The Color Purple (1985) – Ace Mini-Review

The Color Purple
Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery
Written by: Menno Meyjes
Book by: Alice Walker
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
U.S.A., 1985

How good is this movie?

This story of growing up as a poor black woman in the American south is frequently tragic and depressing but also funny and, ultimately, hopeful. At times, I found the musical choices questionable; the comedic touches often feel out of place; and Sofia’s storyline is not very believable. I also wish they’d compressed Celie’s part of the story and left more room for Nettie’s experiences in Africa. But there are some genuinely beautiful sequences, and there’s real triumph in watching Celie go from being the most despised member of her community to one of its most respected.

How ace is this movie?

Celie is clearly not at all interested in sex – at least, not with the men who force it on her. She expresses wonder that Shug can enjoy sex with “Mister”, when to her it feels just like he’s “doing his business” on her. Celie’s sexual aversion is like that of an ace person, but with two important distinctions. One is that she is not even expected to enjoy the sex that her father and Mister impose on her. Her sexual desires aren’t just assumed; they are completely ignored. The other is that, even in this toned-down version of the story, Celie shows clear signs of latent lesbianism. These signs make it impossible to think of Celie as an ace character but, unfortunately, are never developed enough for the film to be really queer-positive. It’s disappointing that Film!Celie never gets to come into her sexual identity or to experience a romantic relationship with Shug. Still, this does at least allow the film to focus on the platonic side of Celie and Shug’s relationship and, perhaps, even queer the line between the platonic and the sexual. And the most important relationship in the movie is actually the sibling love between Celie and Nettie. The bond between them is clearly established at the film’s beginning; their separation is tragic; the prospect of letters from Nettie becomes Celie’s only source of hope; and their reunion forms the films’ heartwarming conclusion. In this way, the film proves that a non-sexual love story can be just as moving as a sexual one.

3.5 Stars; 3 Aces

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