Elizabeth Banks and the Color Purple

Until You Do Right By Me….

Elizabeth Banks had some harsh words for Steven Spielberg about the lack of opportunities for women in the entertainment industry. Banks said “I went to Indiana Jones and Jaws and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he’s never made a movie with a female lead. Sorry, Steven. I don’t mean to call your ass out but it’s true.” Except it’s not true.

In trying to go after Spielberg, Banks overlooked The Color Purple which had a female lead and starred Whoopi Goldberg. Banks defenders also lied while claiming The Color Purple wasn’t a success. The Color Purple, based on the Putlizer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, came out in 1985 and made over 142 million dollars on a budget of less than 15 million. It got 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress for Whoopi Goldberg, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery and Whoopi Goldberg won the Golden Globe for her debut performance. Oprah would later produce the stage play that had a successful run starting in 2005 with a Broadway revival in 2015.

Just as important was The Color Purple’s impact on the black community. The movie started conversations about incest, child abuse, and domestic violence in the black community as well as the hardships that black women face from all socio-economic fronts. This movie addressed the issue of skin color and made the black community take a good, long look at what features we described as pretty. Whoopi made us love our nappy hair before natural hair was trending.

The movie also tackled the issue of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and the stigma black women felt from the church and their own families. We were finally talking about this in our churches and communities. And while it didn’t change all hearts and minds, it changed some even in my own family.

The Color Purple showed a black woman overcoming the odds to be successful and Elizabeth Banks owes Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg and black women an apology. In the words of Celie,