I do not hate Tyler Perry I just hate everything he does. It really isn’t even Tyler Perry and his work that bothers me. It is the blind following of his film, plays, and TV shows by the African-American community. Ten years ago there was so much talk about Tyler Perry plays that when offered a chance by my family to see one on DVD I sat down and ready to be impressed. I set my expectations too high.
As I watched Madea’s Class Reunion, I knew two things immediately: 1) my family is dumber than I thought 2) This was the biggest waste of time in my life, ‘new employee orientation’ you are now off the hook. (Really, how long does it take to tell men on their first day of work “find booty on your own time”) Okay, it is a man dressed as a woman, nothing ground breaking. I wanted to ask my cousins if they had ever watched Martin or the Flip Wilson show. Madea pulls a gun out on a waiter… okay my cousin that is a VP for IBM is also offended, no need to ‘DNA test’ my relationship with her but the rest of these idiots can expect their Maury Show invite from me within the year.
My aunt is upset because I am not laughing. How can someone get offended because you do not find something funny? Be offended if I spit on your rug, be offended if I drink the last of your kid’s juice, and please be offended if I pull the DVD player out the socket while throwing it and Tyler Perry out the family room window. Do not get offended that watching Black culture take a 30 year step backwards is not giving me side-splitting pleasure. I walked out the house and took a walk. Oh I did not mention to you I was with my family in Mississippi, so I thought a Black man taking a walk down an unlit Mississippi back road was a better idea than looking at Tyler Perry.
Before you say you have to give him more a chance or ask if I based my opinion of Tyler Perry production off of a bootleg DVD (I have to give my family credit for not legally buying Madea’s Class Reunion). I did watch more Tyler Perry productions/movies. I had to watch more, I had to figure out what was wrong with his work. “Diary of Mad Black Woman”, “Madea’s Family Reunion”, “Daddy’s Little Girls”… bad, bad, bad DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!! I did figure out what one of the problems was. The writing is so unbelievably bad, the writing, the story arc, the lack of depth to the characters makes watching the 88 minutes of his films fill as dirty as you would walking past a dog park with Michael Vick.
Biggest problem with “Diary of Mad Black Woman”, ‘Orlando’ played by Shemar Moore… ain’t no brother putting up with a sister treating him like that when they first meet. As men we are hounds, we want the booty (that’s the reason why they take so much time telling us not to try to get it at work during new employee orientation), we will play games and put up with a lot for the opportunity to be with a woman but even we have a limit. Most brothers would have told ‘Helen’, played by Elise Neal, “Okay sister, I see you are having a bad day. My apologies for trying to push up, you have a good day.” That’s most brothers, some brothers would have sounded like a Snoop Dogg and Xzibit duet “B#tch Pleeze!”. The ending looked like the Compton Black Actors Ensemble’s production of “An Officer and A Gentleman”… really bad.
I will leave “Madea’s Family Reunion” alone, because it was silly. If Tyler Perry just kept it at silly I would be cool with him. It just gets under my skin to give me an hour of buffoonery, every character be a stereo type, all the jokes tired and insulting to your audience then justify all of it by a 3 minute seen where Madea puts out her cigarette and quotes one scripture out the Bible. Is that for him or for the audience? Slide a little God in the script that justifies all the doors you have shut for brothers and sisters trying to make positive moves in the industry. You think Spike Lee’s problem is that he is not “THE” Black movie director anymore? That Black people go see Tyler Perry movies in higher numbers than ‘Spike Lee Joints’? No Spike’s problem with Tyler is that at the exact moment Spike is pushing through a new breed of Black and Latino filmmakers and getting his production budgets kicked up to 9 digits, here comes Tyler Perry. Nothing wrong with Tyler getting in the game any way he could, but damn it man… DO BETTER! Now movie studios can tell Spike:
Movie Industry: “Your target audience is the Black community Spike. Our data shows we can put 8 million dollars into films targeted to Black folks and get a $30 million return. Why would we give you a $105 million budget and possibly lose 60 million bucks?”
Spike: “Because Black people deserve for their stories to be told in a quality equal to the general movie going audience.”
Movie Industry: “Ummm… Black people do not seem to care about what they see.”
Spike: “Unfortunately, that is the result of this current structure and my point.”
Tyler Perry has done more harm than good. Are there some actors getting starring roles that they would never get if it was not for him, of course they are. Should I be happy for Tyler for obtaining a level of power not seen for a person of color, I am. Spending time in recent years as a stand-up comic and writer it bothered me when people suggested I try to write and do like Tyler Perry. You can only spit up so much blood and hear that so many times. I have taken a break from the stage and backed out of my one writing opportunity. I am not the only person I know that has done this, many brothers and sisters have not because there is no appreciation for their work, but because there is not even openness from our own communities try it out.
