The Color Purple parents guide

The Color Purple Parent Guide

With painful themes of sexual abuse and domestic violence, this nonetheless tells a story of hope, love, and resilience.

Overall C

Theaters: Celie faces many hardships in her life as a Black woman in the early 1900s, but finds strength in the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood and female friendship.

Release date December 25, 2023

Violence C-
Sexual Content C-
Profanity C+
Substance Use C-

Why is The Color Purple rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Color Purple PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, violence and language.

Run Time: 140 minutes

Parent Movie Review

It’s an idyllic scene - two girls playing clapping games on a tree branch - until a closer look reveals that one of the girls is pregnant. Clearly, things are not as they seem.

Celie and Nettie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and Halle Bailey) are devoted sisters, drawn together by love, devotion, grief for their late mother, and fear of their father (Deon Cole). Evil and brutal, he has impregnated Celie. Twice. And taken away her babies. When he sells her off as a wife to the ill-reputed Mister (Colman Domingo), he ensures that her suffering will be of some duration.

The marriage does more than plunge Celie into a life of abuse and servitude; it soon severs her contact with her adored sibling. Without the bright-eyed optimism of her sister, Celie (now played by Fantasia Barrino) sinks deeper into despair – until two women change her life.

Sofia (Danielle Brooks) is the wife of Celie’s stepson, Harpo (Corey Hawkins). Feisty and strong-willed, Sofia won’t let anyone push her around. Awestruck and envious, Celie watches with wonder as Sofia insists on being treated with respect. The other woman is Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), a famous blues singer and old flame of Mister. On a visit to her hometown, Shug strikes up an unlikely friendship (and brief fling) with Celie. Fascinated by Shug’s glamor and self-confidence, Celie realizes that life might be bigger than she imagines.

The Color Purple is a vast, sprawling tale with numerous subplots and richly drawn characters. It’s a cry against domestic violence, child abuse, and racial discrimination. Mostly, though, it’s the story of a remarkable woman whose all-embracing kindness brings a rich return. The script is also generous to other characters, who are all given a shot at change, forgiveness, and redemption. This story is filled with pain and undeserved suffering, but, miraculously, it is fundamentally a tale of hope and love.

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was famously adapted for film in 1985. This year’s movie version isn’t based on the book, but on the 2005 Broadway musical drawn from the novel. Musicals are tricky because having people spontaneously break into song and dance routines is so unrealistic that it can trigger “what the heck” moments in viewers, breaking the spell of the story. For a musical to succeed, it needs to transcend the bounds of reality and use music as a vehicle to tell a deeper truth. The songs need to establish settings, illuminate characters, and explore powerful themes. This soundtrack does just that, adding depth to an already complex narrative.

This is a powerful story, but parents should note that it is on the high end of the PG-13 rating. Rape and incest are painful topics, even when they aren’t shown on screen. What is visible on screen is a very provocative performance by Shug Avery, in which she sings about female sexual arousal and a scene in which dancers simulate sexual activity. There are frequent scenes of men beating women, both in domestic settings and racialized public environments. Minor profanities are abundant in some song lyrics, and people frequently consume alcohol.

Family friendly it isn’t, but The Color Purple has powerful pro-family messages. This is a movie that celebrates the powerful bonds of sisterhood and motherhood, demonstrating how they can anchor even the most storm-tossed lives. It’s also a movie about the strength of women, particularly Black women, as they love, support, and uplift each other. It’s these relationships – resilient and wonderful – that are the very heart of the film.

Directed by Blitz Bazawule. Starring Halle Bailey, Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo. Running time: 140 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Color Purple

The Color Purple
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Color Purple rated PG-13? The Color Purple is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for mature thematic content, sexual content, violence and language.

Violence: A father takes away his daughter’s newborn child (and has apparently taken away another one). A girl asks if her father kills her babies. There’s mention of a woman being shot. There are several scenes of women being hit by men, both in domestic environments and in a scene of racialized violence. A woman hits a man in the groin when he tries to rape her. A man throws a woman off the porch and utters death threats. A woman tells a man that if he wants an obedient wife he will need to beat her. A woman spits into a water glass before she serves it. Two women slap each other, triggering a widespread fistfight. Soldiers violently expel people from a village. An angry man throws his wife’s dinner plate off the table. A woman pulls a knife on her husband. Fires are deliberately set to purge an insect infestation. A white woman makes racist comments and orders a Black woman to work for her.
Sexual Content: A teenager gives birth to a child born conceived in incest. There’s brief mention of adultery and incest. A man forces himself upon his unwilling wife: there is no detail but the bed is heard bouncing. A man tries to rape a woman. A woman sings about having sex with her husband. A woman’s breasts are partially visible in a bubble bath. A married man undresses a woman down to her slip and slaps her backside. There’s discussion of an adulterous relationship. A song has detailed lyrics about sexual arousal. People dance in ways that mimic sexual intercourse. A woman daydreams about her attraction to another woman and the two kiss in real life. The women are then seen in bed together. 
Profanity: There are five scatological curses in the movie and a couple of terms of deity and crude anatomical expressions. A slang term for sex is repeatedly used in song lyrics. “Hell” occurs throughout the chorus of a song and a few times in dialogue.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   Adults drink alcohol and get drunk on several occasions, even to the point of passing out.

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The Color Purple Parents' Guide

What does this movie tell you about the social position of Black women in the early 20th century? How do you think it could be possible for a teenager to be visibly pregnant, not be seen with babies afterwards, and not be questioned by concerned pastors or other community figures? Why do you think Alfonso is able to abuse and defraud his daughters with impunity? Why can Mister get away with stealing his wife’s mail and beating and abusing her without any consequences? How can the mayor’s wife feel entitled to demand that Sophia work for her? How does Shug break free from society’s restrictions? What finally frees Celie?

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This movie is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

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Taraji P. Henson also stars in Hidden Figures, the story of three Black women who played critical roles in the US space race, despite facing significant race-based discrimination.

An indigenous woman’s life and family are torn apart by racism and residential schools in the Canadian film Bones of Crows.

Domestic violence is front and center in Herself, The Invisible Man, Priscilla, and Alice, Darling.

When the women on a Mennonite colony are repeatedly sedated and raped, they decide to take control of their fates. In Women Talking, they hold a discussion to determine whether or not they will stay on the colony or start over somewhere else. Sexual violence is also a key element in She Said and Spotlight,

Perhaps the best musical ever made, Fiddler on the Roof tells the tale of a Jewish family living in czarist-era Russia. Persecuted by the Imperial state, the family draw strength from each other and their religious and cultural traditions.