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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  • Michelle

    I disagree with Spike on this. I for one, have never been a fan of Spike Lee’s movies, even though I am a ‘highly educated’ black person. Cinema is for ENTERTAINMENT. There is no one Right way to entertain! Spike needs to STHU…stop criticizing Tyler Perry, & Jamie Fox in Django! He’s trying to put black film in a box, and that’s not cool! I absolutely LOVE Madea!! Keep doing what you’re doing, Tyler Perry!!

  • Tanner

    Great article. I, for my part, don’t like Perry stuff because I don’t find it funny or well-made. I literally don’t understand what people see in it. It’s not my type of humor. But if it sells, more power to him for making money off it and creating that many more jobs.

  • Jay HIll

    I meant Robin Williams not Woody Allen.

  • marie

    Touré are you laughing all the way to the bank , stop hating

  • CMarie

    Toure and Spike Lee are to Black Film and Tyler Perry; what Cornel West and Tavis are to Black Politics and President Obama. "Intelligentsia"??? Please…. "Haters" is what they are.

  • sandyfox

    Old white lady here…I like both. SL is undoubtedly brilliant but I really like Tyler, too. I howled when I first saw Madea. You know why? I saw him/her as an old lady, too, who didn't put up with any (ahem)from anyone. I especially liked the getting physical part of raising a teenager. Of course most people of all colors wouldn't behave like that, but heaven knows the thought of it has entered my mind with some snarky teens I know. So, to me it was bringing up forbidden thoughts and laughing them out of my system. That's a valid function of slapstick. As for the black struggle, never underestimate the fact that millions of whites wish you well. After all, whether it's Spike, Tyler, Oprah, Bill, Whoopie or Barack.. we love to watch you win and we continue to support you by contributing to your art, athletics, and elections.

  • Chase

    I'm with the intelligentsia on this. I think McDonalds is a perfect reflection of Tyler Perry and his work: cheap, efficient, and dangerously unhealthy for you. Yea, McDonalds sells a million burgers a day, but that doesnt make it a five-star restaurant. Without intellectual exercise, a steady diet of Tyler Perry will give your brain diabetes. If Hollywood is the negligent FDA in this equation, Spike Lee is a consumer advocacy group trying to pull bad meat off the shelves. Power to the people.

  • jessica

    Just because he's giving people what they want doesn't mean it's a good thing. Some people like drugs. Are we to think that drug dealers are good people just giving others what they want? I didn't think so. Captain America, Harry Potter, and Planet of the Apes were all a 100 times more creative than anything Tyler Perry could ever think of.

  • jessica

    Everybody is entitled to his own opinion. Here is mine. I don't like Tyler Perry. I feel so sad when I see how many African Americans support his films. In my opinion his films are full of stereotypes and buffoons. It reminds me of something a racist would make in the 30's or 40's. I really believe that if a white person were making these films they would be boycotted. A lot of people say he is making films about true experiences. Okay, I used to live in Missouri and they have some of the poorest white people I have ever seen. I don't see people making movies about this 24/7. There are white people who live in the hills of West Virginia who go barefoot most of the year and are what most of you would call "hillbillies". I don't see movies made about them 24/7. The point I am trying to make is, just because he may be telling a truth about a small segment of African Americans doesn't mean that he has to keep doing it over and over again. He shows the negative side all the time. I don't think he has any creativity. He appeals to basic people. Tyler Perry hurts my heart.

  • Will

    "Daddy's Little Girls" was an excellent film and gave a wonderful shout out to black fathers and the good older, encouraging brothers(Lou Gosset) in the black community. No one is perfect. Tyler Perry has a good heart and does a lot for the community and people in need. He's humble. Alos, he's a black man that shows other black men that despite obstacles and bad times, you casn still rise up and be successful. Black people need to laugh with all of the sadness and tragedies around us. Tyler tries to offer hope in his films. There are other upcoming filmakers and screenplay writers that will bring different stories. Tyler Perry has already been whipped enough in life, please celebrate the good that he does Also black men love and raise your children and stand by your women, marry them and respect them and have life insurance in case you don't make it to old age.Women respect your husbands and submit to them, not foolishness or danger but if you have a brother that loves you and is trying, then honor him, don't be like Tasha. Signing out 2nd Chronicles 7:14

  • sharon

    Why is all this attention focused on Toure' and anything he has to say? How many movies has this guy made? How many actors has he given jobs? If Toure' and Spike Lee (what is the name of his last blockbuster?) are considered intelligentsia please hepl us all. When you do something credible that helps actors of color,Toure' then you might have some credibility,until then do not go to TP movies and just go away. What have you done that makes you an authority on what we BLACKS should pay our hard earned money to see???

