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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

For Colored Girls

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

A good man is hard to find in writer-director Tyler Perry's ensemble drama "For Colored Girls" (Lionsgate).

As well as allowing for only one positive male character in an unusually large cast, the misguided feminist values underlying his script also take for granted behavior quite at odds with Judeo-Christian sexual ethics, and hold out, as the sole source of hope for a series of embattled characters, the discovery of the "God-within-myself" and female solidarity.

This screen version of Ntozake Shange's 1974 play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf," shuttles among the lives of nine New York-based African-American women to present a downbeat exploration of the personal effects of numerous societal ills. The dialogue is studded with verbally impressive, but sometimes dramatically distancing, poetic set pieces.

The most prominent characters are successful but emotionally isolated business executive Joanna (Janet Jackson), Joanna's harried assistant Crystal (Kimberly Elise), and lovelorn nurse Juanita (Loretta Devine). The personal lives of all three are in disarray because of the various problems—ranging from unfaithfulness to alcoholism—of the men in their lives. They're portrayed, respectively, by Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy and Richard Lawson.

As various characters endure rape, abuse and betrayal, Crystal's repeated refusal to marry the father of her two children, with whom she cohabits, is presented as a wise precaution, given that he is an unemployed war vet in the throes of emotional turmoil and excessive drinking.

The middle course of not marrying, but also not living with him, never seems to occur to Crystal, despite the fact that his compulsive boozing frequently leads to violent attacks against both her and their children.

In between wrestling with the infidelities of her on-again, off-again live-in boyfriend, Devine's character establishes a women's health clinic in her Harlem neighborhood in New York. There, she is shown cheerfully recommending—and dispensing—that panacea of contemporary society, the condom.

Plot developments for other characters lead to a back-alley abortion and an extended discussion of a deeply concealed homosexual lifestyle.

The former is so harrowing that, while some viewers may interpret it as an implied argument for the current legalized status of this profoundly immoral practice, others may legitimately interpret it as reckoning on the horrific cost involved in any abortion, legal or otherwise. As for the closeted character, his behavior is presented as a profoundly disloyal deception, not as anything resembling liberation.

But—along with the actions the script does explicitly endorse—the skewed theology that leads to the climactic declaration: "I felt God in myself, and I loved her fiercely," is more consistent with the tenets of the New Age movement than with those of revealed religion.

The film contains a graphic rape, a scene of abortion, nonexplicit nonmarital sexual activity, fleeting rear and obscured full male nudity, incest, sex abuse and homosexuality themes, about a dozen rough terms, frequent crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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