Remarkable Receptions

The Color Purple film adaptation -- ep. by Nicole Dixon

October 10, 2022 Nicole Dixon Season 6 Episode 4
Remarkable Receptions
The Color Purple film adaptation -- ep. by Nicole Dixon
Show Notes Transcript

A short take on responses to a novel-turned-film.  
Episode by Nicole Dixon
Read by Kassandra Timm

In 1982, Alice Walker published The Color Purple. In 1983, Walker’s novel won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. The Color Purple was getting significant attention. But millions of people would become aware of the novel when it was transformed into a movie.

You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions – a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels. 

Overall, the film adaption by Steven Spielberg of The Color Purple received remarkable, glowing reviews. The movie was the number one PG-13 rated movie released in 1985 and stayed in theaters for 21 weeks, almost five times longer than the average movie. Reviewers for The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications gave the movie high praises. 

But not all reviewers celebrated The Color Purple. A reviewer for Variety magazine explained that although the film had some resonant moments and talented actors, it was ultimately not a great movie. 

Several viewers critiqued the negative representation of black men in the film. In fact, some chapters of the NAACP rallied to boycott the film due to those depictions of black men. 

Nearly 40 years later, the movie is still widely viewed and discussed. Contemporary viewers apparently find the film adaptation of The Color Purple a bit more humorous than audiences in 1985. Today, people, especially black folks, enjoy quoting memorable lines and reenacting familiar scenes from the film. 

The Color Purple even prompted a crucial response from Oprah Winfrey. After playing in the movie and witnessing its success, Winfrey created Harpo Film Productions a year after the film was released and began buying the film rights to multiple novels, especially works by African American authors, including Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, and others. 

The adaption of The Color Purple into a film was a bittersweet experience for Walker. Ten years after the movie appeared, Walker published a book, The Same River Twice, discussing her thoughts and feelings about her novel-turned-movie. The film was not exactly how she imagined it, yet Walker reassured herself that the movie is not the book, that the remarkable receptions of each had its place.  


This episode was written by Nicole Dixon. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali and Howard Rambsy.   


This podcast, Remarkable Receptions, is part of the Black Literature Network, a joint project from African American literary studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The project was made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.  For more information, visit