In 1985 when The Color Purple was released it was indeed a box office success. Usually when a movie is as successful as The Color Purple, the movie usually has a big impact come awards season. The Color Purple was nominated heavily for the Academy Awards, taking 11 nominations in all, but won neither award. This discrepancy is due to the nature of the film. The film focused around a poor, black, woman, the oppressed of all oppressed.
In 1985 critics did not see Whoopi Goldberg or Oprah Winfrey as being stellar actresses. For one the actresses did not meet the “look” for Hollywood, Goldberg and Winfrey’s characters were supposed to be unattractive and not appealing. When you look at race, class, and gender, The Color Purple displays elements of all three.
The movie was based in the rural south which is historically viewed as the low end of the socioeconomically status of the nation. There were very little or no sense of prestige in the movie. Albert may have seemed stable financially because he owned land but he had nothing really going for him economically besides the farm, which he couldn’t really maintain without a woman.
The Color Purple’s story line revolves around women, but the movie is not the average “chick flick.” The movie shows the role of women at the time as viewed by men. Women were only around for sex, children, and domestic work. Women were auctioned off and married against their own will, and in many cases forced to care of children that weren’t even their own. Celie was nearly the “spokesperson” for women’s oppression in the film. She was denied all forms of individuality. Celie was not allowed to choose when to have children because she was forced to while being sexually abused by who she believed to be her father at the time. Then while having these children she was not even given the chance to raise them because they were taken from her. Celie was denied love and affection both emotionally and physically. Throughout the film she was kept in her state of oppression through mental and physical abuse from Albert.
The movie also displayed an all black cast with just a small sprinkle of white people. This could be a reason for the discrepancy because race was and still is a concern in society. The Color Purple displayed the oppression of black people in the early 1900’s. One scene that stands out was when the mayor’s wife took to Sophia’s children as if they were puppies in a pet shop. The children were so “cute” or so “clean” as if it’s out of the ordinary for little black children to be presentable. The scene took a turn when Sophia knocked out the woman’s husband who was upset that she told them “hell no” to becoming their maid. When the people started surrounding her and yelling out racist slurs, a police officer comes and knocks her out as if she’s the threat. Sophia is then seen later beaten and injured which shows she was beaten in jail.
Race was even a factor in The Color Purple when discussions rose over director Steven Spielberg. Due to Spielberg being a white man, he was viewed as not the right person to do this film. Spielberg, who is a stellar director, did an excellent job in The Color Purple. He took elements from the novel and brought it to the big screen. So many times white people have tried to tell the story of black people in this country. Many of the times the stories are so offensive and exaggerated but The Color Purple was as close to the true experience as many movies that came before it that was directed by a white director. The fact is white people has always attempted to identify with black people. At least The Color Purple wasn’t The Birth of A Nation, meaning it was not a purposely-offensive film. So for people to accept movies where white directors misrepresent black people but scrutinize movies where the black experience is being shown as natural as it could be displayed is ridiculous. Critics act as if they do not want to see any positive black roles or movies, and the sad part is that it still goes on today.