After last week's local premiere of the movie "The Color Purple," friends started calling me, saying: "Man, you gotta see this movie because, man, you gotta write about it from a black man's point of view."
There was excitement -- and hurt -- in their voices. But let me make something clear from the outset: As far as I'm concerned, I don't have to see this movie to write about it.
Here is the holiday season, when families are out looking for something to do together, and Hollywood brings us a story that has a black man raping his daughter and selling the children to an adoption agency.
Am I going to pay to see this? Not before Christmas.
This is a movie that premiered here as part of a fund-raiser for the National Political Congress of Black Women, headed by former representative Shirley Chisholm, who announced when the group was formed that she was sick and tired of being mistreated by black men and white women.
And the credits on the marquee say, in essence: Brought to you by Steven Spielberg, great white movie director. Do I want to add to their coffers? Not really.
I am not a movie critic but, as a regular viewer, I fear that Hollywood's prurient interest in black people may have acquired a new level of sophistication. My concern, before seeing a movie, is that I will be ripped off and insulted, and that complaining won't do my pocketbook any good.
I have no problem making judgments about movies I have not seen. In fact, I do it all the time because there are ways to tell about a movie before forking over the bucks.
In this case, I checked out the book.
It is Alice Walker's writing style that makes her book so powerful. Although, frankly, I didn't like it. I got tired, a long time ago, of white men publishing books by black women about how screwed up black men are. Those same white men get intimidated when a black man writes a book saying that the real problem is the white man.
(Call me touchy, but this is one black man's point of view.)
It seems to me that as long as black people don't have much of a choice, they will watch anything -- and like it, just because somebody put black people on the screen.
But back to Walker's book. All you have to do is read it to know that her particular brand of magic cannot be translated onto a screen with the kind of cinematographic gimmicks for which Spielberg is famous.
Do I want to see, as some have said, Spielberg using Whoopi Goldberg to contend for the Oscar that E.T. did not get? Dare I risk breaking my own heart?
After reading the book, I checked out the reviews. For me, it's those "great" reviews that require close reading.
These two made me laugh.
Gene Shalit, NBC: "Steven Spielberg has made more than a movie . . . . It should be against the law not to see it."
David Brooks, The Washington Times: "When a book is as good as 'The Color Purple,' and when a movie is as good as Mr. Spielberg's adaptation, it pays to put politics aside and appreciate the talent."
Doggone right, it pays; it pays Spielberg & Co. Check this out: Spielberg wouldn't pay top dollar to get a real actress to play the part of Celie. He got Whoopi cheap, and the rest of the cast, too.
As for putting politics aside, well, that's what should be against the law.
Hats off to the black men who, after seeing the movie, started picketing the Los Angeles theaters where it was being shown. It should be noted that the Hollywood branch of the NAACP also has protested the film as demeaning to black people.
Of course, once you pay to see the film, it's too late to complain.
Let me conclude this particular black man's point of view by saying that, to the extent that some black men enjoyed the scenes in Prince's "Purple Rain" in which women were degraded, black women surely will enjoy having black men depicted as brutal bastards.
To which I can only say: Hollywood, you make me sick to my stomach.
Now, with that off my chest, I think I'll go to the movies this weekend.