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Lesbian-inclusive Color Purple doesn't need Oscars' approval

Lesbian-inclusive Color Purple doesn't need Oscars' approval

<p>Lesbian-inclusive <em>Color Purple</em> doesn't need Oscars' approval</p>

Largely snubbed by the Academy, 2023's The Color Purple is a miracle, regardless of awards.

In 1985, the Steven Spielberg-directed drama The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, premiered to critical acclaim and enormous box office success. On a budget of $15 million, the film ended up grossing nearly $100 million. It also received 11 Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Actress for Whoopi Goldberg’s brilliant breakout performance, and two Best Supporting Actress noms for Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery. However, it did not win a single one.

Despite all its commercial and critical success, the original film was not without controversy. In addition to outcries of racism due to the many Oscar snubs, there was also backlash for its negative depictions of Black men, especially in light of the fact that it was directed by a white man. Others defended the film, citing that the original story is not meant to vilify Black men but rather relay the harsh realities of what many poor Black women have lived through. Ultimately, the film is lauded as a masterful classic that helped catapult the careers of both Goldberg and Winfrey.

In the years since, there have been several stage musicals based on Walker’s novel, including two Tony Award-winning Broadway productions — the most recent of which (2015-2017) Winfrey acted as a producer on. In order to make the new hit musical movie a reality, which opened nationwide Christmas Day, she reunited with Spielberg and Quincy Jones, who acted as a producer and wrote the score for the 1985 film. Spielberg, Jones, and Scott Sanders acted as coproducers alongside Winfrey for the new film adaptation. Blitz Bazawule, the mastmind behind Beyoncé’s Black Is King visual album and Netflix’s The Burial Of Kojo was brought on to direct. Though the film was mostly snubbed by the Oscars — Danielle Brooks received a Supporting Actress nom for playing Sofia — it did receive several NAACP Image Award nominations.

Naturally, with her over 40-year history with the story of Celie — a young Black woman in the rural South who suffers much abuse by those around her but ultimately finds redemption— Winfrey has a strong emotional connection to it. “There’s nothing that’s been more important or vital to me, culturally [or] artistically, than The Color Purple,” she said in a promo trailer for the new film. “It is a solid base of spiritual and emotional power for me. Every woman and man who has been invisible, who has felt unseen and unvalued, this is their story.”

Winfrey, who went through similar traumas that Celie does in the novel, including experiencing sexual abuse as a child, opened up further about her personal ties to the story when speaking to Vanity Fair at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “From the moment I read the book, that was my story,” she said. “Celie’s story was my story. When Celie is writing the letter — ‘Dear God, I’m 14 years old, please explain what’s happening to me?’— that was my story.”

“I couldn’t believe that Alice Walker had actually penned a story about a girl who was going through the same thing that I was going through in my life,” added Winfrey. “Somebody else knew how I felt. I related so much to Celie’s story and found hope. The fact that I got to be a part of it, and now a part of ushering it into the world for a new generation, I could not be more proud. This is a full circle moment.”

The new film differs from other adaptations by taking a deeper dive into Celie’s mind, giving viewers a better understanding of her emotions and inner life. Singer and former American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino makes her big screen debut as Celie and Taraji P. Henson stars as the sexy, sassy blues singer Shug Avery. Rustin’s Colman Domingo plays the part of Celie’s cruel, bullying husband Mister, originally played by Danny Glover in the 1985 film.

One notable difference in the new big-screen musical is that the lesbian love story between Celie and Shug, which was largely overlooked in the ’85 Spielberg film despite it being a major plot point in Walker’s original novel, is not glossed over. “It depicts a world in which they could be together,” screenwriter Marcus Gardley says. “That relationship is at the core of this story, and I hope queer audiences feel like we’ve done them justice.”

Brooks, of Orange is the New Black fame, reprises her role as headstrong Sofia (played by Winfrey in the original film) after earning a Tony nomination playing the part in the 2015 Broadway production. “Watching Danielle Brooks on set as Sofia, making it her own, was deep joy for me,” said Winfrey. “There’s so much satisfaction to pass it on to her.”

Brooks also expressed great gratitude toward Winfrey for taking her under her wing and guiding her in her portrayal of the fan-favorite character.

“Oprah’s given me so much advice, and she’s just poured into me every step of the way,” said Brooks on the arrivals carpet. “From the minute that she Zoomed me [to say I had won the part], she’s been holding my hand through this process and I’m very, very, very grateful for that. And Whoopi, even when I was on Broadway, she signed something for me that said, ‘It’s yours now.’ I still have it, and that’s what I have stood by and lived with too.”

The Color Purple | Official

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