The Color Purple Star Explains The Deep Meaning Behind Sofia’s “Hell No”

Summary

  • “Hell No!” is a powerful song in The Color Purple that represents Sofia’s refusal to accept abuse and gender norms.
  • The song embodies the theme of breaking the cycle of sexism, racism, and abuse in the lives of the characters.
  • Sofia’s “Hell No!” is a defiant response to the racism and abuse she faces, both within her own family and in society.


The Color Purple star Danielle Brooks breaks down the deeper meaning of the film’s song “Hell No!” The movie is a musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s book of the same name. It follows three Black women who struggle to overcome abuse, sexism, and racism in the early 1900s. Brooks stars in The Color Purple as Sofia, Celie’s (Fantasia Barrino) stepdaughter-in-law, who is fierce and independent and seeks to overturn gender roles. At one point in the film, Sofia sings the powerful song “Hell No!” in response to the threat of violence from her husband.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Brooks explained what the song “Hell No!” means to her and Sofia in The Color Purple. According to Brooks, the song is essentially Sofia saying “hell no” to abuse as she persists in breaking the cycle of violence in her family. The song also resonated with Brooks, as it was “about saying hell no to this notion that I’m not enough, that I’m not worthy.” Check out Brooks’ statement below:

“Hell No!” for Sofia is about saying hell no to the abuse. Saying hell no to gender norms, and to the oppressor, and really finding your power. For me, every night it was about saying hell no to this notion that I’m not enough, that I’m not worthy. That’s what I was fighting every day on that stage. And now, playing her, and having become a mother of a beautiful four-year-old girl named Freeya, and then becoming a wife, learning what commitment means, is so crucial to the story when it comes to Sofia and Harpo. I really do believe all of the things that she talks about and how she moves, and I understand that strength. She’s a radical woman. Like, these are women coming straight off of slavery. And for her to really try to break the cycles of abuse in her marriage—this is a woman who had six children, when Black people at the time had kids being killed, thrown into the seas, or snatched away from them, as we see with Celie’s character. This is a woman who says, “I’m going to have my own job.” There are pieces I’ve definitely taken with me, playing Sofia.


How “Hell No!” Encompasses The Color Purple’s Themes

The song “Hell No!” was written when The Color Purple first became a Broadway musical in 2005 and has now made an exciting comeback with Brooks behind the vocals. It’s easily one of the film’s most potent musical numbers, serving as Sofia and Celie’s anthem. The song arises after Celie, who has only known abuse her whole life, encourages Sofia’s husband to beat her to break her strong-willed nature. “Hell No!” becomes both Sofia’s confrontation of Celie and her urging that Celie should also say “hell no” to the abuse she has suffered.

The Color Purple song “Hell No!” ties in directly with the book. Not only does it mold a song around the intense moment between Sofia and Celie, but it also references another one of Sofia’s powerful moments. At one point in the book, Sofia is asked by the Mayor’s wife to be her maid, to which Sofia responds with an emphatic “Hell no.” This actually leads to Sofia getting into a physical fight with the mayor and being jailed. It reminds readers that Sofia isn’t just saying “hell no” to abuse in her own family, but to the racism permeating society as a whole.

Meanwhile, “Hello No!” outlines one of the biggest themes in The Color Purple: breaking the cyclical nature of sexism, racism, and abuse. There’s generational abuse in Celie’s family, and she comes close to carrying on that legacy with her stepson and Sofia. Hence, much of the story explores the incredible strength of these women as they face the daunting task of saying “hell no” to the sexism, racism, and abuse that has been carried down for generations in the hope of changing things for the future. As Brooks touches on, “Hell No!” in The Color Purple resonates with anyone challenging norms or breaking the cycle.

Source: The New Yorker

The Color Purple 2023 Movie Poster

The Color Purple (2023)

Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is a drama-musical film by director Blitz Bazawule. The film centers on Celie, a young African American woman living through the tumultuous era of the early 1900s in the South who finds her independence through a budding sisterhood that she cultivates over decades.

Release Date
December 25, 2023

Director
Blitz Bazawule

Cast
Taraji P. Henson , Danielle Brooks , Colman Domingo , Corey Hawkins , Halle Bailey , H.E.R. , Phylicia Pearl Mpasi , Fantasia Barrino

Rating
PG-13

Writers
Marcus Gardley

Story By
Alice Walker, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray, Marsha Norman

Studio(s)
Harpo Films , Amblin Entertainment , Scott Sanders Productions , Quincy Jones Productions

Distributor(s)
Warner Bros. Pictures