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Why you should stop hating Tyler Perry

tyler_perry

Writer/director/actor Tyler Perry is arguably the most polarizing black man in American film today. Having emerged in the mid-2000s after years of building his brand on the gospel play circuit throughout the south and midwest, Perry made his feature film debut with the critically-panned Diary of A Mad Black Woman back in 2005. He hasn’t looked back since. His films have made him one of the richest men in Hollywood, having earned $130 million in 2010 and 2011.

With all of that being said, I have to acknowledge one thing about Tyler Perry: I think he’s a really bad filmmaker. I think his movies are overly devoted to a clunky combination of ham-fisted moralism and cheesy melodrama. I think his “traditional values” would be better suited for those straight-to-DVD films they sell at church conventions and I think most of his films are shot like 1980s sitcoms.

But I don’t hate Tyler Perry.

I was speaking with an actress about Tyler Perry’s films recently and she confided that she feels like Perry’s work is equivalent to minstrelsy. The images that he puts on-screen “are not us” and “make us look bad.” This is a common criticism of Perry—but it’s rooted in a certain pathology that I find more deplorable than 100 “Madeas” could ever be.

The truth that many of the “conscious” black elite either choose to ignore or are too self-righteous to acknowledge is that Tyler Perry’s films are a representation of us. His films resonate deeply with his audience; the people that became devoted to his work long before he ever landed film deals or launched a multi-million dollar media empire. Just because his work isn’t representative of your particular black experience, doesn’t mean it isn’t representative of anyone’s. That audience deserves to see what they want to see, just as much as you or anyone else does. There is not one, monolithic “black voice.” We are a multitude of voices and all of the voices deserve to be heard. We can’t get to that place where the multitude is heard if we’re determined to snuff out any voice that doesn’t fit our specific perspective.

Also, minstrelsy was predicated on black people being lampooned as a race for the enjoyment of white audiences. By and large, Tyler Perry’s audiences are black. His films are for black people. He’s not a crossover star in the vein of an Eddie Murphy or a Will Smith. White people know who Tyler Perry is because he’s rich and he’s garnered a significant amount of industry clout.  And he’s attained that clout without having to reach out to the white demographic. If white people show up, that’s fine—but make no mistake, Tyler Perry makes films for black folks.

Indictment of an artist is also an indictment of that artist’s audience. Perry’s work speaks to a certain audience. That audience has as much right to their favorite director as anyone else does.

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6 Comments

  1. Louise Ford on April 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Stereo Williams, for your honesty. It is so refreshing to read something that is so treu and honest. You don’t like Tyler Perry plays or movies, that’s your choice, thanks you for now judging those of us who like what Tyler Perry put on the big screen. I will go to see his plays/movies before, I go see any of the other stuff. Thumb up to you for this article. I hope others read this and take your advice, be you, and not let others define who you are, how you are suppose to act or what you like or don’t like. Just be yo and have your own, Mind. Again thanks.

  2. Trouble Maker on May 1, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    It’s sill not clear to me why some Negro Americans hate Tyler Perry’s movies. I hear some people complain about the stereotypes. Come on, folks! It’s not like he’s making movies à la Lil’ Wayne videos. Show TP respect. Plus, the man gives Black actors an opportunity to showcase their talent. Anyway, I guess to each his own, then.

    Oh, Mr Stereo Williams you wrote «… Black filmmakers WHO’S Black audiences are so devoted…». English is not my first language, French is, but shouldn’t you have written «…Black filmmakers WHOSE Black audiences are so devoted…». WHO’S (who is), whereas WHOSE is a possessive. No offense but please correct…. Thank you!

  3. Craig on May 3, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Exactly, good article. Too many followers and not enough leaders. What the majority deems uncool the followers ride the bandwagon, they arent the best movies ever but people make fun of the man and downplay the man instead of really critiquing the movies without name calling.

    Just like certain people say nobody wears Reebok or certain shoes what they are saying is fit in with the crowd so we all look alike, I like Jordan but i wont ever get caught wearing his shoes unless i’m getting a check from him. Tyler Perry films are Tyler Perry films no black person makes them like he does.

    A stereotype is what white people think – Ice T

  4. Dean on July 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    He could actually make better movies with the addition of some whites who can actually act. He seems quite racist and discriminating to me. Watched Temptation…and no big woop but then again…what did I expect. I tried watching his show house of payne…but just got disgusted at the morbid obesity of his two main characters. He is the director and can do what he wants, I guess, but I don’t think he will ever make anything that stands the test of time. He should work with high profile blacks such as Denzel, Hally, Morgan, Samuel…but I seriously doubt they would have any interest in him…due to his intentional exclusion of whites.

    • Mrs. Bajalia on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Oh Im so sorry the world is going to end bc tyler perry the bad director didn’t put a white actor /actress in his movie, get over yourselves……Ive watched many great movies where there weren’t any black ppl in it and loved it.

    • Mrs. Bajalia on December 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      If he’s that bad who cares?