Tag Archives: For Colored Girls

You choose — triggering, tokenism or erasure

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I asked my blogging friends to weigh in on a question that is only a little facetious: In your consumption of media, which is better–to be triggered, to be a token or to be erased?

Let me explain.

During the hiatus of HBO’s True Blood, Renee, Paul and I have been exploring other representations of the urban fantasy genre–from book series to the teen angsty CW show Vampire Diaries. In doing so, we have confirmed what we already suspected: That is that the genre is notoriously bad at characterizations that are not of the white, straight, male variety. (Making it much like, y’know, every other genre.)

One sentiment that has come up again and again–mostly after suffering some appalling portrayal of people of color or the GLBT community in some book–is “Y’know, I’d rather [insert author’s name here] would just quit writing about [insert marginalized group here].”

For me, this frustration is usually borne of being othered and disrespected, when I simply aimed to be entertained by a trashy novel or TV show. I dipped into Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series, hoping to enjoy the books as I enjoy the TV series based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Instead, I got a bunch of thinly-written, triggering stories where all women (but the protagonist) are routinely judged harshly and women like me (black women) are alternately sassy or angry or dead or running from the law, and blackness or Jewishness or gayness or any other “ness” that is not small-town and conservative and Southern and Anglo and Christian is to be frowned at or remarked upon or, best, hidden. And so, instead of enjoying a cozy mystery in my downtime, I wound up feeling uncomfortable and marginalized.

It is times like these when I find myself thinking that it would have been better if black women were absent from the narrative altogether. Sometimes there is comfort in erasure. I mean, even a blandly-drawn token black character, like Bonnie on Vampire Diaries, can be intrusive to my experience. Because I look at her presence in a show that genuflects to the antebellum South and plantation-owning families, while at the same time not mentioning the black community that must still exist in the town, and suspect she is a black-culture-free cypher added simply to be inclusive.

When I, a black woman, am consuming media created by mostly non-black writers, dealing with erasure is sometimes easier that dealing with how a book or film or TV show reflects the dominant culture’s biased views about me.

Media, at its best, is a powerful tool that can change the way groups are perceived by the masses. But media is too rarely at its best. So…

Are bad, biased or token portrayals better than no portrayal at all?

Continue reading

Quentin Tarantino Presents For Colored Girls: Or the Myths Behind the Box Office Defense of Tyler Perry’s Adaptation

by Guest Contributor Sofía Quintero


Lately I find myself wondering what might have been Quentin Tarantino’s approach to cinematizing Ntozake Shange’s seminal choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

Once he had gotten over the initial shock of being offered the job, I can imagine Tarantino signing up for the challenge.   Known for penning screenplays driven by crisp dialogue and characters with quirky names (Reservoir Dogs, anyone?), he could have found an immediate albeit superficial connection with the source material. Since Tarantino is also an aficionado of Black cinema circa the time of the play’s original production, I’d bet he would have pursued a gritty 70s aesthetic and forgone imposing contemporary settings and storylines. And let’s face it – since the race and gender politics of his films are usually a muddle of contradictions, he might not have done any worse than Tyler Perry with regard to Black representation.

I mean, if the job of adapting For Colored Girls was not going to an African American woman, might as well as given Quentin Tarantino a shot at it.

Or Martin Scorcese. Or Steven Spielberg. Or Christopher Nolan.

You’re kidding, right?

Yes and no. 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. Continue reading

Scattered Thoughts on Tyler Perry

by Latoya Peterson

Bringing up Tyler Perry tends to complicate conversations.  He is a polarizing figure, represented by his work, an entrepreneur who provides work for black actors often passed over by the Hollywood machine, yet who trades in what some would call limiting representations of blackness and/or stereotypes.  He is often touted as proof that blacks can achieve success outside of the mainstream, and yet speaking with those who have worked for him in below the line positions casts doubt that Perry is dedicated to anything outside of making (and keeping) money.

Still, as Tyler Perry keeps making headlines, we continue to wade through these conversations, which involve his work but are really conversations about race, class, and gender.

A couple of weeks ago, while guesting over at Jezebel, I was asked to write a piece on Tyler Perry being tapped to write, direct, and produce a film based on Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf.”

I was immediately skeptical.

Continue reading