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Theatre / For Colored Girls

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"Ever since I realized there was someone called a colored girl, or an evil woman, a bitch, or a nag, I've been trying not to be that, and leave bitterness in someone else's cup."
Juanita (Lady in Green)

A 1975 stage play by Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf eventually went on to become one of the most acclaimed works of African-American literature. In 2010, the film version, shortened to its first three words was released. Tyler Perry wrote, directed and produced the film, which stars an All-Star Cast of prominent African-American women.

The play itself is called a "choreopoem", a collection of 20 poems starring seven different women, each referred to by a color. Each woman has a story to tell: from domestic violence, to abortion, and rape. In the end, the seven women come together for "a laying on of hands."

This work features examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Alice from what we can see with her daughters. She holds contempt for Tangie and, from what we can guess, didn't do anything about Tangie being sexually abused by her father, probably even blaming her for it. Apparently, she also sold Tangie (then fifteen) to someone to have children. She's weirdly nicer (in a sense) to Nyla, showing some favoritism.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The movie actually builds more on the characters and their backstories, even naming some of them.
  • The Alcoholic: Rose, the back-alley abortionist, and she was drunk when she performed the procedure.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The play, from what we can assume, takes place in The '70s but we don't know what time period the movie is supposed to take place, since, at the end, Juanita tells Jo that HIV isn't a death sentence, so we can assume that the film takes place somewhere closer to modern time.
  • Anachronism Stew: For some reason, even though the film came out in 2010 and has all the trappings of that era (it's definitely post-1981, since Jo gets HIV), Nyla still goes to an alcoholic Back-Alley Doctor to get an abortion, even though this was legal and could be had safely at a clinic.
  • Asshole Victim: Doubling as Laser-Guided Karma, Bill, Yasmine's rapist, gets murdered for trying to rape another woman.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Rose performs back-alley abortions. Unlike some examples, she seems to be more medically competent with the exception of being drunk.
  • The Beard: Later, we find out that Jo was this to her husband Carl (assuming he wasn't bi) and she was not happy to find that out.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nyla goes away and the women, with their troubles, learn to move on, but Crystal's children are gone, Tangie still has issues, and Jo has HIV.
  • Broken Bird: The entire cast to a degree but this is more so the case with Crystal, who became more despondent and bitter after the deaths of her children.
  • Bungled Suicide: Crystal, after being catatonic, tries to kill herself with pills.
  • But Not Too Black: Alice's father didn't like that she has dark skin, and "gave" her to a white man for light-skinned grandchildren, because that was what is beautiful to him.
  • Canon Foreigner: Gilda and Alice aren't in the original play.
  • Child by Rape: Tangie and Nyla are indicated to be this, since her mother was "given" to a white man, because Alice's father (their grandfather) wanted light-skinned granddaughters, not like their dark-skinned mother.
  • Color Motifs: With the main cast:
    • Jo is red
    • Tangie is orange
    • Crystal is brown
    • Yasmine is yellow
    • Rose is pink
    • Nyla is purple
    • Alice is white
    • Juanita is green
    • Kelly is blue
    • Gilda is black.
  • Date Rape: Yasmine is raped by Bill on their second date, with no warning.
  • Deggans' Rule: The film has an all-black and mostly female cast but race is not the main focus of the story.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Played with, as Kelly is a social worker and is competent at her job but was unable to take away Crystal's children because she had a doctor's appointment (see the Law of Inverse Fertility entry, below). When Crystal's children are killed, Kelly regrets not being able to have them removed for her care. From what we can guess, if she didn't have the appointment, she would have taken them away sooner.
  • Death of a Child: Crystal's two young children are killed by their father because his PTSD-fueled delusions have led him to believe that the children aren't his and that this was the reason why Crystal refuses to marry him. He drops them from the sixth floor of their apartment building. In the play, he kills them because Crystal refuses to marry him.
  • Domestic Abuse: Beau Willie, due to his PTSD (and probably not getting help), is prone to violent outbursts. This is why Crystal refuses to marry him and limits contact with their children. Jo is horrified when she finds out.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The play's title refers to the Color Motifs, as well as the fact that the entire cast is played by women of colour, specifically African-American women.
  • Evil Old Folks: Tangie's grandfather is a devil of a man who forced his daughter into a relationship with an unknown man and sexually abused his granddaughter.
  • Freudian Excuse: We find out in the poem "One" that Tangie was abused by her grandfather, was made to get an abortion, and, when she was fifteen, sold to someone to have children. Later, we find out that Alice was also abused by her father, too.
  • The Fundamentalist: Alice to her two daughters, which stops them (along with her implied mental illness) from having a meaningful relationship with her.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Reluctantly Nyla, after finding out she's pregnant, gets a back-alley abortion and is left traumatized after the event (especially since she was left bleeding). Her mother Alice though tells her that what's in her womb "had to be destroyed". Tangie had one as well, given that she tells her sister where to find said abortionist, Rose, and it was confirmed later that Alice took her to a back-alley abortionist.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The death of Crystal's children in the movie. We see their father release them and the scene fades to white. Later, we see Crystal trying to clean up their blood from the sidewalk.
  • Group Hug: At the end of the movie.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The film is the only aversion in Tyler Perry's entire body of work. Everything else he has written, produced, or directed includes "Tyler Perry's" before the title.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jo, who's aloof, standoffish, and tends to keep to herself but, underneath, she's actually a good person and, as we find out, she did care about her assistant, Crystal, expressing regret that she didn't help her.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Tangie laughs at Nyla after finding out that Alice embarrassed her attempting a crude exorcism on her after her abortion. She does have sympathy for her since she had the same thing happen to her before as well.
    • After the death of Crystal's two children and her failed suicide attempt, Gilda decides that upon her returning to a now-empty apartment was a good time to scold her for not dumping her abusive boyfriend sooner.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Kelly, with her husband, finds out that she can't have children since her fallopian tubes are scarred from an STD. Nyla meanwhile gets pregnant accidentally from having casual sex.
  • Light Is Not Good: Alice, who wears white and plays the role of a religious fanatic.
  • Mixed Ancestry is Attractive: Nyla and Tangie are both mixed race, with a White father and Black mother. Their grandfather arranged this, since he considered lighter skin more beautiful.
  • No Bisexuals: Jo believes Carl is gay after learning he's slept with men, which he denies. Neither of them brings the idea he might be bisexual up, and she seems convinced that he's just in denial. It's never made clear what his sexual orientation is, since Carl says he likes to have sex with men but only casually and doesn't consider it gay since they don't get involved further.
  • No Name Given: In the original play, the women are mostly referred to by their Color Motifs (with the exceptions of Crystal and Sechitaa).
  • Promiscuity After Rape: Tangie is rather promiscuous and was even mistaken for a prostitute. We find out later that some of this might be from her being sexually abused by her grandfather.
  • Rape as Backstory: Tangie was sexually abused by her grandfather. We also find out that Alice, her mother, was abused by her father, too, in the same way. It's also indicated that she had little or no choice in having sex with Nyla and Tangie's father.
  • Rape as Drama: Yasmine is raped on her second date.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Beautiful opera music to the violent rape scene.
  • Suicide by Pills: Crystal, after being catatonic, tries to kill herself with pills.