Over the decades, there have been multiple versions of The Color Purple, so you're probably familiar with the story. It focuses on a woman named Celie, her abusive husband Mister, the strong women she encounters, and how she -- spoiler alert -- ultimately finds her inner beauty and power. But is it appropriate for children? Or more specifically: is the 2023 musical reboot appropriate for families, despite the PG-13 rating?
Based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple was first adapted into Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning movie in 1985. In 2005, a stage musical adaptation of the movie hit Broadway, ultimately winning 11 Tony Awards, before being adapted into the musical movie released last year. So given that pedigree, there's a chance you might want to take the whole family to see it, particularly given the lavish song and dance numbers that will have you tapping your toes and humming in your seat.
Add in an all-star cast -- Fantastia Barrino plays Celie, Colman Domingo is Mister, and other stand-outs in the stacked cast include Taraji P. Henson, Corey Hawkins, Danielle Brooks, Halle Bailey, and H.E.R. -- and The Color Purple is a must see. That is, it's a must-see for older kids and adults, because of some potentially dicey subject matter. So let's get into it.
Why is The Color Purple (2023) rated PG-13?
The PG-13 rating, according to the MPA, is for "mature thematic content, sexual content, violence and language." However, having seen the movie I can confidently say that the movie takes a very light approach to most of this subject matter.
To work through those bullet points in order, let's start with the "mature thematic content." This is the big one, because there are a lot of complicated topics dealt with throughout the movie. The most notable is Mister's treatment of Celie, and general discussions of standing up to spousal abuse. That might be a tricky (albeit important) conversation to have with your kids, so of course up to you to figure out whether they're mature enough to understand the concept. There's also some discussion and plot points about the long-standing impacts of racism and the slave trade; which in my personal opinion are good discussions to get into with children of any age. But your mileage may vary with your own little ones. Or slightly larger ones.
The sexual content, which is usually the point that makes any parent blanche, is present, but mostly suggested rather than outright shown. One scene early in the movie depicts a creaking bed and some light grunting as Mister has sex with Celie, mostly there to show how both of them are unsatisfied with the marriage in different ways. Mister also tries to assault Celie's sister Nettie, but things don't get very far. There are other intimations of rape and incest throughout (getting back to that mature thematic content). But other than some possible questions about a younger Celie getting pregnant twice, and a sexy dance scene, there is no explicit nudity, and the farthest most things go is kissing.
Violence could potentially be an issue, and the one area where the movie doesn't shy away. It doesn't happen often, but Mister does graphically hit Celie at least twice, once drawing blood. As it is a major part of Celie's character arc, the movie does not pan away from the scenes, and they might be hard for younger children to watch. Heck, I'm a full grown adult and it was hard to watch; but that's also the point. There are also a few fight scenes, and Brooks's Sofia punches a man, and then gets beaten by cops. Here, though, thankfully the camera doesn't show the whole beating.
As for language, there are a few curse words peppered throughout. But ultimately this is about as tame as your run-of-the-mill Marvel movie when it comes to level of language. If you're okay taking your kids to see Avengers: Endgame, they aren't going to learn any new curse words here.
So overall, should you take kids to The Color Purple? The short answer is yes, as they'll enjoy the song and dance numbers, and the more engaged ones will find a lot to discuss about history of the African American experience. They might be inspired to watch the 1985 movie -- or even read the book. But as usual, you know your kids best, so read the above and make your own determination.