Wednesday’s Woman: Celebrating Tyler Perry
Every Wednesday, I like to find a woman to celebrate; a woman who has accomplished great feats in life, and of whom society has lost sight. Tyler Perry is no woman, but since he has debuted in the movies and in sitcoms, his voice, a masculine voice, uses media to represent the black female experience and voice in our country. For Colored Girls is an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1974 play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, and although there have been mixed reviews about his poetic licence in updating the language and events to the present, he did a fantastic job in presenting the plight of black women in our society. That takes courage and selflessness. Perry uses his talent for good, representing the silenced voices of women who don’t really get a fair shake in love, in marriage, in society, or in politics. From Diary of a Black Woman to the Madea series, he focuses on struggling, silenced, and oppressed women who need to empower themselves and their voices. And they do. They find themselves, outside of the men that destroy them, digging out of the drudgery of their existence to find the strong, capable, and vociferous women who had lain beneath the surface in fear and shame.
For Colored Girls was dramatic, hard, laden with emotion and cruelty, but it’s all real. Janet Jackson’s character is one of the nine women portrayed in this tale of feminine hardships, and the following line encapsulates the female experience and the tragedies that unfold. “I loved you on purpose,” she tells her husband, her back turned to him as he confesses his betrayal. And this is the problem with all the female characters in the movie: they chose the men they loved on purpose; they loved them on purpose — deliberately, knowingly, and without judgement. But this limitless kind of love led to their suffering, for they loved men that cheated on them, beat them, raped them, used them for sex, got them pregnant, molested them, and even murdered their children. Each woman in the story trusts, loves, and is patient with a man, even though he continually fails to handle her with love and care. She is taken advantage of, she is tricked, she is betrayed, and then she is left alone to shoulder the weight of his abuse and neglect. These women weep, fall to their knees in shame and self-loathing, but in the end, they rely on one another for human acceptance, kindness, and understanding, since they have all endured similar plights with the men they chose to love. The lessons are valuable: all women are responsible for choosing the men they align their lives with. As much as the men are to blame for their offenses, women have to hold themselves accountable for choosing them. The closing scene offers nine women leaning on one another, cradling one another, in a healing process, talking about all the “sorry’s” they have heard that don’t amount to much in the end.
Some critics say that Tyler Perry’s adaptation is melodramatic, but how can it not be? The abuses women suffer at the hands of their loved ones is dramatic — rape, infanticide, abuse, betrayal — those are all dramatic conflicts that women must contend with. They are the world’s victims — and yet they rise and find strength despite their circumstances. Tyler Perry gets my vote as a fantastic artist who brings to light the African-American experience, and most importantly, gives voice to the silenced voices and experiences of Black American women.