gifted by their God yet so completely shunned or forgotten by Hollywood. Nor can I disregard that in his newly minted studio are soundstages named after Black female acting giants like Ruby Dee and Cicely Tyson. Somewhere in Perry croons an undying love for Black women—

For Colored Girls Cast

Yes, these things were on my mind as I made my way to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see Perry’s film. I purposely sat in the back row so that I could watch any who entered. And here they came, slowly but surely, Black women like my mother, and Black women like Judge Tolentino. Younger Black women and older Black women. Straight Black women and lesbian or bisexual Black women. Black women with perms and weaves, and Black women with dreadlocks or baldheads. There were a few of us Black males present, and a few White sisters and brothers. I could feel some Black female eyes on me as I sat alone, wondering what had brought me to this film, maybe. I think if I had suffered through what countless Black women have suffered through in their lives, including my mother, I would question, too. For what is it to live in a nation where you have been victimized not only because of your race, but also because of your sex? Where you have not only had to contend with sheer madness ranging from slave masters to corporate bosses with a reckless disregard for your being, but also from husbands, boyfriends, lovers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, sons, and grandsons whose own internalized racism and oppression have destroyed them and, in effect, destroyed you. This is the heaviness of experience and history that these Black women march with into one Tyler Perry movie after another. They simply want to see fragments of themselves on screen, be it Madea or Shange’s “For Colored Girls.” And most of these women are not like my actress friends, not like my cultural critics friends, not like my academic or scholarly friends, and not like my bohemian friends: well versed in all things Black, cultural, artistic, political, or literary. They are more like my mother, a woman who does not read books, save bits and pieces of the bible, and who has never really been told (nor mustered the strength to tell herself) that she is beautiful, that she is powerful, that she is visible. Which is why since the 1970s when I was a child, as far back as I can remember, my mother mostly goes to the movies when it is Black people up on the screen. My moms is especially fond of Whoopie Goldberg and I suspect it is because Whoopie, like my mother, is a dark-complexioned Black woman who has been told, more times than not, that she is ugly, and you and I both know that Whoopie, and my mother, are quite beautiful. Therefore in seeing Whoopie shine on that screen my mother is seeing herself shine, is seeing her beautiful brown skin shine in a way it never shined in those cotton fields, in those factories, in the homes of those wealthy or elderly folks, and certainly never shined in the eyes of my long-gone father. Women like my mother, younger and older, simply need to know that their lives are valid, that their lives do matter. Love him or hate him, that is the space Tyler Perry has created for many a Black person, a space my mother asked me to share with her when she requested “Can you take me to see that movie about them colored girls?” Yes, ma, I will—

So there is this film, and as “For Colored Girls” began, I washed away the negative reviews I’d read, the questions on why him to do this, and simply watched the movie. I would say about 15 minutes into it I realized I was watching something very different than other Perry flicks, that he had grown as a filmmaker, that he was not butchering Shange’s words as so many had suggested he would, or had.

Instead what we were getting was a 21st century reading of “For Colored Girls,” very much required, in reality, given that Shange’s piece was created in the 1970s. And no different, undoubtedly, than Ethan Hawke taking Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and setting it at the Denmark Corporation in his early 2000s film version, while retaining the old language. If Hawke could keep the old language and update the setting, why can’t Perry? Moreover, it was clear to me, as the drama unfolded, that many in the theater, including the Black woman sitting right next to me, had never read the Shange book, nor had ever seen a staged production. Tyler Perry’s flick was it, was their introduction. And in this world of fast-paced videos, Twitter, and every manner of cell phone with video components, Perry has taken the best of what Shange has willed to us, combined it with a stellar ensemble that features Phylicia Rashad, Whoopie Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, and Loretta Devine, and created something that is, well, very special and quite magical, in spite of the hurt and pain peppered throughout this film.