    • jessica

      Just because these guys don't have any relevant movies doesn't mean they can't have an opinion. The reason why a lot of extremely brilliant African American films don't get made is because the white people in charge won't allow it. They don't want to see anything that will uplift the African American community. They will only support the negative stereotype BS that people like Tyler Perry puts out. Just how easy do you think it is to make a movie. Try it and then get back to me.

  • But yet our African American actors and actresses are struggling to find work. Tyler Perry provides jobs. He is a great example of creativity, fun, and hard work. The ones that criticize him are not providing the jobs to these celebrities. I don't feel that he shows us in a negative light.. The only reason why he's even a topic for discussion is because of his undeniable success. Everyone always denies success for what it is. Keep it up Tyler…thank you for your contributions, and I will continue to support you.

  • CARLA W.

    i think the majority of people (particularly Blacks) commend Tyler Perry for his hard work and dedication and for having achieved the level of success he has. What we take exception to is that having achieved such status why is he not expanding his vision and projecting more than the narrow view of particularly the Black experience. i acknowlege that the stories (victims, depressed, abused) have credibility and are apart of many folk, black and whites experience, but it is not the ONLY perspective. its not mine! nor many of those i grew up with. My father was present, my mom stayed home to raise us. we grew up in a very nuturing community on the far south side of Chicago. There are a mirad of humor and drama and a wealth of stories to tell …that are worthy of being told …My father is a former negro league Ballplayer, my uncle a Tuskeegee Airman, other uncles musicians who lead the house band @ the famous Club Delisa, played for a US president, his arrangement used in Pulp Fiction. I am not in a minority as far as families with unique and mainsteam stories to tell…

  • Edward Johnson

    I like Tyler. He came up with an idea that put money in his use to be poe pocket and made his rich. I an't hatin on him. I wish had come up with the idea first and you would be hating on me and I wouldn't give a care. I would be rich and that is that.

  • NubianPrince

    …To whom much is given…..much is expected Tyler Perry needs to understand this

    • Berdell

      I think he does.

  • Mel

    Shariese-Spike Lee couldn't get a mainstream movie made to save his life in the past few years because he has been pretty outspoken, refuses to dumb it down, and cannot get the financing.

    Tyler Perry does not distribute his films himself, he has people behind him at Lionsgate who back him. Lionsgate is behind him full force because they want to promote what he has to sell. Most companies DO NOT want to take a risk on something artsy, intelligent or even just mainstream regarding Blacks. However, Tyler's place is NOT in doubt because the material he provides doesn't challenge any of the ideas the studios have about what Black people will support.

  • mel

    This is the best comment ON HERE, and thats what a lot of the "OMG Tyler is a Black man, why aren't y'all supporting him" cries don't get.

    I don't think anyone active hates Tyler Perry, it's just that many of us realize that there seems to be only one point of view the movie studios and tv stations enjoy showing of us…almost every other predominantly Black show has been phased out. NO ONE can get a major movie greenlit in hollywood these days with a predominantly Black cast like Tyler Perry can, but how much of that is because the man is in a dress and challenges not one whit White dominant culture?

    Sometimes we have to ask ourselves the tough questions instead of just enjoying what we're being force fed. BTW-if you like "meet the browns", Im not attacking you. Im just saying, that shouldn't be the ONLY thing we get to see, because it doesn't represent or entertain everyone.

  • Carolyn

    Tyler keep doing what you doing . May God continue to bless you and allow you to share your talent with the rest of us and yes I work hard for my money and I don't mind see it go into Tyler Perry and his worker pocket cause I enjoy myself when I go to one of his production and I don't see people complaining when they pay to go see any white production put out there so shut up about Tyler and if you don't like his work don't pay your hard earned money to go see it and if you are getting it bootleg then why are you complainging just saying to each his own but you my friend Tyler and I would never buy bootleg love you

  • Curtis

    Looks as though history is just repeating itself. When will black people learn.