Tyler Perry’s Christmas production will be in Chicago soon. Most people I know want to go see it. Which bothers me as well, because Chicago has a great theater experience if you are open to it. The work at the Goodman Theater alone could give a great representation of the Black experience in this country. Not happening for us. I have shared with my friends a few times that is Tyler Perry died tomorrow, BET would change it’s program schedule in honor of “Tyler Perry, a great American play-writer and movie producer”. Sadly the August Wilson, arguably America’s greatest play-writer of the last 30 years, a Black man died in 2005 and BET didn’t make a bleep about it. Most people who have seen a Tyler Perry production have never heard of August Wilson. Ironically, many of the actors that appear in the Madea movies can list a Wilson production on the résumé or have obtained roles because they used a monologue from an August Wilson play. Denzel Washington performs on Broadway every year, usually Shakespeare or August Wilson. When Denzel does a stage production of Madea’s “Fill in the blank” I will walk down the street in a wig, a dress, smoking a square, while holding a gun, daring police to mess with me. Then I will throw away anything I own that puts me in contact with the outside world.
My best friend has been in a Tyler Perry movie (luckily his career benefitted from boost in his character on his TV show so did not have to go the TP road anymore), my little sister will have a first part in his next film. I believe he puts people I know in his movies every few years to force me to watch them. I will I keep my words and vomit to myself. Until I get to my laptop then I say what I need to with a bucket on the side of my couch so I can get everything out of me that I need to after a moment with Madea.
Yes his films are bad, his TV shows are worse, but it was a combination of a few of his movies that truly gave me confirmation that his movies are not for me. “Daddy’s Little Girls”, “The Family That Preys”, and “Why Did I Get Married?”, these movies struck me for different reasons.
“Daddy’s Little Girls” because that brother would have been on Oprah for all he went through and before his ex-wife could take him to court all the legal help he needed would be in place by people who wanted to see him succeed. “The Family That Preys”, the brothers in that movie are either in complete and total need of the women in their lives to survive and those that have it together are ass holes.
“Why Did I Get Married?”, there are so many things wrong with this movie that I have to force myself to deal with the one thing that makes this movie alright. The relationship between Sheila and Mike, played by Jill Scott and Richard T. Jones. Let me make this quick point, it is an absolute joy to see Jill Scott take on any role, immensely talented and gorgeous. Try being upset while listening to or watching something featuring Jill Scott… not possible. Her sad songs leave you smiling. However, my biggest problem with this movie was this relationship, can’t no brother (yes I am in all out Ebonics fam!) talk to a sister like that about her weight, then play her off in front of her people without it getting physical. You getting ‘finger busted’ in your forehead at least bruh, believe me. (Finger busted: verb, when an angry Black woman puts an exclamation point to her words by thumping her middle finger into the forehead of a sorry-looking brother. Example: Halle Barry in “Boomerang” when she ‘finger busted’ Eddie Murphy as she said “you only care about your damn self”) Tyler Perry does not write for me. I would say he writes for Black women, but I was raised by a Black woman who acts nothing like the women in those films. He just does not write for Black men and he has no interest in doing anything that puts Black men in a positive light.
Actually, Tyler Perry is not my problem. It is the people who blindly watch his movie. If you open your minds for a second and give some of the people who are doing some amazing things a chance, you would be pleased. Not just Black people, there are people from all different backgrounds doing incredible work today. It does not do us any favors to make it easy for an industry that is inherently biased towards races, to continue to toss low-budget garbage at us because they know we will accept it. I am not saying I want Tyler Perry to go away, I want us all to give more people a chance that would make Madea easier to deal with. If there are more choices than these movies, it broadens our representation in American culture and it possibly challenges Tyler Perry to dig deeper and give you something that is true and needed in your life. Honest reflection of you who you, who we are as a culture.
I have to say one more thing, Oprah is so liable in all of this. I think of how Oprah has challenged rappers for their use of the word ‘nigga’. How it is demeaning and does nobody in the Black community any good. Then she pushes Tyler Perry films as the greatest achievement in movie history. I wonder if she gets on Tyler Perry for using ‘nigga’ in his films? What is it about Tyler that allows him a pass from holding up a standard for Black people to aspire too that rap artists do not get? Answer, buffoonery. Acting a fool gives Black people the freedom to gain success in this country. Chuck D knew that his message would not be accepted by the public and main stream music audiences. So having Flava-Flav was as important to Public Enemy as the S1W’s and his lyrics were. The problem with Tyler Perry’s buffoonery is… what is his message? The one I get does not sit well with me.