The Color Purple; A Review
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
How do you like the purple color? How do you feel towards purple things? Well, let’s dig deeper and see what this hue signifies.
The Color Purple is a 1985 coming-of-age movie directed by Steven Spielberg. It was an adaptation of a Pulitzer prize-winning novel in 1982. It starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie and her triumph over oppression in order to find fulfillment and independence. The movie received critical acclaims and nominations.
The Story: Settings and Plot
Celie ( Whoopie Goldberg) is an African-American who is constantly abused by his father, Alphonso. At 14, she has lost two children because of her father’s doing. She was given away to be a wife to Mister, a widowed single father. Celie was subjected to constant domestic abuse from her husband and stepchildren. Her sister Nettie ran away from home but while seeking refuge, was almost sexually abused by Mister, thus, they were forcefully separated. She promised to write to her.
Years later, Harpo, the eldest of Mister’s children, got married to a strongwilled defiant Sofia. Harpo wanted to get the upper hand. Celie, jealous of Sofia’s defiance, advised him to beat her. Sofia fought back and confronted Celie about her advice. She revealed her story of abuse that led her to fight back in order to survive. She advised Celie to do the same to Mister. She left and took her children away when Harpo didn’t change.
Sofia was sent to jail when she struck the mayor’s wife in public when insulted by her. After few years in jail, with an injured eye and leg, was immediately ordered to be the maid of the mayor’s wife.
On the other hand, Mister and Harpo brought home a sick Shug Avery, a showgirl and Mister’s mistress for many years. While initially called ugly by the showgirl, Celie developed a fondness for her and nursed her to health. She was amazed at how strong a woman Shug is. They formed a friendship, Shug singing a song for her at Harpo’s newly-built bar and when Shug was about to leave for Memphis, Celie tried to pack her things to follow her but was caught by Mister.
Later, Shug went back to Celie’s house with her new husband, Grady. Unintentionally, Shug received a letter from Celie’s sister Nettie. While Mister and Grady were drinking, they searched the whole house and found that Mister has been hiding letters from Nettie. She found out that Nettie was reunited with her two lost children and they are now living in Africa. Engrossed in reading the letters, Celie was caught by Mister and hit her. She tried to kill him but Shug was able to stop her.
At dinner, Celie finally spoke up and decided to go with Shug, along with Harpo’s new wife, Squeak. Mister insulted her but Celie cursed her that unless he does something good for her, everything he’ll think and do shall fail. Celie created a successful business selling tailored pants in Memphis.
Harpo made peace with Sofia. Shug still performs at Harpo’s bar. Celie learned that their father was not their biological father, according to Nettie’s letters. Upon his death, Celie and Nettie inherited the home and shop run by their father. Shug also reunited with his father, who happened to be a preacher, and disapproved of her being a showgirl.
Mister, left alone by his family, received a letter addressed to Celie. Using his secret stash of money, he arranged for Nettie and her husband, and Celie’s children’s return to the US from Africa. The sisters were reunited and the children knew of their mother for the first time.
Theme, Conflicts, and Symbols
The movie in an array of issues such as racism, gender inequality, and abuse even the taboos like pedophilia and incest. They were intricately woven into the story and didn’t focus only on one. It was realistically represented, but at times too stereotypical but painfully honest. The White American’s dominance over the Black American’s mirrors the plights of the ‘colored’ people in the West up to the present.
The color purple was a symbolism of everything good that God created in order for humans to enjoy, just like the flowers in the field according to Shug. In the beginning, Celie had no sense of purple in her life due to the constant oppression. As for her words, her favorite color is purple because it’s almost black. That’s how she saw the world, the beauty is before her eyes but it doesn’t manifest in her life at first. The color represented various things all throughout the movie; sufferings, sadness, and eventually, triumph. Celie finally decorated her own room purple and red, two bold colors that signify her newly-found strength and self-worth.
In modern society, purple is the color of feminism and royalty. Despite the seemingly dark hue lies strength and independence.
Celie’s choice of business is also a manifestation of her transformation. Pants were originally made and worn for men but she gave people choices and make them one-size-fits-all, which symbolizes equality.
And third, Shug helped Celie restore her faith in God. Shug showed the beauty that she thinks God wanted all to see and enjoy.
Shug represented a lot of us, the sinners as society said. She was constantly seeking her father’s approval. She’s tagged as a loose woman with no morals for constantly being with men and using her body to please them. But when she led the people in the bar to the church while singing and delivered a powerful message; “Sinners have souls, too”, it was a picture of forgiveness and redemption.
The movie contained explicit language and some triggering scenes such as violence and sexuality so it should be watched with proper discretion.
We are in a society where we are still judged according to skin color, gender, and economic status.
Gender-equality movements are everywhere, but this male-dominated society seems to be so slow to accept it. Women have fought and are still fighting for the rightful place in the world and if truth be told, it will take a long time before this battle ends.
Domestic violence is still prevalent. Back when women are economically dependent on men, it was worse. So many cases of violence against women and children are left unreported for various reasons and it has become so normal to some people to even think it shouldn’t be the norm. It is sad that oppression often starts at home, from family and relatives that are supposed to be our support system and refuge.
However, the biggest maltreatment must be the deprivation of education and robbing women’s self-worth, encapsulating them in the so-called marriage and family, and telling them that it’s the only thing they are worth doing is submitting themselves and tending to someone else. That’s how they could be useful to society and be accepted. And worse, this kind of abuse has been normalized.
Indeed, reality is much more terrible than fiction for if we only look around us, the issues addressed in the movie are very much present until now.
But just like Nettie’s letters to Celie, no matter how heavy our burdens may be, we have those little things that we can hold on to. There are silver linings to even the darkest clouds. Just like the flower fields, we need to enjoy these little things and appreciate what we have. And most especially, regardless of gender, we need to look into ourselves and realize our own strength and importance and learn to love ourselves. Then and only then that we can have the courage to stand up and find our rightful place in the world.