    Out of WEDLOCK children are called BASTARDS


    I can not relate to anything Tyler Perry does . Madea,,,what a joke NON of the older women in my family is that SIZE(FAT/OBESE/OVERWEIGHT) SLOB or IGNORANT!

    AS far as the Men in my family NONE AND I MEAM NONE of the men go around having BABIES all over the G-D Damn place! Those that have children , RAISE their Children or just don't have any. And people in my family stay in school and GRADUATE, Black American really don't know what it is the be TRUELY POOR or have the JUSTICE SYSTEM lock them away.

    Where my mother is from the POlice would just break down your door and hall your BLACK azz (sic) away !! and there in NO NAACP or ACLU for you to call . You NEGROs here have it easy, and I don't see any of you starving or working in a Concentration Camp or a GuLag

  • Queen Vee

    What I like about Tyler Perry, is that he is his own man. He fought Hollywood and won. He uses his poetic license as he sees fit. He saw his niche and filled it. He is a successful businessman because he believed in his product and he believed in himself. Most of all, he believes in God, is a Christian, and uses that basis in his films to get his message across. If everyone would look at his films, they all share a common theme–forgiveness. In the medieval times, the "fool" who made the king laugh, also made the king think. His films make you laugh, but they also make you think. To be successful in this economy is major, and he is putting people to work. This is the American dream that he is living–to have your own business and to be successful at it.

    • jessica

      Tyler Perry didn't fight Hollywood at all. He succumbed to it. He gives us just what Hollywood told him to give us. A bunch of buffoons and stereotypes. Believe me, no Tyler Perry movie sees the light of day unless the white man says so. Yes he has his own movie studio but believe me he does not have the last word on his movies being made or released.

  • J. Beville

    Perry and Lee, as well as DuBois and Washington are "Apples and Oranges" As Lee stated, Black folks and their expressions are not monolithic. This should be obvious to all who are looking by now. In short, there is no real comparison,,,contrast, yes but not comparison. Each and every artist has something to say and some speak with one kind of technology (expertise) and others speak with another. Audiences who examine all of these varied expressions and art exhibits are testiment to that.

  • rodell59

    Like the frustrated actor who can't, become critics. Thats all that is. I pray for the day when we use our energy to uplift and not tear down those in the struggle. Is Tyler Perry perfect no he is not but I applaud his efforts and wish him well in his endeavors. If you have a problem with someone in what he or she is doing, then get off your high horse and get into the arena.

  • Veronica

    Bottom line its envy and jealousy…….They only throw stones at trees that bare fruit.

  • smoothprof

    this is a reply to most people in this thread. jealously? totally stupid… i have been black for most of my life. my grandparents were sharecroppers and laborers… it is utterly silly to think that people cannot criticize something so public as television and "cinema." come on black people! to characterize perry's films as relevant to most black families is to completely miss the point and to characterize african americans in a similar way as white supremacist patriarchy… no tyler perry films do not related to the majority of black people and families. where do you live? do you read? or do you live under a rock? or perhaps you get your primary images of black people from television? my goodness… think, people. think! when you criticize something that you think is wrong, is it because you are jealous? or because it is damaging, painful, and wrong?

    • Curtis


  • smoothprof

    to suggest that tyler perry is the best out there is as ridiculous as this article and a tyler perry film. it shows the depth of ignorance regarding the creative arts. many black people are trained and educated in the arts. they, like many other black people who are qualified in various fields, are passed over for a type of popular, shallow, and bufoon-type representation. who wrote this silly article? tyler perry and spike lee akin to du bois and washington? that is some ignorant and insulting sh… and who is this intelligentsia? you quoted no scholars, no professors who are trained in the humanities, the theater arts, philosophy, religion, or fine arts. no disrespect to spike lee or toure, both of whom i respect, but they are not black intelligentsia. and even if they were, you draw such a conclusion based on two thinkers? clearly reductionistic. and to call it "hate"–who certified you a journalist? bad scholarship, poor journalism… tyler perry shows unfortunately are part of a long legacy of representations in american media that can only show black people in negative, stereotypical, and unflattering ways–as if this is somehow authentically "black." this is just dumb dot com (think "the braxtons").

    • jessica

      Thank you!

  • Nina

    Someone mentioned Spike Lee on here.

    Just as much as people blasts Tyler Perry about his so-called " coonery" of his films, looking at the same thing about race and/or politics is just as a pain in the butt as he. Too much of the same things aren't good for anybody.




