Thursday, August 12, 2010

What's wrong with Tyler Perry?

The film of American Actor/playwright Tyler Perry "Why Did I Get Married Too?" receives its UK theatrical release on 3rd September 2010.

According to the website Catch a Vibe, Tyler Perry wants to introduce his brand to UK Audiences. In May he and Janet Jackson attended a special screening of the film “Why Did I Get Married Too?” at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton (London).

In the US Perry has received harsh criticism for his work with some citing that his material reinforces negative stereotypes of African Americans. One of his biggest criticasters is director Spike Lee. Lee even called Perry's shows "Coonery Buffoonery". According to the blog Shadow and Act Tyler Perry is still upset over Spike Lee’s Criticisms.

But who is Tyler Perry? Tyler Perry is an American actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and author. He is famous for his theatre plays and his "controversial" film "Aunt Madea goes to jail". Perry was also involved in the film "Precious". According to wikipedia, in 2009, Perry was ranked by Forbes magazine as the sixth highest-paid man in Hollywood. As of July 2009, Perry's films had grossed nearly $400 million worldwide.

I don't know if Spike Lee is right about Tyler Perry, so maybe I will rent a few films to get a better picture.

Trailer "Why Did I Get Married Too?"

Ant Media goes to jail

Madea Imitates Patti Labelle (Madea Goes To Jail) - Theatre

Spike Lee criticises Tyler Perry


  1. I'm not a fan of Tyler Perry because he DOES reinforce negative stereotypes about African-Americans. The portrait he paints of us blacks in America is one that was created to keep us in a subservient and inferior position, and the sad thing about it is that mainstream (largely white) society refuses to actually look past the projected image and seek reality. What they see on screen is what many of them believe to be an absolute truth. It burns me up when someone comes to me and asks if my grandmother is just like Madea. I concede that some of us have a similar environment that is being portrayed, but the problems come when people believe that the image is the absolute truth, and everyone that defies the image is an exception to a rule. (If you want to see the worst of the stereotypes, rent the plays before the movies)

    Oh, by the way, I've been a fan of yours for quite some time, but this is my first time commenting. Greetings from a fellow child of the diaspora!

  2. I had never heard of Tyler Perry before, although I do follow African American cultural productions.
    I can safely say that most black Europeans, who do tend to consume a lot of black American culture, do not know of Tyler Perry while we ALL know who Spike Lee is and watch his films.

  3. N.S. Thanks for the comment. I didn't knew his shows were that popular in the US! So thanks for the tip and the compliment. Greetings from this side of the pond.

    And Sibo you’re right. I don’t think most black Europeans have heard of him. But it seems Perry wants to change that, he recently visited London to promote his film. (I have added that information to the post.)

  4. Many in the UK know of him.

    His film have been available on pirate in the UK for a few years now.

  5. Guess that most things black American get to us through the UK, so I'm not suprised that TP must already have an audience in the UK. Promoting his work in the UK now is a first step before conquering the continent ;-)
    For the UK there is no language barrier either.

    Even after hearing Spike Lee's critique I'd like to see it for myself. Just watching the trailer it seems to be a mix of comedy and drama. Still, knowing the average comedy from Hollywood featering black actors, I do not expect too much. But then again, most Hollywood comedies, whether with black actors or not, have pretty low standards.

    Most would say it's just entertainment while Spike Lee tries to educate wile entertaining: edutainement. I doubt that this is TP's purpose.

  6. I don't know why people are so critical of Tyler Perry's movies. I've watched a lot of his movies and I think the characters in his movies range from negative type casts to normal non-stereotypical to positive stereotypes. I think his movies are fun to watch. If anything they make me wish that I grew up around African Americans or had African American friends rather being African. I think he tries to explore and reflect common aspects of African American society on screen while ALWAYS teaching a lesson about morals like forgiveness, individuality, self-esteem, loyalty in marriage, etc. So it would be a lie to say that his movies are just fun and not educational. I think more people should actually take the time to watch some of his movies.

  7. I would like to add on to what Diana said, because I agree completely. Tyler Perry like it or not has lead the way for African Americans films and provided opportunities for actors/actresses in the states. Before Tyler Perrys' plays and films rarely casted an African American in any major films as a major role. It would always be that side role that got killed off or just was there to please the audience with humor. Tyler Perry is a successful African American man, he went from being homeless to being a millionaire. Sounds like a success story about a man following his dream.
    However, I can understand N.S. thoughts as well because there is this portrait of African Americans being stagnate, but overall it is in the main character Madea and thats where I feel the criticism comes in. Everyone around the "through line"=Madea, is exploring different life lessons, but Madea is the same,she may have some good advise here and there but she also not afraid to pull out her gun at anytime (which is something she does often in the plays and movies). As an African American I feel that I can watch it and relate to the films but I also am educated to understand that not all African American families are like that and not all people are like Madea. But the majority of the population, white americans, will see the film and think all African Americans must be like this, or you must have an aunt like Madea right? I think its a catch 20 20 and depending on your personal preference we will all have our own opinion about it.
    ps. this is my first time every commenting but I faithfully follow and read this blog. Thanks so much for all the posting!

  8. Diana, and Leslie.t thanks for your comments. Very interesting to read that his shows are more then just stereotype jokes about African-Americans.

