All Articles Tagged "tyler perry"

The “Creepy Uncle” Is Not A Joke

April 18th, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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creepy uncle

Source: Lionsgate

When my father feels strongly about something, good or bad, you’ll hear his opinions about that thing for years, even decades to come. And he felt very strongly about a particular scene in Tyler Perry’s film, Madea’s Family Reunion.

For those of you who have seen the movie, it’s the part where Joe, (Madea’s older brother, also played by Tyler Perry) sees a young girl, his relative, walking past in a rolled up shirt and short shorts. Not only does he oogle her body, commenting on it to the rest of the men at the table; he takes it a step further, calling the girl over to him to ask her to bend over into a barrel to retrieve cool drink at the bottom of it. Clearly, it’s a ploy to get the young lady to bend down and expose her behind to her elderly family members. Joe isn’t the only man who requests a beverage, two others do the same.

If you don’t remember it, you can watch it here.

The entire scene is supposed to serve as comic relief. We’re supposed to find Joe lusting after his own niece to be funny. You know, on some, even seasoned old men will be boys type of humor. And his behavior is just supposed to be shrugged off. Shake your head and keep on moving.

But doesn’t just shaking our head and walking away kind of excuse the behavior? Even worse, doesn’t laughing at this type of behavior cosign it even further?

That was a rhetorical question, but let me help you out, yes it does. There’s really, very little funny about sexual harassment, particularly when the perpetrator of it isn’t held to task for his or her actions, as is the case for the Tyler Perry characters. The scene is even more interesting, considering Perry’s own history with sexual assault. Sill, the prevalence of men preying on young women, even women in their own families, is so commonplace, we don’t even recognize how dysfunctional it really is.

It’s not just Tyler Perry.

It’s quite a bit of us.

Just today, I found this meme on Facebook.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Thankfully, the person who posted it, noted that while the initial creation of the meme was for humor, we have to stop looking at our “creepy uncles” as punchlines.

People laugh at this, but this is real and your uncle is a pedophile. #NOMORESILENCE #EXPOSE

And that’s the truth.

There are very real, life-altering, lifelong lasting effects of being assaulted, violated and raped by family members. And these secrets are so often swept under the rug, particularly in the Black community. And while humor can often aide in discussing real issues, that’s not what’s happening here.

Comedienne Tiffany Haddish Talks Going From Foster Homes And Illiteracy To The Carmichael Show And Feature Films

April 6th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Tiffany Haddish


Don’t underestimate Tiffany Haddish.

It’s something people have been doing for way too long. Whether it’s been fellow comediennes who thought she was just a pretty face trying to use her looks to get ahead (that’s what Leslie Jones thought before they became buddies), an agent who told her she would never be anything (“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gon’ be something. Even if it’s a rich man’s baby mama, I’m going to be something”), or reporters like myself who didn’t understand how she paid the bills with a short-lived role on Tyler Perry’s If Loving You is Wrong (“Yes, do drama! Haddish exclaimed over lunch with reporters at the 20th Century Fox lot), Haddish has been underestimated time and again. But after leaving our meal together, I realized one wondrous thing about her: Haddish is a hustler, and after years of hustling her way through poverty and the foster care system, she’s using her talents to obtain the success she deserves.

It hasn’t been an easy road for The Carmichael Show star, not by a longshot. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, her mother suffered from mental illness. Haddish and her siblings were eventually placed in the foster care system. She said it was those rough years that taught her to make other people laugh. By doing so, she was able to find a sense of peace, a “safe place.” She was able to learn most from and connect most with those who also had a sense of humor.

“The stage is my home. It’s my safe place,” Haddish said. “Someone might shoot me up here, but they’re not going to come up here with a belt and whoop me in front of everybody. Nobody’s going to let that happen to me. And I feel like, I’m more apt to do things for people that make me laugh, that bring me joy. I’ve learned more from people who make me laugh. The teachers I remember, in my life, are all people who made me laugh. Most people that are damaged and hurt, which is most comedians because we’re all pretty crazy and messed up in some kind of way, gravitate to comedy because it’s healing. It’s straight medicine to be able to get up on stage and speak your ideas and people laugh–either in agreement or disagreement or shock or whatever. But to be able to invoke emotion in a room full of strangers is a powerful thing.”

