The Outlook

This isn't for the sensitive

Tyler Perry

2 posts on this blog in one day. Wow. Major record.

In this video, Tyler Perry discusses some of the criticism he’s recieved from people concerning some of the characters he has created, including Madea and Mr. Brown.

I feel what Tyler says here and I completely agree. As I said on Twitter:

 Black ppl have 2 STOP thinking every movie w/ black ppl in it has 2 reflect them

Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen quite a few types of black movies, ranging from Blaxploitation to movies about life in the hood. From stories of the upper echelon of black folks, to the very bottom. All types of black people have been portrayed, sometimes correctly, other times in correctly, in Hollywood.

I won’t go into the issue of whether or not black people are represented enough in Hollywood, because the answer is simple: we are not. The issue I have is this idea that black people seem to have that when they go watch a film starring/about black people, they are supposed to see themselves (and their 3 friends). That isn’t realistic. You and your 3 friends = 4 people, who are by no means representative of an entire group. I know we’d all love to see more films with black people of all types in it, the way we feel like we see films with all types of white people in them. I’d actually argue that there are plenty of groups of white people who are horridly under/mis-represented in film, but that’s another topic.

What Tyler Perry has long been able to do is make his plays relatable to his fanbase. TP figured out early on that there was a certain demographic within the black community who identified with his characters. They had a grandmother like Madea, an uncle like Mr. Brown. They too had a crackhead in their family, or had also dealt with spousal abuse. When they watch his plays and his films, they see themselves and their families. Those are the targets, for him.

If you don’t see yourself in any Tyler Perry film, that’s ok. Maybe his films aren’t for you. I don’t identify completely with Spike Lee’s “School Daze;” in fact, this film doesn’t describe my college experience at all, but I respect it not only because it’s a classic or because it’s a good film, but because there are many African-Americans who do see themselves in “Do The Right Thing” or “Crooklyn” or “School Daze” or any other Spike Lee Film. In fact, many black people didn’t like Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” because they missed what he was trying to say. While not exactly the same, many people miss what Tyler Perry is trying to do: draw in an audience that is under/mis-represented in Hollywood with as he says, “disarming, funny, charming bait” and then he’s able to make larger points about God and love and relationships, for example.

There are plenty who argue that it’s not about who these films are or aren’t for, but that they gross so much money and make so much news on the backs of caricatures of black people that have been used for decades to degrade and humiliate an entire race of people. Look, I’ll be honest — if these movies were made by white filmmakers, we’d all be pissed and rightfully so. But that’s because there’s no way films like these could be made honestly. The caricatures and exaggerations that we reference when we call something “coonery” or “buffonery” are based on completely false stereotypes. Tyler Perry may exaggerate some things, but his characters are based stiffly and assuredly in someone’s truth, and if it’s not my truth I can be ok that it is’s someone’s truth.

Amos & Andy… (click the picture for more info on Amos and Andy’s history)

were not someone’s truth. They were completely falsified creations made up in a white man’s world based on the things white people thought were true about black people. Tyler Perry’s characters are based on people he knows, and if we’re all honest, people we know.

I think we need to get off Tyler Perry. He’s doing a lot of things no other black filmmaker has been able to do and I think it’s largely in part because he focused on a demographic that is incredibly loyal but had long been overlooked by most of Hollywood, even the black filmmakers. We can’t be upset with him for doing what no one else would and succeeding.


October 26, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Movies | | 1 Comment