The film had to be given a bona fide backdrop in Harlem, the men had to be given some voices here and there, and the women’s names could not merely be Lady in Red, Lady in Brown, and so on. We need to know them as Crystal and Yasmine and Jo. Need to know their names because those names are the real names of real Black women who live in Harlem, Brooklyn, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, D.C., St. Louis, Houston, wherever Black women be. But Perry had to cast his bucket somewhere, so Harlem became the metaphor for anywhere America, specifically one walk-up apartment building where most of the characters dwell. Think of how Gloria Naylor put her main female characters on one block in her majestic novel “The Women of Brewster Place.” Or how a Brooklyn neighborhood exploded off the screen in Spike’s “Do The Right Thing.” With “For Colored Girls” I was awestruck by the color palettes used for the film, the exquisiteness of these Black women’s many skin hues, the imaginative method in which Perry stitched Shange’s original words in with freshly written lines to make the narrative go. And go they do, for they are brilliant, hardworking, dedicated, steadfast, loving, divine, and, often, very very lonely in their own skins. You feel it with Phylicia Rashad’s character, the manager of the building, whose sole purpose at this moment seems to be as ears and eyes of what is happening with her neighbors. But it is in helping them through their pain that gives her life a pulse. You feel it in Whoopie Goldberg’s character, so terrified of the universe that she has turned her apartment into a shrine of boxes filled with God only knows what, her life reduced to prays, pray oils, and an overwhelming belief that anyone who does not believe in her God and her religion is destined for hell, including her two daughters. You feel it in the innocence of Anika Noni Rose’s character, wide-eyed and recently out of a relationship, and so horrifically duped by a handsome man into a rape scene and subsequent monologue that was so jarring it felt like the entire theater had instantly become a mountainous chorus of tears, wails, and gasps for air. And you feel it in Kimberly Elise, so broken by mental abuse and domestic violence that she is just one step from a complete nervous breakdown. And then her husband does it, he murders her two children in broad daylight, dropping them—and the sanity and heart of Elise’s character— from their apartment window, their blood smeared on the asphalt below like the jagged journey of Black women and girls in America.

“I never thought I’d see the day when I enjoyed a Tyler Perry film,” said one female friend, and I concurred with her. But I am not sure if “enjoy” is the right word. “For Colored Girls” is a conversation, a mirror, something, obviously, that one culturally and socially ignorant film critic after another just did not get as they blasted the film in their reviews. One repeated critique is that the movie deals too much in pathologies. Are you going to tell me that Coppola’s “Godfather I and II,” widely hailed as two of the best movies of all time, are not riddled with multiple social pathologies? Likewise with “Citizen Kane,” or “Forrest Gump,” even? So to these over-the-top haters of Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” What film, exactly, were you watching that that is the sum of what you viewed? How does one come away from that film and not agree that Kimberly Elise should be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and Thandie Newton (with Anika Noni Rose and Whoopie Goldberg not far behind) for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar? How does one not acknowledge the terrific score, the captivating cinematography, or the set design, even? And how does one gripe that the back-alley abortion scene is not credible in these times if one has never been to, never lived in, nor ever spent significant time in an American ghetto and, as a consequence, is not fully aware of the physical and psychological lengths us poor Black folks have historically had to go to, even in the age of Obama and in an allegedly post-racial America, to duck and dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

Additionally, I do know if a Tom Hanks, a man who was on a mediocre television sitcom and made mediocre film after mediocre film in the 1980s, could reinvent himself as a leading man and Oscar winner in the 1990s, then why can’t Tyler Perry be given the space to evolve, to grow, to be something other than what first made his fame and fortune? Or if a Marvin Gaye could go from crooning catchy but clichéd Motown pop ballads to making a masterpiece model for social protest music with “What’s Going On?” then why can’t we believe, in our hearts, that Perry made a strong, compelling, and emotionally-riveting movie with “For Colored Girls?”