That ability also helped her get through school. Haddish spent a majority of her young life not knowing how to read. It wasn’t until her drama teacher found out when she was 15 and forced her to come practice reading during lunch and nutrition classes that Haddish gradually caught up. Knowing how to read “is the thing I’m most proud of.” But before she was caught, she was relying on her colleagues. By making her classmates laugh and building connections, she was finally able to keep people from bullying her for being poor, but she was also able to get them to help her pass from grade to grade.

“I was excellent at making people laugh and getting people to do things for me,” Haddish said. “All I knew were my ABCs and like three-letter words and McDonald’s. Things you see every day. So I was a professional cheater. I saw this movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and that movie is the basis of my existence. I was getting beat up in school, picked on and all of that. And when that detective said to the rabbit, ‘Why are people doing these things for you?’ He said, ‘Because I make ’em laugh, Eddie. If you make ’em laugh, they’ll do anything for you.’ And I was like, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do! I’m going to make the smart kids laugh, and they’ll let me copy their homework. Maybe someone can teach me to do this and that.’ I fit into every circle because I needed to copy [laughs].”

After high school, Haddish struggled because while she was accepted into drama programs and different schools, she couldn’t afford to pay her way through such institutions.

“I was like, ‘Where do you get tuition from?'”

Feeling depressed about her circumstances, Haddish did customer service work, was employed at an airline, and did what she could to pay bills. After finding herself in a slump, depressed, she was encouraged by a mentor to get back into doing comedy. So she did. She entertained patrons at coffee shops and performed at The Laugh Factory before she was offered her first paid gig. Not surprisingly, there’s a funny story behind it.

“It was at the Renaissance Hotel. It was a lesbian convention of some sort–I didn’t know, though,” Haddish said. “I just thought it was a lot of women just having a dinner [laughs]. I get up on stage, and I tell my jokes. At that time, all my jokes was about my boyfriend. They started heckling me and stuff. They were like, ‘Do you know where you are little girl?!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m at the Renaissance Hotel telling jokes!’ And they were like, ‘You’re at the Gay, Lesbian blah blah blah.’ I was like, ‘Oooooh.’ The booker didn’t tell me, but I did 10 minutes, and they gave me $50. I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life!’ Ten minutes and $50 bucks?!”

So after working all kinds of jobs in between gigs (including teaching dance, stand-up and improv at youth centers, and even doing hundreds of stand-up routines at bar mitzvahs), Haddish started to focus solely on acting and comedy. Doors began to open–and then kind of close.

It was just a few years ago that she was one of a few comediennes talking to TMZ about what it was like to audition for Saturday Night Live after Kenan Thompson said many of the Black comics who try out for the sketch comedy show “weren’t ready” to land such a gig.

She now says opening her mouth about it to the press wasn’t a good idea, claiming the TMZ reporter twisted her words. But she doesn’t regret what she had to say about that entire process and controversy, or the impact it had on her career.

“They asked me how I felt about it, and I was like, ‘Well I was a little upset because I didn’t know that the audition was actually a show people were buying tickets to,” Haddish said. “I get paid! I get paid when I do a show people buy tickets to. I was just told to come down at 10 o’ clock and audition. So I thought it was going to be two guys and a camera. I’m going to do my impersonations and then go home. But it was a full theater full of people that bought tickets. Nobody told me. I could have had my fans come out and watch me. That part had me mad. Now you’re making money off of me.”

She continued,”I feel like this. I’ve produced projects before. And when I produce something, I know who I want. Now, if they don’t get back to me fast enough, I’m going to start holding auditions. But I feel like, personally, if you already know in your mind you’ve been following somebody for two or three years, and you’re trying to get them to be on your thing, then you get that person. Don’t have 50, 70, 800 Black women come and audition for something you know you don’t want to hire any of them for. Now you’re wasting my gas money and my time. I could have been creating my own stuff!”