    Leslie.t, also thanks for the compliment!

  9. Many Black women have a gay friend - but this guy is rarely popular with other Black males.
    This is Tyler Perry.
    His views seem to mirror those of the gay African-American male from the South.
    The lighter skinned men are good and more desirable while the darker males are dumb and undesirable.
    The fathers in his movies are never around (not even in supposedly "middle-class" families.) and the women are those who raise thier sons.
    Even in his television shows the men are idiots.
    A better view of Black males in America would be "Everybody Hates Chris", "Cosby" or "Bernie Mac".
    In each of these shows the men are men regarless of their economic class.
    TP's view seems to come from those of angry African American females.
    (I can't stand his films.)

    @ Diana - TP did what?
    Just Google "African American Directors" to see that there is more out there than the limited perspective of TP.
    Do Denzel, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Don Chedele, or most other AA actors even need to be in his films?
    Tyler Perry is 'WalMart' compared with Spike Lee's 'Hermes'.
    It's a totally different thing.
    I ain't mad at him (He owns his own stuff and did great in business.) - I just hate his product.

  10. shame to think that black africans and americans do not think so highly of TP, and as for spike lee his ship docked ages ago... besides the fact that they produce different films. The other point I want to point out is really white america can think what they want, when you see mainstream films do you attack how they grew up or what people will think of them? abuse, drug taking even the way they treat black america in films and daily life! Look at how paris hilton made her name. I can go on. however somethings will never change and old people as Madea is exactly what we need to remind us about granmum who still clings to how they grew up 80-90 years ago. Sometimes its nice just to enjoy the work TP puts in and say I will never be like Madea and change your culture, besides its just a film and all our home lives are different..

  11. People need to think critically.

    NS & Black John speak the truth, co-sign 100%. There is something very wrong with Tyler Perry's movies. Any one of Spike Lee's films has had a far more profound impact on Black Film and Black Culture than a Tyler Perry collection could ever hope to do.

    If Anon 4:42 thinks Spike's 'ship docked ages ago' then you fail to appreciate how Spike revolutionized the industry and paved the way for the good & the bad Black Film directors in the US today.

    A film is not just a film, it portrays the image of a people and their experiences and if the one-dimensional characters and simplistic narratives in Perry's movies are testament to Black America today (think Madea Goes to Jail versus Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, for example) then it is a sad and untruthful reflection. The overly-religious, dark, fat, loud mouthed, single mammy was funny when Martin Lawrence did it, it was okay in one Tyler Perry movie, but when it became the basic ingredient of many movies then there is a problem. Added to that mix, the slim, light-medium brown skinned women seem to have it all - Precious is a perfect example of Perry's coloration.

    IMO the man's got some deep, deep, deep personal issues he needs to resolve.


  12. I agree with many of the criticisms mentioned in the previous comments. It does, however, look like he's trying to broaden his horizons with his involvement in Precious and For Colored Girls...but I don't think Madea will be going away any time soon either. I think it's a conflict for a lot of people because on one end; it's nice to see actresses like Cicely Tyson back in the limelight but there are so many questionable stereotypes and themes that always sort of bother me...not to mention the lack in quality of plot development and writing. I actually posted a funny video about how white people are also stereotyped in his films: (not that I'm trying to advertise, lol) But yeah, I can't hate the guy, but I wouldn't consider myself a fan either. There are countless mainstream Hollywood movies that make black people look far worse. Why not pick on them first?

  13. When Spike Lee first came out to me some of his earlier works were flops...scene's of college life at predominate Black universities and wild sex parties, women that were big in the hip joint's and loose in the lips...All of this college fazing and the alternate attire they wore was a little too much out of the ball park...The only film that made the grade for me was" Get on the Bus" about the Million Man March" ...I could relate to that because I attended that historic event...I didn't even like his derision of Malcolm X that film could have been better without Denzil Washington, the film was accurate as far as historical research...But Denzil Washington to me just didn't look like Malcolm X...
    Now I somewhat agree with Spike's criticism of Tyler Perry's films, they can be a study in Black Buffoonery and Coon comes to Hollywood along with BuckDancing for dummies...Both of them as far as I'm concern us too much stereotypical material that was use to tarnish African-American image in the past...I'm tried of Independent Black films resorting back to the minstrel shows of jokes, hi there I is a party KneeGrow'...don't we have enough laughing stocks and great pretenders...Where are our great love stories? Or do we have any more role models? Who are they? I would like to see film's done on such notable's as Ralph Ellision, James Baldwin, Claudia Jones, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, Paul Robsen, C.L.R. James, George Padmore, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor, Joe Harriott, Mary Ann Shad, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Wilson Harris, Kamu Brathwaite....These are some of the people I admired and studied...every generation should try to uplift those that went before us...Edwin

    1. @edwin I'm inclined to agree with you. I would love to see more depth in Black American cinema. Maybe we should be looking closer at Nollywood and around the diaspora for inspiration.

  14. This is a hot topic. One very important point seems to have been missed, unless I just didn't read enough. That very important point is ,that for the past 6 years Tyler Perry has been operating out of HIS OWN studio. He is not dependent on Hollywood to produce his work. He has also created opportunities for Black people that most likely would not be there without his studios. I'll drop in the URL, it's really quite impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if Spike Lee were to be harboring a little "studio envy".


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