Yes, there are flaws in the film. Here are the glaring ones for me: Janet Jackson, who I have always loved in general, just should not be in the film nor should she have been given top billing. Janet simply does not have the range and depth she displayed as a child actor on “Good Times.” Next, the director did not push Kerry Washington hard enough, I feel, to display the kind of emotional dexterity needed for her character as she witnessed the breaking down of lives about her, and her inability to have a baby. And it was so pathetically predictable that Janet’s husband in the film would turn out to be “a brother on the down-low.” We’ve got to stop fanning the flames of fear and homophobia to Black people like that, once and for all. The issue with HIV/AIDS in Black America is sexual dishonesty and sexual irresponsibility across the board, not whether someone is straight or gay. Everyone has to be more honest and everyone has to be more careful. That scene is one moment of a few in the film where I felt we were getting the old Tyler Perry, the Perry as Madea film where the script got stiff and, well, lethargic and unimaginative.

And, no, for the record, I as a Black man had no problem whatsoever with the depiction of Black males in the film. “For Colored Girls” is not a male-bashing film. It is a story about women and if you, a man, happen to be uncomfortable with what you see and hear, then maybe it is because elements of who you be are in some of those characters. I absolutely thought about my own relationships with Black women through the years as I digested “For Colored Girls,” thought of women I have dated, women I have treated correctly and as my equals, and of women I’ve treated poorly or disrespectfully. So if you are an honest man, one serious about your own growth and evolution, then you come to “For Colored Girls,” or any story about women and girls, with emotional courage and integrity, not disdain, finger-pointing, and haterism.

Unfortunately, this same wave of negative male responses occurred when Shange’s “For Colored Girls…” opened on Broadway in the 1970s, and with “The Color Purple,” the film, in the mid1980s. So it is to be expected given the patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny that runs rampant on our planet, still. Men will refuse to see the film and say it is unfair to them just because. But what is missing is that we males do need to listen to the stories of women, do need to empathize with their highs and their lows, do need to understand how much more we can learn about ourselves, if we simply develop the intellectual muscle to listen to the blues songs of women, including the women who are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, lovers, bosses, employees, wives, friends—

But, alas, in an American society as drenched in sexism as it is in racism, that is a huge leap for many of us. Male privilege is a tough thing to shake, above all when we’ve been conditioned our entire lives to believe we are the superior sex, to believe that the only way to view the world is through our eyes. As if the women’s eyes don’t matter at all. The stories told in “For Colored Girls” are very factual, happen to women in Black, White, Latina, and Native American communities every single day; happen to women who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths, or no faiths whatsoever; and those stories, in particular the ones of rape and domestic violence, are the reasons why it was stated in a New York Times Magazine article in 2009 that global violence against women is the human rights issue of the 21st century.

What that means, matter of fact, for my community, the Black community, is that we’ve got some long-held and far-rooted traumas that we’ve got to deal with immediately. That was evident from the excessive laughter during scenes that were clearly not funny. Also evident by all the Black folks complaining about the audience chatter that took place during their viewing of the film. Or complaints of cell phones that went off. Mad annoying and each gripe valid, yes, but worthy of long Facebook posts and blistering denigration of each other that reeks of Black self-hatred and, in some cases, blatant classism by some of my more, uh, uppity and uptight Black sisters and brothers? No. But as long as we continue to suffer from what scholars and activists in Black America refer to as “post-traumatic slave syndrome,” passed from generation to generation, like a baton in a relay race, where your pain becomes your child’s pain, and so on and so forth, then we will continue to be divided, inwardly and outwardly. Was that not clear from the scarred and shredded relationship between the characters depicted by Whoopie Goldberg and Thandie Newton? At the end of the day, people who are hurting simply want love, but often fail to recognize the first love must be of self. In sexing all those men in the film, Newton’s character was essentially ducking and dodging the inner her, and ducking and dodging the past she needed to confront, finally. That is why that coming together of community at the end of “For Colored Girls” is so critical, and so necessary. For none of us can go it alone. Yes, Black males have issues too and, and yes, we deserve films that present as whole human beings, as well, but that is not the point of “For Colored Girls,” nor should it be; and, no, Black women are not abandoning us simply because of one film, but Perry’s “For Colored Girls” does suggest that if we are to be healthy, and whole, then it means we’ve got to make conscious decisions to come together in a way where I am not hurting you and you are not hurting me. And to love our powerful and beautiful selves before it is too late—

