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Category: Art and Entertainment

For Colored Girls: A Mixed Bag for Race & Gender in Hollywood

November 12, 2010

What’s the difference between a movie about women of color and a feminist film?  Tyler Perry should be commended for casting some of the best and most important actresses of our time in For Colored Girls and for spreading awareness of issues like sexual abuse, domestic violence, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections. However, as both Courtney Young and Salamishah Tillet astutely point out in two recent opinion pieces, Perry’s films, and particularly this film, reproduce damaging stereotypes about black women in America. However, we'd be remiss to neglect that fact that the film does create a new dialogue about race and gender in mainstream media that deserves merit as well.

Young has been a critic of Perry's for his conservative gender politics, writing that Perry’s representations of black women propose “an agenda that reinforces rather than revolutionizes the marginalized way that black womanhood has been portrayed in popular culture.”  Tillet elaborates that while Nztozake Shange’s choreopoem celebrated female sexuality, connection, dance, and consciousness-raising, Perry’s film replaces “sexual autonomy with moral approbation, substituting female resistance with victim blaming.”

In some ways, the film is ground breaking. It features powerful stories about black women’s struggles and relationships in a medium that will reach millions of viewers. Unfortunately, spreading awareness with stereotypes is simultaneously damaging and dangerous. Hopefully, in the future, Tyler Perry will use his power as the most influential black male producer in Hollywood to create more complex images that celebrate all interpretations about what it means to be a black woman in America.