  • Truthbtold

    I personally don't really care for Tyler Perry's projects, but I certainly respect, admire, and commend him for his success and his efforts. He is talented and successful at what he does. He has honed his craft, and does a remarkable job of "working." He is putting people to work, and giving back to his community. May you continue to ignore the critics Tyler and have continued success. Be Blessed!

  • Jay

    It's his work, he runs the show and writes the scripts but it's not his fault that there's a lack of diversity in HIS films? Please explain that

  • guest

    i know plenty more huxtables than the browns.

  • jusaskin'

    What is under Tyler perry's dress when he plays madea…boxers, briefs, g-string….?

  • LaToya Tagan

    First off Tyler isn't a great actor so why does he get the role of Alex Cross? He's already rich so why couldn't he leave this role out there for another black actor? As much as I love James Patterson's fictional character Alex Cross I will not go view it in theaters.

    • huh

      The producers replaced Idris Elba with him because they said Tyler was more of a global brand…? REALLY? Idris is in the golden globe nominated "Luther", a British series about a troubled detective. Idris is Ghanian by heritage and British by Birth. How on EARTH is Tyler Perry more of a global celeb?

      The only thing I can think is that money talks, and after Idris spoke out about the fact that he would like to see the LEVEL of filmmaking in Black Cinema lifted, Tyler Perry soon became a Producer ($) on the Alex Cross film, and then was injected as the lead.

    • sasha

      i agree!!! i love the books and i wouldnt want anyone but morgan freeman playing dr. cross
      i will NOT go see it..#noshade to mr.Perry but i cant…

  • cam

    People really; get a life!!
    This man is doin his job and getting his hustle on very well I must say. You keep up the excellent work Tyler we love u!!
    It’s a shame we can’t be positive and encourage success!! I tell u some of us have such terrible ways!!!! #GODHAVMERCY

    • Blaxican

      "getting his hustle on…" I feel like that's exactly the point of all the Tyler Perry critics. You're definitely his demographic. Keep on elevatin us…!

  • vivian kemp

    when Woody Allen started out making films I did not see any cat fighting ,so sisters and brothers please let's do like wise.

    • bam

      how are woody allen and tyler perry connected at all?…..

  • freakofnature

    @Lisa ” Many of us already know what needs to be done in our communities. Many black folks are unemployed, family members incarcerated, have no money, etc,”. Ok so if “many of us” already know what needs to be done in our community, why are many of our people still unemployed, still have family members incarcerated and still have no money? If we already knew what needed to be done, we wouldn’t be dealing with these issues.

    • Mars

      uh no just because you know what needs to be done doesn't mean you do it. fat people know they need to lose weight by eating less and exercising but they don't do it because it's hard and take discipline.

  • Notsomuch

    I don't understand the family dynamic on Meet the Browns and I definitely don't know any families like it. Why are married doctor and head nurse living with Mr. Brown in a rooming house? I never saw the episode that explains it. I think the phased out the other renters so at least it doesn't seem strangely overcrowded in the house anymore but something still seems strange.

  • Punky

    First off Tyler Perry didn't write For Colored Girls and he didn't do the play justice at all. And to be quite honest I know more Huxtables than Browns. Don't underestimate the African American community. My question is why can't he make it balanced? You can show the various aspects of the black community without making it become parody which is what he does. I think it's great he is keeping people working and creating jobs but also think about what you're projecting onto the community.

    • Lue Blacknell

      Amen! I concur-I do not understand all the backlash w/Tyler Perry movies & shows. I detect a lot of jealousy-especially from toure' -but I see him sometimes on shows on msnbc -but never in a capacity as a host-always a "guest" & only for a "hot minute". Just maybe if he had something to offer-Tyler Perry would give him more than a "guest" casting. Those that do not like Tyler Perry's movies & shows-DO NOT go see them. For everyone that hate Tyler Perry & his movies-there are 20 more that love what he is doing.

  • Ill Will

    I’m not a big fan of Tyler Perry. I can appreciate the imagery given but as a male, I’m tired of the perspective that caters to the female experience and would like to a better balancing act for the black male experience. I think he is a great businessman and very fortunate to have gained success however, I feel depreciated as a black man whenever I watch his work.

    I’m just sayin.

