Tyler Perry Goes High Brow

Two perspectives on the news that Tyler Perry is doing For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuff. From Latoya Peterson:

It's a complex, nuanced piece, and seeing Tyler Perry getting a writing credit gives me serious pause.

Directing? Fine.

Producing? Cool.

But writing and adapting it? From someone who writes flat, two-dimensional woman characters in all of his work? Even under the best of circumstances, I would be skeptical of a black man tackling a project like this. To bring Shange's vision to light would take an understanding of why this work of art is so deeply intertwined with black women's articulation of their own struggles under racist, patriarchal oppression - something that unfortunately, many still deny to this day. Black women's voices are often lost in discussions of race (because all the blacks are men) and discussions of gender (because all women are white) and Ntozake Shange was beyond brave to put down all of these ideas and present them for public consumption even in the face of heavy criticism from black men when the play was released.

From Alyssa Rosenberg:

This seems like an obvious project for which Perry could recruit talented African-American female writers and directors, throw a lot of commercial weight behind the project, and prove not only that he can make commercially successful movies but that he can help other people make commercially successful movies. It's not like there are no options out there. Perry could have tapped Kasi Lemmons, or Gina Prince-Bythewood, or Angela Robinson, to name just a couple of options. Perry could, by helping any one of those women make and market a terrific project, give them an enormous career boost.

But he's not going to do it. And since he launched 34th Street Films, an arm of Tyler Perry Studios meant explicitly to promote the work of other filmmakers, almost exactly a year ago, IMDb lists just three projects the studio has under development: For Colored Girls..., Hot Tub Time Machine, a dudely comedy with some high-profile white stars written and directed by four men, and Georgia Sky. (He probably also deserves some credit for helping to produce Precious, which looks like it could be absolutely extraordinary.) It's the company's first year, and maybe things will be different. But until Perry turns over a high-profile project that he could do, but could be better done by another writer or director, to someone else, I'm not really going to believe that he's interested in developing the work of other directors.

Colored Girls is an important play, and holds a special place in the hearts of lot of black women. Along with "Still I Rise," "Phenomenal Woman," and Nina Simone's Four Women, it forms a kind of hood canon for black girls. It seemed especially appropriate during the 80s when fools would openly say things like "Sexy young ladies of the light skin breed..." What I wonder is how you adapt it for this era. It's not that those issues have dissappeared, but things have changed. Despite Alyssa's skepticism, I hope Perry taps someone who can see that.