Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Too Comedic?

4 Comments

Until today, I had never seen any part of the film adaption for The Color Purple.  After watching about an hour of the movie, I found myself being put-off at times.  I think my uneasiness stemmed from the comedic tone the movie seemed to have.  I was definitely shocked by how much the class (myself included) laughed during the film, especially because I did not find myself frequently laughing while reading the book.  I am aware that reading a book and watching a movie are usually always two completely different experiences.  That is, situations are sometimes not acted out the way that you envisioned them in your mind when you read the book.  Reconciling these two differences is what I seem to have trouble with.  For example, I am a bit displeased about the portrayal of Mr. _______.  From watching the first half of the film, I could see that he had a bit of a temper.  However, his temper seemed to be overshadowed by the fact that he acts foolish (e.g., when he’s cooking) and neurotic (e.g., when he’s getting dressed-up). During the first half of the book there were a lot of moments that I felt very apprehensive when Mr. ______ was mentioned, so I found it odd that in the movie adaptation all I see him as is a means for a bit of comic relief (similar to Harpo).

The only times that I felt some of the same feelings I experienced while reading the book was when we get the shot of Celie lying on the bed while Mr.­­­­_______ ‘did his business’ and when Celie openly stated that he hits her because she’s not Shug.  Although we were given these moments, I couldn’t forget that he behaves like a fool, which created these really odd impression of him.  Therefore, I wonder if I am the only one who feels this disconnect between the movie and the book.  Furthermore, I would argue that maybe this movie was accessible to the mainstream audience because of the comic relief presented throughout the scenes.  I will admit that I believe you need to find ways to safely talk about issues such as domestics violence and racism because such topic are considered to be sensitive material that immediately causes most people become closed-off.  However, I think the comedic tone present in the film takes away from some of the seriousness of the issues being presented.  I am not saying that the film needs to be all somber with no laughter.  After all, the book, without being overly comedic, did a great job at showing that things can work out even if you have shitty things happen to you.  I am aware that many scenes were added to the film (e.g., Harpo discussing his injuries with his father), but this makes me wonder all the more if these comedic scenes change the depth to which the audience engages with the message and issues presented in the movie versus people who have read the book.  I am interested in seeing how the rest of the film progresses come class on Monday.

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4 thoughts on “Too Comedic?

  1. I was surprised with the humor too- I think Harpo falling through the roof for the THIRD time did it. A little too much comic relief- the kind you can smell and say “ah, I am being manipulated!” And yet it is really funny.
    What I did like about this adaptation is the sisterly scenes we get, especially of the two girls openly ridiculing the men who want them. This making fun is pleasant for the audience, but also seems to be a coping mechanism for oppression. You have great power over someone if you can laugh at them, and I think that’s where the movie was going with this. Too much? Probably…but it’s interesting

  2. That’s the problem when adapting any book into film. There is always going to be some disconnect at a certain level between one’s impression reading an author’s work and one’s impression viewing a director’s film adaptation. Certain scenes will be condensed, placed out of order, implied, or omitted (the opposite can certainly happen as well) when bringing a book to the silver screen. Although I can see the argument as to why someone would be put off by Spielberg’s use of comedic relief, he more or less faithfully portrays the characters in the same manner that Walker did: as multifaceted, often times leaving the reader with mixed feelings. In all honesty, I prefer Mr. _____ and Harpo occasionally act like fools over the alternative because Walker’s positive message still reaches the viewer.

  3. I’m writing a longer response on the topic of comedy, but I would suggest imagining why they would have made this choice, and what you think Alice Walker may have thought. She was pretty satisfied, yeah? (I may have a proposed answer to this in my post!) ❤

  4. I didn’t see the comedy in the film as out of place or out of step with the novel at all–despite tackling serious issues and exploring tragic situations, The Color Purple is a pretty funny book. I found myself cracking up pretty regularly while I was reading.

    I do agree with your sentiment that the film’s portrayal of Mr. as an over the top buffoon is a little jarring. I think it makes some sense, though, in that Mr. isn’t simply an uncomplicated villain. For example, The Albert that Shug knows and loves isn’t the same Mr. that terrorizes Celie. And Mr. does mellow out with age. So maybe all the silliness with Mr. in the film is just showing that there’s more to him than just the jerk that beats on Celie.

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