The Role of Black Women in the Color Purple
The movie that I am writing about in this essay is ‘The Color Purple’. The Color Purple is a historical drama fiction film and was directed by Stephen Spielberg. The Color Purple was released in December of 1985. The cinematographer for this film is Allen Daviau. Daviau is known for his cinematography work on films such as Bugsy, E.T., Avalon, and Empire of the Son. The major actors in this film include Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Danny Glover as Albert Johnson, or ‘Mister’, Oprah Winfrey as Ms. Sophia, and Margaret Avery as Shug Avery.
The Color Purple is a story that passes over forty years of Celie’s life. Celie is an African American woman who lives in Rural Georgia and who overcomes a great deal of abuse and unfairness. After Celie’s abusive father sends her off to be married to Mister, a man that is just as vulgar and abusive as he is, her life seems to get worse than before. At this point, Celie tries to find love, care, and/or compassion anywhere she can. After years of oppression, depression, and various amounts of abuse Celie continued to hold on to her dreams of reuniting with her sister and her children. During the film (from the beginning of the film to the end) Celie writes letters to God as a cry out for help. She is lost in a whirlwind of circumstances from being forced into marriage, to having her children (she was had children by who she thought was her father), to losing her mother, losing her sister, and a host of other misfortunes that transpired in her life. The Color Purple is a film that tells the life of a little black girl named Celie Harris who turns into an adult woman named Celie Harris-Johnson who has suffered from many misfortunes that African American women and or African Americans, in general, suffered from during the early through the mid-1900s.
At the beginning of Celie, she tends to be emotionally dead but is alive in the physical sense. She feels like she has such terrible life that she is not stopping to smell the roses of life but that she is merely surviving. She had no sense of what the color purple meant until she came across Shug Avery and Ms. Sophia who helped her along the way, helped her stand up for herself, and also helped her understand the color purple even though she was going through her own storm. It is said that the color purple symbolizes all of the good things that the world can offer and that the man above designed them all men and women to enjoy. At the very beginning to the middle of the movie you could say that Celie has no sense of self-worth nor had no idea what the color purple stood for.
One of the scenes that caught my attention was the shaving scene. This is the scene where Celie and Shug Avery find a letter written by Celie’s sister starts that Mister had hidden for many years. Celie was in the field reading one of the letters from her sister about how she was in Africa with her (Celie’s) children and in that part of the letter, Celie starts to daydream about how Africa was and their traditions. As Celie gets into the letter Mister comes along and slaps her and tells her to come and shave his face. As Celie prepares to shave Mister there were minimal sounds, just some sound of her feet scraping the porch along with Mister’s rants and slander towards her. Although Mister’s voice is very loud it was drowned out by the scrapping of Celie’s shoes. In this scene, the close up of Celie’s face showed that she was angry and seemed to want to take revenge.
In this scene, drums start to play as Celie starts to sharpen the knife and it switches to her sister and her children in Africa. While the people of the small village gather around for two children to get their faces pierced as a sign as them becoming an adult (what seemed to be an African ritual). At this point, the film switched to parallel editing showing similarities between Celie and Mister and the two children in Africa. While the villagers are singing and doing chants this gets the audience on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next. While Celie is instructing Mister to hold his head back the screen switches to the audience seeing the children in Africa holding their heads back then it switches back to Mister while he starts to hold his head back. The leader of the village then takes a knife and slit the little boy’s face and a bit of blood starts to fall down his cheek. Now because parallel editing is used in this scene it switches back to Mister as he looked scared and shocked while the audience is left to believe that Celie slit his throat but is surprised to see that Shug Avery intercepted Celie.
In this mise-en-scene Mister grabs his neck, realizing at that very moment that he could have lost his life. At this point, the sky looks very dark and gloomy like a storm is coming. The scene ends with the use of The mise-en-scene also suddenly switches to being very dark with the sky looking as if it is about to rain or that the sun has suddenly gone down while Mister grabs at his kneck realizing the fate that might have befallen him. At the end of this scene, chiaroscuro was used. (a technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects) Shug Avery’s silhouette is shown while Celie’s face is shown which signifies that she is no longer lurking in Shug Avery’s shadow.
Most of the black men in this film play a very aggressive character and their primary role in the film is to dominate the women. Not only are they very violent and abusive they also tend to have a very nonchalant attitude towards the feelings of the women. In this film the men are not only abusive to the women, they tend to break the women down to the extent to make them feel worthless as they live in fear of the men. However, all of these things subside once these women start to love themselves more and more. The most astonishing part of the movie is when Celie decides to leave Mister and becomes her own woman and is able to be free and not live in fear any longer. Once she had done that the pieces of her life started coming back together. I feel as if this move has a few suspense parts in it as well which makes it more of a drama movie. I say that because at the end of the film Celie reunites with her sister after forty years and her children to which were taken from her the moment she gave birth. Not to mention Celie’s sister and children living in Africa. So, for her to go through all of the trials and tribulations she suffered for over forty years and persevered, in the end, is a great accomplishment.
Watching this movie has taught me that I can overcome anything in life whether it is good or bad. I can relate to some of the things that Celie went through throughout her life. Me being an African American female I understand the struggles, from all sides of the fence, not just the race issues. Fortunately, I did not endure slavery however, I do experience male dominance and racism from time to time. I fully understand this movie and what message they were trying to send. I think that this movie sends out a powerful message especially to black women. Racism and/or discrimination dated back to the early 1800 and possibly before then. For centuries It was endemic in the United States.
In this movie racism, male dominance is evident and shows that black women can overcome anything that life throws their way. Take Sophia for example. When Sophia was first introduced in the film she showed the audience that she was not one to play with and she spoke her mind. Sofia as a rebel and she did not take any crap from anyone no matter who they were, black, white, male, or female. As a black woman in the South in the during the late 1920s and early 1930s, she is expected to remain subservient to whites no matter what the situation was, and as the wife, to a black man she was to be obedient to her husband and bow down to whatever he said or she would get beaten. Well, Sophia did not and was not going to live her life like that. During one scene in the film, Sophia and Celie were in the cornfield and Sophia expressed to Celie how she felt and advised Celie on what she should do to get out of the situation that she was in.
Sophia was not the type to be dominated or excepted that kind of behavior. In another scene in the movie Sophia object to the mayor’s wife ‘Miss Millie’s ‘ advances to be her maid. When Sophia stated how she felt about that she was yelled at by an all-white crowd then was struck by a sheriff and when Sophia tried to defend herself she was beaten by the officer and was sent to jail for six years. When she was finally released she was forced to be Miss Millie’s maid anyway. With this happening to her she feels as if her strength and dignity had been taken from her, however, she never gives up hope. In the end, all Sophia wanted was love, a partner, and not a master.
I have never really analyzed a movie before especially in this manner. I never knew what a mise-en-scene until now, to be honest, I never heard of it until this course. Now when I watch movies I look for the little things that I never paid attention to before like the lighting in the film. I question whether it is high-key or low-key light and what would have been a better choice for the cinematographer to use although I know I do not have the qualifications to make such a judgment. In this class, I also learned how to write an essay. Although I am not perfect at it I am working on it.
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