That is the challenge for Mr. Tyler Perry, as “For Colored Girls” continues to make money and continues to be both debated and disparaged. That is, can Tyler Perry—or will Tyler Perry—strive and struggle to transform the one-man economy his films have manifested, and use his voice, and his power, to push the envelope to make films, Black films, that not only show the vast complexities of the Black experience in America, and on this planet, but to also be spaces, simply by virtue of the genius of the work he produces and endorses for others, that can be healing circles for as many of us as possible? Will Perry, the next time a woman’s story is presented to him, step aside and support a dynamic Black female director like Nzingha Stewart, Julie Dash, Ayoka Chenzira, or Kasi Lemmons? Will he, as a man, use his male privilege to make sure, in fact, that “For Colored Girls” the movie is not the last time, for decades and decades, we see such rich and layered depictions of Black women in theaters? Tall orders, yes, but I don’t think Perry has been given this grand opportunity just for the sake of making dollars. As Perry admitted himself in one interview, he tried to avoid doing “For Colored Girls,” both on Broadway and on film, but it kept coming back to him. Now it is done, it is out, and it is what he does from this moment forward that will determine his place in cinematic history and whether Tyler Perry’s body of work will ultimately be a legacy for the ages.

Kevin Powell, New York City-based activist and public speaker, is the author or editor of 10 books, including the essay collection Open Letters to America and the poetry book No Sleep Till Brooklyn. Kevin’s writings have appeared in Esquire, Newsweek, Ebony, Essence, Rolling Stone, Vibe,, and elsewhere through the years. Email him at

25 comments on “Kevin Powell: Tyler Perry’s ‘For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide’

  1. Thorough, well-written and excellent commentary on this film. I especially can sense where you are coming with your mother as my mother, while younger (55 years old), from Mississippi has gone through similiar situations in life. She is fan of Perry’s plays and movies and has always commented about how the movies relate to her life. I have seen all of his movies that he has touched (including Precious, which I think was far superior than the “Blindside”) and can understand the frustation (where he could evolve the works into something more) and blessing (better understanding of the issues in our community) in his works. And you are right, it would be interesting to see if Perry can evolve into something that others (Asian, Hispanics, other Blacks, gays, lesbian, etc) can follow. Thank you for this piece.

  2. Kevin, I gotta thank you for helping me look at this movie in a different way. I am a MOVIE FAN and I too erased all the commentary I heard and approached this with as clean of a slate as possible. I thought the incorporation of the monologues was genius. I loved every bit of it. There was something missing. I don’t know how to put my hands on it. But it was something typical about the movie that made me hurt b.c I wanted this movie to be redefining. I guess. Thanks again….I may have to watch it again with some ladies and have a discussion afterward.

  3. Tyler Perry! Hmmm…Although Kevin Powell’s article was long I will say that it was an honest assesment of an enigma. I say enigma because Tyler Perry clearly sucks as a filmmaker, screenwriter, playwrite, yet his movies sell like hotcakes(his acting skills are decent). However, he proves the old artistic theory….the thoery says: “in the art there are no rules, only risk”. Do you know how many people insulted Pablo Picasson. I’m sure that there are young filmmakers,screenwriters and etc, who are learning the so-called rules that film schools promote, however, these young filmmakers may never amount to shit by virtue of their inability to reach the people in the same manner that we’ve seen from Tyler Perry. The pragmatic brainswashing that takes place in America’s schools have caused a culture of robots who miss the point….it’s all about the people. Look at Gorge Bush, a good ol’ boy who had no serious knowleged of world leaders. However, he reached the people. Daveyd, we talked about this not too long ago, when you said that the tea partiers reached the people in spite of their obivious stupidity.

