“I’d rather have 30 minutes of something wonderful than a Lifetime of nothing special.” — Shelby to her mom M’Lynn in a scene from Steel Magnolias
Twitter was abuzz last Sunday with the Lifetime movie premiere of Steel Magnolias. The all-Black cast set a record for Lifetime viewers as Black women across the globe united to watch, tweet, comment, cry, laugh, and embrace such a positive portrayal of our lives as women. The 2012 remake of the 1989 original hit movie, starring Julia Roberts, Sally Fields, Shirley McLaine and others, touched a raw nerve for the collective sisterhood, because it hit us where we live most deeply and authentically as women; as friends, wives, mothers, and sisters.
Lifetime’s gamble on an all-Black female cast paid off handsomely as the movie was the third most-watched ever in Lifetime channel’s history. The rating makes me smile, because it says we as Black women have stories to tell that are not too different from that of our White sisters, or other sisters of color. And it tells me that those stories resonated and connected with a broader TV audience.
But the issue for me, and I suspect many of us goes a lot deeper than that. The real issue is that finally, we as a new generation of Black women living in the Age of Michelle Obama are finally being portrayed as multi-dimensional, complex, vulnerable, loving women. We see it on ABC’s Scandal with Kerry Washington each week, and on Oprah’s OWN network with Iyanla helping women to fix their lives. And now we have Steel Magnolias or as I like to call it “Sister Magnolias.” These images of us are positive and they move us forward in the greater culture beyond the stereotypes and definitions that have so negatively defined us for centuries and even now.
Here are five lessons we can learn about sisterhood, care, compassion, redemption and restoration from the lovely ladies who made Steel Magnolias (both in 1989 and 2012) such an inspiration for us all:
1. We as women are a gift to each other. Truly a gift. It starts with our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and family. And once we hit kindergarten the connection with other little girls begins. Our relationships with other women across the span of our lifetime make us who we are as we become women. My point: women matter in our lives as women. They weave together the fabric of our hearts, souls, and minds. So cherish the women in your life. They are gifts.
2. Life is delicate, precious and to be lived fully. The character that Shelby plays in the movie is the one we are all drawn to because we love her youth, her energy, and her fight back — can do spirit. But her character is there to serve another purpose — to remind us that life is short and can be taken from us at anytime. She reminds us to live fully, to love passionately and to take risks not matter the price we may pay for happiness.
3. Women are the backbone of life. Look we all love the men in our lives. Our dads, brothers, uncles, husbands and sons. But there is something amazing about the strength of “steel” of women. We are the fairer sex, we are truly the stronger sex. Does anyone want to argue that point?
4. Women’s connection as friends and sisters is powerful. When we love, we love hard. Maybe that is why we hurt each other so often and so deeply. But the women in Steel Magnolias like the women in my life, are there for me. They love me. They carry me. They uplift me. They counsel me. And yes, they check me. Thank God for the women in our lives who help us keep it all together beyond the men that we love and need to cover us as well.
5. Women are graceful and we are healers. There is no greater love or forgiveness than that of a woman who believes in you, and who is in your corner. Ask any man, he will tell you it is true. In fact Tyler Perry says it in this month’s ESSENCE on stands now. The same goes for the sister-friends in our life who know how to restore us when we fail, and push us to go higher when we have self-doubt. Successful loving women possess grace, humility, love and restoring power.
Thank God he made women. We truly do run the world!
Sophia A. Nelson is a regular contributor to ESSENCE.com. She is author of the soon to be re-released & updated trade paperback book, Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.