Saturday, May 18, 2013

Film Review: 'Steel Magnolias.' Still the Same?

When I first saw Steel Magnolias, it was 1989. I was a teenager, my mother’s daughter. I remember thinking the original was a good movie. I loved the all-star cast, but otherwise felt no real connection to the film. The story appealed to me, but however unfortunate didn’t apply to me. To me Steel Magnolias was another sentimental tearjerker the likes of Terms of Endearment. It was touching, but didn’t resonate. I took with a grain of salt.

Fast-forward to 2012, now Steel Magnolias has an all black cast. The acting was phenomenal, but as I watched I didn’t see actors. I saw people and the story. And this story grabbed me. I don’t know if it was that the acting was so great, or that I just now realized how incredible the script was, or if I was connecting to it because the cast was black, or that I have lived long enough to truly relate.

I’ve always known how much my mother loves me. She’s my guardian angel. But now that I am the mother of a young woman who is brilliant, beautiful, and headstrong, I understand that dynamic from the other side. I know what it is like to rage war against anyone or anything that could ever harm my baby. Now watching this film, I cried through the whole thing. I was a basket case, and it was cleansing and therapeutic.

Now when I think about Steel Magnolias, I wonder whose wonderful idea this was. Why has Hollywood taken so long to realize that black people love deeply, have real struggles, and serve as a powerful support system?  We are not the stereotypes.  We are human beings. Almost everyone I know is struggling to put their kids through school, remain healthy, and to live a better life. It’s 2012. Why does Hollywood focus so much on slaves, maids, hustlers, pimps, and whores when there are so many more stories to tell?

The Lifetime Original Movie “Steel Magnolias” stars Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad. It airs again tonight at 8pm and at midnight on the Lifetime television network.

This piece was originally published on Harlem World Magazine's Blog site on October 8, 2012.

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