    Black rappers, Actors, Writers, Directors, Politicians, Businesses owners need to wake up and see that it is all about reaching the people. I keep hearing neo-soul rappers cry about not being played on the radio. I keep hearing black writers complaining about their films not being made. The question is this: is that shit entertaining. Public enemy was anti-system group, however, back in the day you could groove to their songs in the club. Spike Lee’s do the right thing was educational and entertaining at the same time.

    I know a black dude who wrote a movie about a computer nerd who creates an artificial intelligence. This filmmaker made an arrogant comment, he said “i dumbed it down”. I was like who in the fuck are you to insult people because they are not computer nerds. Entertainment is entertainment. Shit, I remember when I was a kid I watched Ghostbusters over and over again, even there was intellectual shit that I didn’t understand until I became a grown man. I recently watched “La mission” with benjamin bratt, it was very entertaning. In fact, it made me more sensitive to the latino struggle.

    Personally, I don’t like his movies. I don’t want to be preached to, I don’t want to see my problems on the big screen. Sometimes I want to be taken away to a different place in time and space. However, I realize that Tyler is not for me. Tyler is for the people who appreciate him, it seems that Kevin was suggesting this in his article.

    For the record, you cannot satisfy black people. We always find a way to complain. I’ve heard people complain about “good times”, and then i’ve heard people complain about “the Cosby Show”. We can’t win for losing. When you are a professional you a square, when you are a hoodlum, you are disgrace. Damn can’t we just live.

    White movies are full of sterotypes….

  4. Kevin,

    I’ve watched you grow from an admitted abusive man to a convincing feminist and this piece really exemplifies that transformation.

    I appreciate your last paragraph, especially when you call on Tyler Perry to step aside and allow others to tell stories. At this point, he has the money, the power, and the studios… he should focus on production. He needs to leave the ego and control issues, clearly evident in his domination of his movies, behind and grow as a producer. He ought to give lesser-known writers and directors the opportunity to shine. He already has the distribution deal and he had enough power to get 100 episodes of his coontastic shows contracted, script unseen.

    Now is the time for him to use that power for good and help others, TALENTED others, the chance to shine.

    I, like you, have my strong issues with Perry’s previous movies. I also LOVED Shange’s play. I think the best thing he did was incorporate much of her writing and cast amazing actresses, especially those with Broadway experience. These things carried the movie and for the most part, you almost forget he had anything to do with it… that is until he juxtaposes his simplistic writing and his weak “eye” to the beauty of Shange’s poetry.

    In any event, I actually read this entire blog and enjoyed it. Kudos!

  5. respect to kevin but this is entirely too long to a movie review. unfortunately most will not read it fully, however, i do agree with kevin that the movie is good conversation piece. i feel the ending didnt have inspiration or hope.

  6. I have read this long drawn out article which I thought was primarily about For Colored Girls but in actuality pays more homage to Tyler Perry’s ability to generate huge box offices and employ under employed black talent. Well I will give him that. But Black folks we have got to stop equating money with success. IMO Perry is the least successful filmmaker and we should not be comparing him to Oscar Micheaux, who not only made movies but own the means to produce and distribute them. Micheaux was truly autonomous from external interest in the producing of his art. As for Perry’s treatment of Colored girls, the movie was garbage! As a filmmaker, I can not accept such complex issues being expressed through cliche and melodramatic tragedy. Perry and his butt buddy Lee Daniels have introduce to Black cinema a new genre, “The Ridiculously Gratuitous Tragedy”! They heap on their protagonists, excessive and gratuitous tragedies for the sake of what I believe is an agenda based out of their own personal disfunction. Technically the movie was poorly written and poorly executed. Perry knows the limitations of his talent he should have never taking on a project with such depth and complexity. Ask any filmakker with a degree and they can tell you all the issues in the final cut of this movie.

