The old stuff is race, which, in this post-Dr. King age f a perfectly integrated society, where indeed a Negro can marry his white boss's daughter, is not only unworthy f any trenchant discussion, but scarcely worthy f notice. Blacks have long ceased to be exotic or exciting or even interesting, largely because it has been determined by an act f cultural fiat that, except as nostalgic objects f some historical past, they no longer exist. Dr. Kelly Miller predicted back in 1925 in the New York Amsterdam News that the Negro race would die out, and I guess in the 1980s we can hear, to use an old black folk phrase, "the death bell toning. "So, it is a perfect age to make a movie about race when one is no longer confronted with the question which side are you on And racism is something that occurred long ago and far away.
Feminism, though, is something quite lively and intriguing for Hollywood and it has been pursued by the filmmakers out there with all the naive gracelessness and enervating bathos that will eventually cease to make it an object f real thought but rather a shrewd diversion from thought itself. Feminism becomes for us through our films not even something remotely identifiable with a "social problem" but the mere cause for shocks and quakes to the nervous system, something to keep us from being bored that will become a part f the collected fund f contemporary boredom. I sometimes think the sole purpose f the film The Color Purple is simply to stave off boredom with, ironically but not unexpectedly, all the elements f boredom. (Selzer 1995)
There has been in recent weeks a good deal f teeth gnashing and hand wrenching in some quarters f the black community over the film, Hollywood's latest treatment, among other things, f Afro-American life. One might almost be happy that this decidedly inept film had been made if the ensuing debate in the black community about the meaning f the depiction f black men and black women in American popular culture would produce anything like critical clarity. It will not. So black folk will simply experience another round f murderous name calling and posturing, the sort f emotionalism that passes for constructive argument in the black community, a place where many people still innocently think that mere outrage over insults means something in this world.
The Color Purple is one f such a long line f inept Hollywood films about black life--a cultural enterprise that started with King Vidor's Hallelujah in 1929--that this sort f thing has become a cherished tradition. (Cummings 2005) The Color Purple is a very bad film, so undeniably bad that one wonders how Steven Spielberg--its director--ever acquired any sort f reputation as a competent artist. (I suppose it is, finally, its utter mediocrity that makes The Color Purple such an outstanding