Hating Tyler Perry: Why Does He Raise the Ire of the Black Intelligentsia?

July 25, 2011  |  

by Steven Barboza

If Perry Can Do Bad All By Himself, Should Black Critics Assign His Films to “Perry’s Inferno”?

We live in the age of Tyler Perry.

He is everywhere – on billboards, in sitcom credits, in profiles of Hollywood heavyweights. His stage and screen creation, Madea – a feisty, linebacker of a grandmother – has joined the pantheon of black comedic characters, a hall of fame that includes Flip Wilson’s Geraldine and Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert. And soon, Perry will appear in a thriller as the crime-solving psychologist Alex Cross, a role made famous by Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman. The film will be shot in Cleveland starting next month.

Perry is arguably the most successful black film director, producer and screenwriter in history, a mogul whose status in Hollywood is a testament to his business acumen and artistic ingenuity. Why then are there so many Tyler Perry haters?

There’s a huge market for his films. But the black literati have designated a special place in hell for them: Perry’s Inferno. The criticisms are harsh indeed. They go something like this:

•    Tyler Perry is the “KFC of black cinema.”
•    Tyler Perry’s television shows contain “old stereotypes of buffoonish, emasculated black men and crass, sassy black women.”
•    Tyler Perry is a no-count filmmaker whose works are excuses for feel-good sermonizing, not vehicles for human drama that will enlighten us.

This is just not the kind of criticism you’d expect to hear about a major black artist in the era of Obama. It sounds like disapproval for another era – that of the actor popularly known as Sleep ’n Eat, Willie Best’s character of the 1930s.

“I feel like Tyler Perry’s films are bad for your brain,” said Touré, TV host and cultural critic. “They promote a sort of victimhood: it is good and comfortable and okay to be a victim, especially in [the movie] ‘For Colored Girls,’ [featuring women] who are getting beat down by life in various ways and then at the end, they hug. They make no material change. They don’t get rid of the villains in their life. They don’t make attempts to move upward. They just hug. It’s victim Adult Videos. I don’t think it’s positive to tell black people it’s okay to be victims.”

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