    As a BLACK MAN, who has matured to a state where my love for BLACK WOMEN is connected to the Universe and Universal ideas such as nature, family, love, happiness, justice, security, I could go on. But I will sum it up here, thoughts be come creations and creations become real into the world. That is a spiritual belief that I hold dear to my heart. So my issue is knowing how much thought goes into making a movie, the countless decisions, and those were the choices he made. I know those tragedies happen but my point would be when is Perry going to take the highroad. Why is the vision he shares always a worst case scenario for black people. Why is he always looking back, looking down, I guess like Janet’s husband in the movie, he’s checking things out. Ok sorry I got sidetracked. When will he share with us a vision of Black america that is healthy, happy, and whole. If I want to hear about Black men on the downlow infecting their highly successful and demanding wives with HIV I can read a blog. If I want to see a black man dropping his babies out of a window I can turn on the news. As for cinema there should be a more artful and clever way of putting the audience there emotionally. But with his limited skills and severe issue with self hate Perry continuously provides us stick figured drawings of what should be delicately painted masterpieces.

    Technically this is a poorly made film, its not even good by soap opera standards. Socially and culturally this is an attack on the collective Black conscious. Tyler Perry is a trojan horse within the black community, that explains his financial success. He’s doing a job that the man, deems very necessary and is willing to give Perry the platform and marketing budget to see to it that his films are successful.

  7. I’ll need cliff notes for this long winded diatribe. Sheesh! Is this an article or a thesis paper? This is not an issue of me having a short attention span, but this article could have been cut in half and still hammered the point across. Sometimes, too much verbiage is a detriment. I’ll need the black literati to get the memo, because they often write long winded blog entries. The mark of a great writer is when they get their point across in a concise manner. Mr. Powell, you failed miserably here. Sorry.

  8. Why the hate Bobby.. this is by far one of the most read articles on my site.. lots of folks enjoyed and read it.. and they’re still reading it..
    What failed is you not wanting to clown it by calling it a long winded diatribe versus a well written piece..

    Ra Zeke.. I will agree there are various approaches one can take when doing a film.. some will be more artistic then others.. At the same time when its presented on the big screen to the masses, one of the measures of success is people coming to see it.. I see smart, alert good people standing on line to see what you described as a poor film..Who gets to decide, you the filmmaker, the consumer who shelled out 15 bucks or the movie critic?

    For all this criticism why arent folks pooling their money and doing their own film.. I know thats what we did a few years ago.. we hated something gathered up resources and di a film called Channel Zero.. For colored Girls been around since I was a kid.. whyhavent more stepped up to bring the ‘correct’ way this should be done for the masses?

  9. @ Davey D the questions you have posed to me only goes to further my point. Why aren’t Black people pooling together? It’s because Black people are asleep at the wheel. We have been fooled by this debilitating ideal of integration and lured by the false reality of an American dream.

    The reality is that over the past 20 years some great films have been made by compitent and mature filmmakers. Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), Julie Dash (Daughters Of The Dust), F. Gary Gray, Theodore Witcher (Love Jones), The Hughes Brothers, Spike Lee, and Nzingah Stewart. Ms. Stewart is the sister who for years had carried For Colored Girls around hollywood trying to get it made. She has an executive producer credit on the film. My point is this, Perry’s meteoric box office success goes hand in hand with the financial support he’s recieved from the establishment. He’s not a great filmmaker just like Soulah Boy is not a great rapper. They are both the product of a system design to exploit and debilitate our community. As I said earlier, we have got to stop equating financial gains with success. McDonald’s makes the most money selling the shittiest burgers. Ya dig?

  10. Ra zeke…you keep forgetting the point…his movies are not for you or me!…its for the people who go see them. Who are you to say that black people are asleep? All human beings are asleep, in my humble opinion!

    Filmmaker with a degree….hahahaha…most of the best filmmakers don’t have a degree or never went to school. I can find sterotypes in all of the movies that you named. As I said, you cannot please black people. We will find a way. This black self rightousness shit has got to stop, I’m sure there are cliches or sterotypes in your movies(that only your mother and grandmother care to watch).

