This essay covers the potential political and social implications of filmic adaptations using Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple as a way to interpret it based on its political economy, textual analysis, and audience reception. Besides enjoying a strong popular response at the box office, suggesting powerful resonance with viewers, the film The Color Purple touched on two issues salient in American society: sexism and racism. We explore the relationships among Spielberg’s film as text and the American viewing public.
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Adapting Kenneth Burke’s language, we argue that Spielberg’s film selects certain points and reflects certain elements in that work, but it also deflects our attention from other themes and aspects. While Walker’s story is that of a woman’s empowerment and liberation through her own self?discovery, Spielberg’s adaptation reframes her story through the lens of comforting American mythologies. One might call this, turning the purple into pink. Throughout society and in life, the evidence to support this viewpoint is pervasive.
It is important to analyze the political economy in context with The Color Purple within its system of production and distribution. Inserting texts into the system of culture within which they are made and given out can help elucidate features and effects of the texts that textual analysis alone might miss or downplay. Rather than being antithetical approaches to culture, knowledge of political economy can actually contribute to textual analysis and critique (Kellner 9). Looking at this particular film from the perspective of black women, one can understand that this film was made and directed by a white male and that greatly affects how the story is told. Many harsh matters in the novel were smoothed over or somewhat downplayed in the film. Also, unlike the novel in which it was written to spread a message, the Hollywood film is also used as a moneymaker. In society today, Civil Rights and equality is a colossal subject and problem, in which Blacks are considerably racialized and oppressed. This connects with Celie’s story as her and the women around her are dealing with the problems society has implicated upon them. Placing the plot in context with the world’s issues brings to light the way the story was possibly told wrongly and inadequately, causing different textual analysis and audience reception.
Textual analysis can be critically interpreted, approached, and understood as one sees the film from the perspective of a black woman. The Color Purple deals with the gender imbalance transcendence of black women gaining their voice. Womanism is rooted in black and colored women’s experiences of the everyday life and aims to eradicate oppression and to unify all people. Walker gave life to a new way for women to talk about their relationships, social changes, and their struggle against oppression from all sides of society.
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