I have to admit that Tyler Perry fascinates me. He came from nothing and built this successful empire based off of writing plays. Now he is one of the most successful black people in the movie industry. His movies always go to number one and he is making big, big money. But not without some controversy.
I love watching Tyler Perry movies because they’re all the same. They are like romance novels for black women because they follow the same formula. A single black woman is down on her luck, she’s been hurt and abused by men and has sworn them off. Something happens in her life where she needs help so she usually turns to her family, church and more often than not Madea to help with the problem. In the process she meets a good looking black man who is everything she’s ever wanted. He has a job, loves kids, is devoted to the Lord and wants to be with her. Even if she’s a complete bitch to him, he sees the good side to her and tries to help her see it as well. They fall in love, go to church and clap along as the choir sings and have a beautiful wedding at the end. Everyone lives happily ever after and audiences (and myself) eat it up. Tyler Perry knows what black women want and puts it on the screen. I have been guilty of watching a Tyler Perry movie (my favorite is Diary of a Mad Black Woman) and falling in love with the main guy because he seems too good to be true. Just like a romance novel, you get sucked in and wish a romance like that could happen in real life. Because of that I admire Tyler Perry. He writes all of his movies, takes control of all aspects of his business and entertains an audience that has been neglected by the mainstream.
On the other side is the view that Perry is playing in to stereotypes of black people that have been around for decades. He dresses up in drag to play Madea who is the stereotypical ‘mammy’ character. The male characters in some of his movies are lazy and also feed in to stereotypes. All of this controversy came to a head a few weeks ago when Spike Lee commented on Perry and called his characters examples of “coonery” and “buffoonery.” Perry addressed this on 60 Minutes and he was mad about it. He said that there is no truth to it and called it insulting. But Spike Lee isn’t the only one who feels this way.
Early this year Entertainment Weekly did an interesting article on the different views of Tyler Perry that made me see him in a different way.
My view on Tyler Perry is that his films are stereotypical but they’re fun to watch and laugh at. It’s funny how predictable they are and they are the only films one can watch right now to see an all black cast. However, there are parts of his films and humor that I’ll never understand. I’m a Canadian girl, I don’t know anything about living in the south, eating that kind of food or the slang or culture. That is something that takes away from the movies and makes them less able to cross over to bigger markets. His films don’t premiere at number one in Canada, I’m not even sure they are shown in Europe. If he wants people of other cultures to enjoy his films, he’s going to have to open them up for everyone, no matter what their race, to understand.
But I admire the man and his hustle. For him to have achieved everything he has in the movie business is incredible. And as someone who writes about black people in a different way, it’s encouraging for me to see how far he’s come. It gives me hope that if my book ever gets turned in to a movie, it will have an audience.
Will I ever go to the theater to see a Tyler Perry movie? Probably not. Do I watch House of Payne every night on TBS? No. Will I go see Precious because he’s executive producer? No. But if BET is showing a rerun of one of his movies, or it comes on the movie channel, I’ll watch it. If he’s doing an interview on TV, I’ll watch it and debate the messages in his movies with my mom. He fascinates me and it will be interesting to see what he does in the future.