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Monday, November 21, 2011

Issue: People: Big Momma's Soul food


Tyler Perry is an American actor, director, playwright, entrepreneur, screenwriter, producer, author, licensed driver, business owner, amateur magician, friend of Oprah, and songwriter. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana as Emmitt Perry Jr. He has three siblings, a father and a mother.

Tyler Perry didn't like his dad much because his dad beat him. But he loved his mom, and she would take him to church every week. So he ended up liking church because his dad wasn't there. When he was sixteen he had his name legally changed to Tyler so people wouldn't confuse him with his dad.

When Tyler Perry grew up he moved to Atlanta and decided to make plays and movies for black people using situations he saw while hanging around black people, and themes he learned from church. His plays and films include christian themes of forgiveness, dignity and self worth, and address issues such as child abuse and dysfunctional families.

Tyler Perry used his life savings to finance his first play, "I know I've been changed." It debuted at a local community theater, and was a failure in finance and public reception. So Perry took it back to the lab and spent the next six years tweaking and re-releasing it on the chitlin' circuit, with people hating it less and less each time.

On the chitlin' circuit he gained a following among black people who related to the stuff he wrote about. But as his work became more popular the criticism grew, the main focus being the perception that his work perpetuates negative racial stereotypes.


The most vocal detractors to Perry's work have been other black people. During an interview Spike Lee said, "Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is 'coonery' and buffoonery. I know it's making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better … I see these two ads for these two shows [Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and House of Payne] and I am scratching my head … We got a black president and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep 'n' Eat?"


Jamilah Lemieux made similar remarks on National Public Radio. While thanking Perry for employing blacks in front of and behind the camera and for making work with humor and "positive messages about self-worth, love and respect", she criticized him for making television shows "marked by old stereotypes of buffoonish, emasculated black men and crass, sassy black women."

Cultural critic TourĂ© said in an interview that "Tyler Perry is perhaps the worst filmmaker in Hollywood" and was quoted as saying earlier that Perry is the "KFC of black cinema".

Listen, Tyler Perry is a bad director. I have watched his movies and am not a fan, except for Soul Food, c'mon, it was his "The Sixth Sense." (Crap, that wasn't him... Uh oh..) I do not like them for pacing, structure, dialogue and him being all up in the shots reasons, and would not if he made films for any race or subject.

But my mom does, she relates to the people, the places and the themes. Whenever I go home she sits the whole family down and we watch one of his 30 hour plays. And when non black people attack his work I suggest they accept that they may not know enough about black people to properly judge Tyler Perrys work.

But now I realize that statement implies I understand black culture enough to judge his work, and I probably don't. I am just a black dude with a 9-5 trying to figure everything out. The black men and women I surround myself with are also boring, educated, and semi functional. He makes movies for black people in the situations he saw while growing up, and the black people that lived those situations like them. 

I do not like his portrayal of the black experience, but accept that other black people do, and perhaps the reason all of us enlightened black people are so offended is because we know there are still real life black people out there "cooning" in the manner we see in his films. And we upwardly mobile Negroes are embarrassed of that version of us, we want to hide them. 

Eh, to each their own. And what the fuck is wrong with fried chicken?
The Protoculture Mixtape v.6

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