Shame On Oprah
I like Oprah with the best of them but I?m sorely disappointed in her interpretation of Zora Neale Hurston?s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. I?m not sure if it was in interest of time, universal appeal or just a desire to focus on the love story of Tea Cake and Janie, but taking all of the racial elements out of the movie destroyed what is a beautiful love story and also made the movie?s narrative disjointed and rushed.
Hurston?s story, outside of being a coming of age story about a young black woman in the deep-south, is very much a story about the intra-racial issues that plague the black community at that time and while it is a shame to say, today. Many of the characters in the novel are only a generation or two removed from slavery and with that the color hierarchy that was created doing slave times was very much still in play for Janie and the other characters in the novel.
In the novel Tea Cake is a dark skinned man, something you wouldn?t know by choosing the very fair, blue eyed Michael Ealy to play this character. It is important that Tea Cake is dark because that was as much of a scandal for her community as was Tea Cake?s age. Tea Cake was the wrong kind of Negro for many reasons: he was poor, he was young and he was dark. The fair skinned, rich Ms. Janie shouldn?t be seen with such a man. Also his skin color comes into play when they make their way to the Everglades and Janie befriends a woman who has a deep hatred for dark skinned Negroes and goes out of her way to set Janie up with her fair skinned, more socially acceptable brother.
Some of the best moments in the book stem from the tension between the different hues of black people and when you take that out you?re left with a sweet but unoriginal love story, something Hurston?s groundbreaking work is not.
I must say that I expect more from Ms. Winfrey. This is the same woman who bought us Beloved, a very had tale about the horrors of slavery and how it affects the psyche of those who were enslaved. Instead of bringing to screen the richness and diverseness of Their Eyes Were Watching God, we get a watered down, socially acceptable version. I wanted more and I expected more and I?m very disappointed that I didn?t get it.
(C) 2005 Tamika Johnson
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