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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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