The retelling of “The Color Purple,” due to hit theaters on Christmas Day, will either put fresh bruises on our collective psyche or add new shades of understanding to the Black experience, depending on your perspective.

Recognizing this, Denise TrimbleSmith, founder and owner of Courageous Conversations, brought to a live audience her Phoenix-based podcast that explores the intersections of challenging topics — sexuality in popular Black music or the LGBTQ community in the Black Christian church, for example — with an advanced screening of the new film at Look Cinemas in Chandler.

“What I would like the audience to take away from the event is sometimes being together supersedes entertainment,” TrimbleSmith said.

“It’s important for us to be in community. It’s also important for us to have representation. We may have differences of thought and different ways of coming to our own conclusions, but the fact that we were together in the same room … I think that was just so important.

“The movie has so many different things to think about, but at the end of the day, it should evoke an emotion. It’s important for us to discuss what those emotions were in order to help process them.”

“The Color Purple” started as a 1982 novel by Alice Walker. It’s since been adapted into a 1985 film and an early 2000s Broadway musical.

The new film follows the life of a Black woman whose father takes her newborn children then sells her into an abusive marriage.

The horrors she faces would be enough to break anyone, and the dramatic tension centers on how much she can take and whether she’ll survive long enough to have any moments of joy or triumph.

It’s gritty, emotional and raw.

Yet for me, Black trauma is not, nor should it ever be, entertainment.

I’m so sick of stories of oppression that I’ve started telling people that slavery never happened. That’s it’s nothing but a hoax designed to trick Black people into thinking that they’re inferior — otherwise, we’d all fly like Michael Jordan and LeBron James in whatever arena we decide to pursue.

It’s an overcorrection, of course.

Black people are all things. Scholars. Explorers. Business tycoons. Scoundrels. Victims. Perpetrators. You name it.

And my perspective on films like “The Color Purple” is just one of many.

“The reason why movies like this are important is that many of us who are products of the Arizona school system don’t accurately get taught our history,” said Ashlea Taylor-Barber, a therapist and owner Favor and Grace Under Fire Therapy and Consulting, who was a panelist in a discussion about the film after the screening.

“The reason why these movies are a good idea to watch, even though they’re traumatizing … is they’re a visual manifestation of what some of us have read in books. You can’t always understand your history unless you get to hear it and see it. How many of us could fully understand what it was like to be a Black woman back in this time before seeing this movie?”

Podcaster and author Jemele Hill took that further in a recent phone conversation. Her show, “Unbothered,” provides a range of opinions on news, pop culture and sports from the perspective of a Black woman who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her opinion.

“We’re so traumatized by how we’ve been presented to that world that we’re extraordinarily sensitive to how that happens,” she said. “But there’s more balance than you think. It’s not enough, but it’s more than I think we realize.

“Clearly, ‘The Color Purple’ … was going to get a push from Hollywood, but you know what’s also getting a push? ‘Candy Cane Lane.’ ”

Hill, who’s working on a new children’s book that helps teach some of the lessons she explores in her memoir, “Uphill,” makes a good point, and I’m adding the above-mentioned Eddie Murphy Christmas comedy to my list of things to watch.

But the effects of racism are pervasive, and triggers pop up constantly for many of us.

Why not just ignore racism in entertainment? Why not just ignore racism altogether? What if we just act like it didn’t exist?

“I wish it were possible, because I would have done that a long time ago,” Hill said. “If that were realistically a solution, I would be 100 percent on board with that.

“It would be the fastest way to solve a multigenerational, historic problem that you’ve ever seen in life, but that’s just not reality. We can’t ignore the trauma.”

In other words, you’ve got to go through it to get to it.

And “The Color Purple” took the audience in Chandler through it all. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. Joy. Elation.

As it should have.

“‘The Color Purple’ is one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written,” Hill said.

She also notes that this time Oprah Winfrey was an executive producer, not an actress as she was in the 1985 Hollywood adaption.

Back then, there was an early version of the cultural appropriation debate, since Stephen Spielberg was a driving force behind the movie. This time around, in addition to Winfrey, there’s a Black director, Blitz Bazawule.

How Black NBA stars' fashion:Inspires other African Americans

“This is an opportunity to have part of our story told from our perspective,” Hill said.

“We’re in a time where we have the opportunity to own these stories in a much different way than we’ve owned them before.

“I don’t have a problem, even if it’s traumatic, of us centering the stories more around ourselves as opposed to how they’ve traditionally been centered.”

Still, an hour into the movie, much of the audience was in tears, myself included.

For me, part of the pain was coming from the screen, but a lot of it was from the crowd. It hurt to see so many people hurting.

I just wanted a science-fiction flick with a Black cast or a romantic comedy with a Black cast or a sports movie with a Black cast that didn’t involve baseball’s color barrier or a white savior.

“We always have to strive for balance,” Hill said. “I think the best way we can create that balance is by sending the message with our eyeballs. If we support the varieties of the types of movies we’d like to see, then I guarantee you that will show up.”

Fair.

Looks like “The Color Purple” will either leave fresh bruises or open up new shades of understanding, depending on your perspective.

We just have to be courageous enough to have the conversations, as Denise TrimbleSmith might say.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @SayingMoore.

QOSHE - What if 'The Color Purple' reboot exploits Black trauma? - Greg Moore
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

What if 'The Color Purple' reboot exploits Black trauma?

30 1
20.12.2023

The retelling of “The Color Purple,” due to hit theaters on Christmas Day, will either put fresh bruises on our collective psyche or add new shades of understanding to the Black experience, depending on your perspective.

Recognizing this, Denise TrimbleSmith, founder and owner of Courageous Conversations, brought to a live audience her Phoenix-based podcast that explores the intersections of challenging topics — sexuality in popular Black music or the LGBTQ community in the Black Christian church, for example — with an advanced screening of the new film at Look Cinemas in Chandler.

“What I would like the audience to take away from the event is sometimes being together supersedes entertainment,” TrimbleSmith said.

“It’s important for us to be in community. It’s also important for us to have representation. We may have differences of thought and different ways of coming to our own conclusions, but the fact that we were together in the same room … I think that was just so important.

“The movie has so many different things to think about, but at the end of the day, it should evoke an emotion. It’s important for us to discuss what those emotions were in order to help process them.”

“The Color Purple” started as a 1982 novel by Alice Walker. It’s since been adapted into a 1985 film and an early 2000s Broadway musical.

The new film follows the life of a Black woman whose father takes her newborn children then sells her into an abusive marriage.

The horrors she faces would be enough to break anyone, and the dramatic tension centers on how much she can take and whether she’ll survive long enough to have any moments of joy or........

© Arizona Republic


Get it on Google Play