    • guest

      my man you are right. thats exactly what i say when i get in a tyler perry arguement. just show me an image of a strong black man not a bufoon or a man that beats on and disrepects women.

      • JeromeD

        Daddy's Little Girls.

  • In my opinion the more diverse voices in black cinema which speaks to our community the better. It just infuriates me that uppity negroes who always shout the loudest and participates in forums criticizing others do the least for the community. People want to be entertained and don't always want to be preached to. Many of us already know what needs to be done in our communities. Many black folks are unemployed, family members incarcerated, have no money, etc, etc. Most of us just want to laugh and forget our troubles for at least for a minute. Tyler Perry gives us that one moment of freedom from our crazy lives.

    • Curtis

      Many black folks are unemployed, family members incarcerated, have no money but yet still all you want to do is "laugh and forget our troubles"? Last time I checked, unemployment, incarceration and having no money is not a laughing matter. It's this attitude of brushing these issues to the side and just wanting to be entertained that has the black community unemployed, incarcerated and with no money. Keep it up!

      • Yes you must remember that most media is propaganda… And Must be used to manufacture a consensus that you and your people can overcome adversity (tragedy to triumph stories) because the powers that be have been using this medium to kill the spirit of black folks since the inception of films

      • Curtis you are my hero!!!!!!

        Lisa is atypical of many African-Americans who want to use entertainment to run away from problems and challenges we face in the African-American community that are extremely grave in nature. These same people think we can somehow sustain an ongoing assault of unemployment, incarceration and poverty and somehow, we will make it out okay if we pray, say we are "blessed and highly favored" and laugh at Tyler Perry movies.

        I will no longer date a woman that likes Tyler Perry and if that means I have to start dating non-Black women as a result, then so be it.

      • I don't want to hear this garbage about some of us are brushing off the issues which affect our communities. The majority of black folks don't want to do what is necessary to fix the problems. First, lets make sure our kids get a quality education. Make sure they do their homework and not listen to hip hop and BET all day believing they can drop out of school to become rappers or celebrities. Stop spending money on things which have no value like cars, clothes, jewelry etc and save your damn money. Think global and learn new languages and forge new relationships with people from all over the world and not just white folks. Lastly, become an entrepreneur. Starting your own business is the only way black americans are going to be able to be successful and not have to ask white folks for anything.

        • Curtis

          I'm really confused as to what your point is. You say you don't want to hear "garbage about about some of us are brushing off the issues", but then you say the majority of black folks don't want to do what is necessary to fix the problems, which is pretty much the same things as brushing off the issues. So basically what I'm getting is you realize what needs to be done, you understand that it's not being done but you don't want to deal with it. Correct me if I'm wrong.

          • My point was we as African Americans go through so much struggle in our every day lives, we just need a time where we can relax and enjoy ourselves for a minute. Tyler Perry gives us that moment. It does not mean that we are dismissing what is going on.

            • Curtis

              Ok but as you just stated we as blacks don't want to do what is necessary to fix the problems, meaning we're doing nothing at all. So what exactly do we need a break from?

            • Curtis

              I get that you feel you need some time to escape the day to day problems that we as black people face and that's understandable but you've also made the point that we're not doing anything to resolve these issues in the first place. So basically what your doing is masking the problem. Trying to escape from the issues aren't going to make them go away, which really should be the our ultimate goal. If like you said, we're not doing anything to make a change, what do we need to relax for? Clearly we've been relaxing too much.

    • Hollywood is in the business of making money. I am a big Spike Lee fan. I support every movie he has ever done. However, his movies does not do well at the box office. Majority of the films many black filmmakers present to Hollywood, they feel won't make money. There are many quality black films which have been made, but they went straight to DVD. As intelligent and cultured as we black people think we are, the majority of black folks don't go see the films we want to see ourselves make. People have changed. This is an era where reality television is more successful than a scripted show. Garbage sells and Hollywood knows it. I am also tired of seeing black romantic comedies. They are so played out. I may be criticized but I would like to a New Jack City type of hood film. I haven't seen one made in a long time. I mean one that is very well made with top black actors. There is nothing wrong with those type of films. I want to be entertained period. I don't need to watch a public service announcement type of film. I know who I am a black woman. I don't always have the need to feel like I have to always look good for white folks. It does not matter if we are doctors, lawyers, Presidents, etc. White folks will always look at us as inferior. I just want to live life period.