But Haddish admitted that such a setback only made her more determined. She continued to audition and hustle with bit roles here and there, including work on Real Husbands of Hollywood. Finally, after losing her gig on Tyler Perry’s If Loving You is Wrong as Jackie and not getting Meagan Good’s role on the short-lived comedy, Mr. Robinson, she was offered the role of Nekeisha on NBC’s The Carmichael Show as a series regular. And she is also starring in the upcoming comedy, Keanu, with comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Things are looking up for the talented and resolute comedienne who still also does stand-up comedy (for big bucks) and still resides in South Central (because she wants to–for now). So much so that some of the same people who used to bully her in school and underestimated her for so long are trying to get on her good side. Like an old ruffian named Chauncey, she ran into recently while he was doing his work as a security guard.

“He was like, ‘Tiffany! I’ve been seeing you everywhere. You’re really out here! You’re everywhere.'”

“I looked at him,” she said, “And I was like, ‘Why yes. Yes, I am.’ It felt so good! [laughs]”

Check out Haddish on The Carmichael Show on Sunday nights (9 p.m. EST) on NBC, and in Keanu when it comes out on April 29 in theaters. 


Tyler Perry’s 1-Year-Old Aman Helped Heal Him

January 8th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Image Source:


I bet you thought you were going to click in this post and actually see a picture of Tyler Perry’s 1-year-old son, Aman. No dice! Perry, like the Kerry Washingtons and Michael Ealys of the world, has been very good about keeping pictures of his child under wraps, despite the fact that he has teased us with photos of empty cribs, children’s books and the like on his Instagram page.

But what you will find when you read on are Perry’s thoughts on how fatherhood has changed him. In an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, Perry was asked about how Aman has impacted his life, and he admitted that his son has helped him be the kind of father he always wanted, providing him with emotional healing. Perry has been able to provide his boy with the things he didn’t get growing up, monetarily, yes, but most importantly, emotionally.

“Every cliche is true. Everything they say is real. This kid, he is my healer because I look at myself in his eyes,” Perry said. “And everything that I’m finding about growing up and the things that went wrong in my life, I get an opportunity to do them right for him. So he’s my healer.”

If you’ll recall, Perry stated that his relationship with the man he thought was his father (he found out through a DNA test in 2014 that Emmitt Perry, Sr. was in fact, not his biological parent) was terrible. Perry claimed he heard “You jackass! You got book sense but you ain’t got no common sense” almost every day as a kid, was often beaten, and even contemplated suicide to be rid of his pain as a young man.

So he made it clear that he wanted to be the father he never had before Aman even entered the world. He told Extra, “You know, the greatest gift I’m being given right now is the opportunity to give the little boy in me everything I never had, so that’s what I’m excited about–this beautiful human being that God has allowed to come into my life for me to get to know.”

We’re glad that Aman has upended his life in such a positive way. We can’t wait to see him!

Check out Perry’s conversation with Roberts below and share your thoughts:

Despite Past “Coonery” Comments, Spike Lee And Tyler Perry Have A Lot In Common

January 6th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Spike Lee And Tyler Perry Have A Lot In Common intro

In a recent interview with Vulture Magazine, Tyler Perry was asked to address criticisms of his work, previously made by noted filmmaker Spike Lee.

If you need a refresher, Lee said this during an interview at the 2009 Black Enterprise Entrepreneur conference:

Because each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors. But I still think that a lot of stuff that’s out today is coonery [and] buffoonery. And I know it is making a lot of money, breaking records, but we can do better. That’s just my opinion. I mean, I’m a huge basketball fan. And when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows and I’m scratching my head. You know, we got a Black president. Are we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep n’ Eat?”

Of course, the comments were directed at Tyler Perry who at the time had two shows (“House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns”), which ran on TNT’s sister station, TBS.

And naturally, Perry would respond by telling Lee to “go straight to Hell”

The two directors would eventually squash their beef, but Perry did tell Vulture’s writer Rembert Brown how those comments made him feel:

“That ‘coonery’ buffoonery was a direct Spike Lee quote,” Perry told me. “And that’s what everybody started to say, with those words in particular. But you have to be careful, because our audiences cross-pollinate a lot of times. There’s a lot of my audience that likes what he does. And there’s a lot of his audience that likes what I do. And when you make those kind of broad, general strokes, and you paint your audiences in them, they go, ‘Wait a minute, are you talking about me? Are you talking about my mom?’”

