I am (give or take 5 weeks) a college graduate. I am pursuing a graduate degree. I am an independent, successful black woman and yet, Tyler Perry doesn’t make me feel any certain way.
More often than not, I find Tyler Perry’s work hilarious. I enjoy seeing a movie with a cast full of black folks who have a spectrum of skin complexions and body types, and who don’t get by selling drugs or tricking the welfare office. I like seeing us in suits and dresses instead of wifebeaters and booty shorts. I like seeing black folks who can speak proper English and say “big” words without being made to seem inauthentic because of it.
Shoot, I’m happy to see some black humor portrayed on screen every once in a while–I refuse to see Precious because it looks damned depressing. I find his movies a decent alternative to the Magic Negro/Tragic Negro/Good-Natured Black Sidekick that we’re normally relegated to in white films. When Morgan Freeman got cast as God in Bruce Almighty I wanted to stand up and clap in the theater. How often do you get to see a black person cast as a character who is all powerful? Not everyday, I tell ya!
It’s true that the drama goes over the top and that the characters can be one-dimensional in order to further the plotline. But how is that different from any other movies? How many movies that come out anymore are works of art? Mainstream movies are entertainment, and they exist to make money, period.White people have been making movies about themselves that range from the controversial (Brokeback Mountain) to the touching (Forrest Gump) to the downright foolish (Pineapple Express) and it’s never a big deal. White folks aren’t up in arms at Judd Apatow for making them look bad, so why are we bashing Tyler Perry? If you don’t like the movies, just don’t see them and sit down, please.
Tex made the insightful observation that white folks who haven’t been around black people look at what’s in movies and on televisions and assume we act exactly like that. But you know what? ANYBODY who lives their life strictly based on something they saw in the entertainment media, without ever questioning it, is STUPID. And I’m tired of having to make allowances for stupid people! If Spike Lee, John Singleton, Oprah, Denzel Washington, Cicely Tyson, Don Cheadle and their ilk haven’t convinced white folks that we are just as capable of being noble, sensitive, intelligent, self-sacrificing and introspective as white folks, then Tyler Perry isn’t going to hurt our community one bit.
Now, on to accusations against the man himself. It has been said that Perry is colorstruck–dark skinned black men are bad, light skinned black women are all saditty, professional black women don’t know how to treat a man, he disfranchises older black actresses by donning a dress and wig instead of allowing them to portray the “Madea” role, etc. I think it’s all bunk. especially the colorstruck accusations–I’ve seen every one of his movies (and most of the plays) and there is no pattern of colorism that I can detect. Sure, the golden-hued Shemar Moore and Boris Kodjoe played the knight in shining armor in two Perry films–but that’s because, in terms of the hotness factor, they’re the Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise of Black Hollywood. But the chocolatey Morris Chestnut and Idris Elba played the same role in two other Perry films, so the scales are balanced. (The nerd in me really wants to make a spreadsheet right now but that’s time better put towards my research paper, I think.) As for the saditty and professional black women, Perry is simply bringing up issues that we talk about all the time. Many, if not most of us, know that pretty chick who thinks her beauty is an excuse to act stank. Pick up an issue of Essence or Ebony and you’ll see articles on achieving work-life balance, and editorials encouraging us to “let a man be a man”. Yet all of a sudden Perry is a misogynist for reflecting these sentiments in his films? He’s simply doing the smart thing and writing about what resonates and causes controversy with his audience. Finally, as for the excessive comedy and melodrama–would you pay to see 2 hours of well dressed folks having polite conversation about the weather?….didn’t think so.
My conclusion: Sometimes, a movie is just a movie. But if you feel differently, lemme hear it!