    Yes tyler perry sucks, but hey so does paying taxes. But the more you focus on him the more you promote him. His movies give joy to a lot of people.

    Once again to all the black filmmakers, recording artist and etc…make your shit interesting….its not about YOU!…its about the PEOPLE!

  11. I disagree Ra Zeke.. First I didn’t say financial success. I said what some one who looks like me and you choose to see..Why did my cousin go see Tyler Perry, because she likes his films.. Hollywood had nothing to do with this..She knew him b4 he ‘made it’.. she watching his straight to video plays.. What was Hollywood about that? Lets not dismiss that..He was grinding like everyone else and found his nitch..

    In terms of pooling money..I see that all the time.. How do you think some of these DVDS and indy labels get launched..Cats pool their dimes. i gave you the example of what a group of us did in three weeks over email after complaining about a film.. I think the honest and harder question to answer is why will folks pool up for a Don’t snitch DVD or a hood version of girls gone wild and not some of the finer projects you mentioned?

    There’s no easy answer, but from what I found the folks who pool their money for stop snitching videos aren’t interested in these other flicks, or they are aware? Question becomes what’s the relationship folks like yourself have with those who are interested.. Not to be facetious as a filmmaker why didn’t you and Ms Stewart get together and pool resources..Does it have to be Hollywood.. I seen folks pool resources for this new cointel-pro 101 doc.. we just had a two sold out screenings.. I seen folks pool resources for Small Axe which was about oscar Grant.. Granted those flicks aint in every theater on big screens, but we know how to reach our folks in spite of..

    Second question is what’s been the response when u or others have approached some of the Black frats, an Oprah, hell even a Tyler?


  12. Couldn’t get through the piece bro too long for my 2010 internet eyes. But from what I did read, I think we (as black people) tend to be so thirsty for black images in entertainment that we will accept anything and rationalize it as “art” when what it is product for sale. Quantity does not equal quantity. I’d take one classic over 50 pieces of ‘sh*t’ any day.

  13. @ loverboy I love how you can write well over 100 words and manage to say absolutely nothing. He doesn’t make movies for you and me? Then why do posters of his movie saturate my community? I said black people are asleep, you say all people are asleep. I don’t disagree however I was talking about black people. Critical thought brother it is the revolution we are waiting for.

    @ Davey D if you don’t think Hollywood’s backing doesn’t have anything to do with his current status then you don’t know the business. The marketing budget for the movie probably cost more than the production budget for Eve’s Bayou. As for what other brothers are investing in I can’t control that. Like I said Black folks are asleep at the wheel. Aint nothing I can write here that’s going to change that reality. As for me brother and others like me, and I include you int this, the world don’t stop turning tomorrow and we aint dying no time soon. So our time is coming. It’s coming brother. Technology is changing the game. And I know you know this cause it sounds like you are involved in some serious projects yourself.

  14. Ra what I’m saying is Tyler Perry was known in many circles in Black america long before Hollywood.. It would be good for us to study this.. Lots of things are backed by Hollywood that fall flat.. we both know that as well.. Not everything flies even when u spend millions.. talk to some of these record labels.. Hell Talk to meg whitman.. something about Perry is connecting with his audience.. to not know that just strictly from business stand point misses a lot.. I’m not gonna insult his audience and say they’re asleep at the wheel..From what I can tell they ain’t running around I liked a couple of his movies.. am I asleep? hell naw..

  15. @zeke

    You just can’t comprehend my words. I’m glad you counted them for me though, I could use a secretary.

    Who are you to tell young black kids not to like Soujah Boy? Do you have the same complaint when it comes to white kids and Justin Bieber?

    Once again, If artist would make their shit interesting they will draw in fans. Man I hear some of these Neo-Soul artist and I fall asleep during the song. Do you remember Arrested Development? Listen to their commercial songs, they were deep as hell, and yet, the songs were interesting to hear. Not to bring Jesus into the discussion, but he said: be shrewd as snakes, but innocent as doves.

