Movie Review: The Color Purple

credit: The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple is a 1985 drama film based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker. It followed the life of Celie, characterized by frequent abuses — sexually, physically, and verbally.

In this article, we will analyze the movie, both in terms of how genders and the norms surrounding it were represented in the movie. We will also analyze what some actions and scenes mean and what the movie wanted its viewers to remember once they walk out of the cinema’s doors.

credit: The Color Purple (1985)

A movie reflecting the unfairness of patriarchy

The dominant men characters in the movie were perceived as abusive and always hurt women. Though, not every male character was like that. However, we would only talk about the ill-mannered men to be in line with the movie’s theme and message.

The beginning of the movie was dotted with the disturbing idea that [sexual abuse] happens. In the beginning, it was revealed that Celie was [sexually abused] by her father, causing her to bear two children.

And then, when Celie was given away to the custody of Mister, she met Nettie, who was also a subject of sexual mistreatment.

Unfortunately, that did not stop there, as some male characters were seen to commit more on top of that to women. The mayor was verbally assaulting his wife, causing Sofia to intervene. Meanwhile, Mister slapped Celie when she did not hear his orders. Mister is also proven to be manipulative when Celie finds out that she was hiding the letters from her sister from Africa.

credit: The Color Purple (1985)

A movie about the rights of women and their plight to have them

The movie had a load of female characters who were visibly abused during their screen time. Though, some of these women confessed to having been taken advantage of in their backstories, implying abuses off-screen. I would say that this movie portrayed one of the beginning moments for women to have their rights, starting in the household. And the way the movie did this is impactful.

In the beginning, it seemed that maltreatment of women was (unfortunately) normalized. This is shown when Celie encourages Harpo to hit Sofia. Nowadays, a woman would not encourage a man to beat another woman, but the movie showed that this wasn’t the case back then. And even then, the women just accepted that they were made to be beaten, and that had to change.

On the other hand, I found Sofia’s character to be more extreme but empowering. She was sentenced to work for the mayor after defending the mayor’s wife from his slanderous words. She slapped the mayor for this, and that’s when things went south.

The gesture, indeed, was genuine. And it was a woman protecting another woman from being abused by a man. However, this scene served to show that women back then had no right to defend themselves nor defend a fellow.

The said scene also had a disturbing afterthought. It must have crossed somebody else’s mind that if Sofia experienced physical maltreatment from men, she should have deemed that, for equality to materialize, women should be able to abuse men as well.

Another instance of women hurting men physically was during the time Mister asked Celie to shave him. Although the violence in this scene never came into action, it would still count. At this time, during shaving, Celie had some thoughts about taking the life of Mister using the razor. After all, she felt that she had had enough of all the beatings, abuses, and mistreatments she received from Mister, it was time to end it all. You couldn’t help but notice that before she began, she was slapped by him, further fueling her burning rage inside.

Violence should never be the answer. While we condemn men’s abuses towards women, for equality to come true, we must condemn all forms of cruelty. Instead of giving the victims license to do the same to offenders, the “license” that the society had given the perpetrators should be revoked instead.

Fortunately, this was one of the things the characters worked on in the end. After having stood up for themselves, the female characters, Celie, Mary, and Shug, did not allow themselves to be abused anymore. And they did this by distancing themselves from the patriarchal men. With this, the men who hurt them had no power over them anymore. Though in real life, there are still more reforms to be done.

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