For Colored Girls and the Demonization of African American Men…

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( I went to see “For Colored Girls,” the exciting new film made by the great Tyler Perry.  I love Tyler’s work, most of the time, and I’ve defended him on multiple occasions when he’s come under attack for the nature of his films.  Spike Lee is one particular Tyler Perry hater that I’ve taken issue with, primarily because I think that Tyler does more good than harm in the industry.

But as much as we love Tyler Perry, all voices must be portrayed when responding to his style of film making.  My own voice became amplified after seeing “For Colored Girls,” primarily because the film made me damn near embarrassed to be a black male.  Let’s go down the list shall we?  The black men in the film consisted of a rapist, a thief, an abuser who murdered his own kids, a pimp, and a brother on the down low.  Now, Hill Harper had the distinct honor of being the knight in shining armor, but he was the only ray of goodness in the terrible rainbow that represents the experience of the black woman in America.

I wonder what I would think if I were a non-black person watching this film to get a sense of what happens in the African American community.  Well, first I’d conclude that most black women are well-balanced, fair and emotionally giving to men who simply don’t deserve it.  I would then think  that a small percentage of black men have the capacity to do good things, but that most of them will steal from you, deceive you, rape you, cheat on you and do all they can to provide irreversible and unthinkable pain to those who love them the most.  I can just hear one of the white women in the theater saying,  “Those poor black women.  Why in the world do they remain loyal to those horrible men?”

Perhaps Tyler needs to make a sequel to his film titled, “For Colored Men.”  In the film, we would portray the millions of black men who do the right things and end up being demonized for not doing the right thing in the right way.  Perhaps we might tell the story of the man who doesn’t want to get married, but is pressured into marriage by a community that will force a man to do something that he knows he can’t do very well.  We can also tell the story about the gay black men who go to a church which tells them that if they pray hard enough, the homosexuality will leave their body like the 24-hour flu.  We can cover conversations where some black women repeatedly state that if a man doesn’t make enough money, he doesn’t deserve to have access to her (as she dates the man with a lot of money who breaks her heart).

We could also tell other stories, like that of the good men who pay extra child support to take care of children who are not their own or those who fight to  make a marriage work with a black woman who refuses to hear that she may also play a role in the breakdown of African American families.  Finally, we can tell the story of the millions of men who may not always behave exactly as women ask them to behave, but are good, caring human beings nonetheless.  The moral of the story would be that black men are human too, and that both genders are inclined to make bad choices.

I admit that I’ve seen “For Colored Girls” in the past in the form of other movies.  The films were called “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Women of Brewster Place.”  In both films, there was one story after another of why black men are responsible for the misery of black women.  Also, there was a gathering (you know, a party or something) in which the women worked through the horrors that the men in their lives had caused them.  Perhaps one day, we can get past the notion that black men have a monopoly on demonization and realize that it might be more complicated than that.  Simplistic plots to tell a complex story just don’t always work.  Tyler, as much as I respect him, can be the master of simplistic plots and characters.

I still love Tyler Perry and I still support his role as a film maker.  But with this latest project, he seems to send a message that his films are for colored girls only.  I look forward to the day where black men have a voice, for we have stories to tell too.

Written By Dr. Boyce Watkins