    Honestly, I’ve heard Tyler perry preach some stuff in his movies and plays that was on point as far as our struggles are concerned.

    I am apart of the revolution, just ask the young men and women that I’ve helped by way of tutoring and mentoring throughout the years. That’s the revolution homie. If you aren’t doing the same thing, you aren’t worth shit to our revolution.

    I cannot wait to see what one of your movies is about. Please invite me to the screening. I will be sure to bring my pillow.

    Just for the record, I have a close family member that is in the business. You are nothing more than a wannabe with no clout. Focus on your own shit and stop throwing stones at that man’s dream.

  16. @loverboy… Critical thought is necessary in times of crisis and times are critical! Your emotional response only demonstrates your estrangement to the practice of critical thought. Let me tutor you for a minute, you make the point he didn’t make the movie for me, I counter your point with, then why are his movies posters plastered all over my community. That is an example of reading something processing the information and then countering it. I make the point that, Perry is not a good filmakker just like Souljah boy is not a good rapper, although both have achieved financial success. You counter with, “who are you to tell young black kids not to listen to souljah boy”. Did did I say that young black kids should not listen to Souljah? Or did I say he is not good rapper. Would you llike to counter my point and argue that Souljah boy is a good rapper? Come on hit us with you loverboy swag. This is my point, we have got to get our minds around what’s real. We have got to do things not because they are financially rewarding and look long term at what’s best for our people. And I’m not saying that I alone know what’s best, I am saying that it will take a countless number of us thinking critically to solve the problems that we face. But we have got to start thinking critically as a collective, none of this emotional reflex. We have got to stop accepting art that is counter our best interest, and we have got to stop thinking because we have a keyboard and an internet connection our feelings are just as important as anyone else’s thoughts.

    loverboy I’m sure you will respond but this will be my final entry on the matter. I wish you all the best.

    i wouldn’t allow you to tutor my dog.

  17. @ loveboy sorry that last line was not intended to be posted. I had written it when I myself was in a more reactionary state. As i wrote my response i guess it was pushed off screen and i didn’t see it til it was posted. Again that is not a true representation of your value and I sincerely apologize for my error.

  18. You should moonlight as a fortune teller…times have been critical since Adam and Eve!

    You and your degree will be at some community college teaching film!



  19. @A Will

    Good points! Folks can get carried away in pursuing anything with a black face that the quality of the work is a toss up: good, bad, or Perry’s result. I suppose that’s were imagination comes in (not waiting for the result, but making or influencing the result). Not going to knock Perry’s hustle and may even grab a few moments of this piece. It’s just not my thing in general.

  20. I liked and understood Mr. Powell’s comments. Hopefully Mr. Perry sees this also. I myself would like Mr. Perry, being on the top of the game now bring all the names in Mr. Powell’s comments together.

  21. I am going to see “For Colored Girls” tomorrow. I purposefully waited until after the opening weekend to see it b/c of the mixed reviews that were out even before the movie was done. I have been reading reviews from various film critics, columnists, and by far Kevin Powell has presented the most well-rounded one to date.

    I have appreciated Tyler Perry’s work because it does fill a void in Hollywood. Too often we want to see the struggle of blacks and forget the laughter that sustained us through tough times. Perry’s work has its place in Hollywood and how dare we try to take that away. If his run comes to an end, let it be by any other race except black people too lost in their own aspirations individually that neglect to see the victories for the entire black community.

    Now, from what I can tell so far about the movie “For Colored Girls”, I am in for a cinematic treat that will satisfy my intellect, emotions, and love for the art of acting. As an aspiring actor, I find myself always paying attention to the details that are often neglected by the common movie goer. Filmmakers and actors have the major challenge of artistically interpreting and depicting abstract concepts that are parallel to real-life testimonies. How easy do you think this is? Let me tell you that it is VERY difficult.

    I’ll follow up with post-viewing remarks later. Thank you.

  22. Pingback: For Colored People Who Have Considered Suicide When Tyler Perry Movies Are Not Enuf | The HNIC Report

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