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'The Color Purple' Screenwriter Aims to Emphasize Romantic Relationship Between Celie and Shug Avery

TV & Film

(Source: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The highly anticipated musical film The Color Purple is almost here! Directed by Black is King’s Blitz Bazawule and based on the screenplay by queer poet, playwright, and screenwriter Marcus Gardley, The Color Purple will be a film adaptation of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical of the same name, which is by extension an adaptation of the original 1982 novel by legendary writer, poet, and activist Alice Walker.

This week, The Color Purple screenwriter, Marcus Gardley says he aims to emphasize the romantic love between Celie and Shug Avery, played by Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson.

(Source: Ser Boff)

Gardley states, “The romantic aspect between Celie and button pushing blues singer Shug Avery was very important…My pitch led off with this is a love story between two women, it was the most important thing to Alice Walker…”

The popular novel primarily focuses on the life of Celie, a Black woman living in early 1900’s rural South, who finds emotional, sexual, and psychological empowerment from the fellow Black women in her life amidst an abusive, patriarchal, racist upbringing.

The Color Purple proved to be a Black cultural staple due to its focus on Black womanhood/sisterhood rather than pure race. The impact of The Color Purple led Walker to be the first Black woman to be awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 and an 11-time Academy Award-nominated film adaptation in 1985.

(Source: Warner Bros. Pictures)

In addition to the novel’s examination of the relationship between race and gender, The Color Purple also explores sexuality. In the story, Celie meets blues singer Shug Avery, her arranged husband’s long-time mistress, who offers her the love she never received outside the familial love from her sister Nettie. Throughout the novel, we see their love take shape into a compelling, intimate sexual relationship.

Coming from a place where consensual sex was absent in her life, Celie is now allowed to safely navigate her own sexuality and emotions alongside the security and warmth of her lover Shug Avery. From this connection, Celie fully embraces not only her sexuality but her entire self outside the confines of the male-dominated, abusive dynamics she’s used to.

However in the 1985 film, although there was somewhat of a conspicuous level of intimacy shown between Celie and Shug Avery, played by Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery respectively, their romantic connection was severely downplayed, culminating to a mere kiss.

Steven Spielberg, the director and one of the producers of the original film, even admitted to “softening” the relationship between the two significant characters.

(Source: Ser Baffo)

In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he says:

“There were certain things in the [lesbian] relationship between Shug Avery and Celie that were finely detailed in Alice’s book that I didn’t feel could get a [PG-13] rating. And I was shy about it. In that sense, perhaps I was the wrong director to acquit some of the more sexually honest encounters between Shug and Celie, because I did soften those. I basically took something that was extremely erotic and very intentional, and I reduced it to a simple kiss. I got a lot of criticism for that.”

When asked whether he would change anything he responded with,

“I wouldn’t, no. That kiss is consistent with the tonality, from beginning to end, of The Color Purple that I adapted.”

(Source: Warner Bros. Pictures)

However, according to Gardley, “In the original film, there was not enough romantic love between Celie and Shug. I wanted the love story to be prominent and didn’t want to brush over that these two women are in love.”

In short, The Color Purple is a Black, lesbian story. Period. The world, especially Black, LGBTQ+ viewers, absolutely deserve to see the romantic relationship between two of the most central characters in The Color Purple finally be actualized on screen.

The Color Purple will be released in theaters on Christmas Day! Gayes, guess we'll have to see how things turn out in the movies!


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