In the same interview, Perry also directly addressed criticism that many of his characters were nothing more than bad stereotypes of Black people. More specifically he said:

Let me tell you what took me aback about that, when people were like, ‘How dare you put fat black people on television, these are caricatures, these are stereotypes’ — I was so offended because my aunt’s fat. My mother’s fat. My cousins are fat. People who are like, ‘How dare you — these harken back to Mammy, Amos ’n’ Andy.’ I would hear all these things, and I would go, hmmm.”

Hmmm…is right.

Truthfully, I like some of Perry’s work and don’t have a problem with who his characters are. I like down home Southern people. But generally, I find many of his themes regressive and drenched in a type of religious moralism, which I personally can’t stand. And I especially detest how he writes about Black women (The Family That Preys and Temptation immediately come to mind). Real or not, some of the things he feels about Black women and what should happen to them (including being smacked across the table or contracting a potentially life-threatening disease all because you sinned against God by cheating on your “good” husband) is particularly troubling for me.

With that said, he does have a point.

Yes, Lee is an iconic Black filmmaker who has given us such Black cinematic classics as Do The Right Thing, School Daze and Malcolm X. But we can’t act like Lee doesn’t stereotype Black people or that some of Lee’s imagery is not problematic as well.

In fact, a huge part of the criticism of Lee’s latest feature film entitled Chi-Raq is how it misrepresented not only the gang violence, which is happening in the streets of the Chicago, but also the look and feel of the citizens itself. One such critic was Chicago native Chance the Rapper who said in a series of tweets:

Let me be the one from Chicago to personally tell you we not supporting this film out here. That sh*t get ZERO love out here. Sh*t is goofy and it’s a bunch of ppl from NOT around here telling u to support that sh*t. The people that made that sh*t didn’t do so to “Save Lives”. It’s exploitive and problematic. Also the idea that women abstaining from sex would stop murders is offensive and a slap in the face to any mother that lost a child here. You don’t do any work with the children of Chicago, You don’t live here, you’ve never watched someone die here. Don’t tell me to be calm.”

Moreover, we can’t act like Lee and Perry do not share some of the same audience. And yes, I’m talking about Black folks here. As Perry neatly suggests, many of the same Black folk who will rush to support (shield and defend) Perry because he is a Black filmmaker will often do the same for a Spike Lee Joint. And to take a jab at Perry for creating “coonery and buffoonery” is an indirect jab at the audience who actually enjoys and sees themselves in his work.

After all, not every Black person can be from Brooklyn.

Granted, in terms of nuanced storytelling and execution, Perry is no Lee. And there is just no denying Lee’s masterful ability to raise complex political and social issues within the framework of Blackness. But there was an air of Northern elitism in Lee’s (and others’) critiques of Perry, which can’t not be ignored. And I am happy that Perry finally called it out.


Tyler Perry Says Criticism Of His Work As Stereotypical Coonery Is “Bullsh-t,” And He Has A Point

January 5th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Before you go looking up what I may have written about Tyler Perry on this site, know that the only issue I’ve personally ever had with Perry after viewing the many movies and stage plays he’s created since 1998 is that his work has always been too predictable for me.

You know that someone is going to go through some major strife, and it’s usually because of the way the character lives his or her life (usually the latter). Whether it’s due to the fact that they either committed a sin (like Judith cheating on a good husband with a bad boy in Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor), had been abused in the past (like April in I Can Do Bad All By Myself), or because they hadn’t treated people right (Lord knows I couldn’t stand Andrea in The Family That Preys), there’s always a lesson to be learned. I had been pretty consistent with my support for years, but after a while, like my decision to switch from iOS to Android, I just couldn’t tell the difference between the old and the new, so I had to see what else was out there.

But for others, for instance, Spike Lee circa 2006, and many an online wordsmith, it was always Perry’s characters that were problematic. Many were deemed stereotypes that harkened back to the days of Amos ‘n’ Andy and minstrel shows. So for many years, as Perry gained more and more success, quite a few people, many being Black folks (some being MN contributors), tore his work apart.

Granted, Perry has an extensive fan base either way. They are the ones who’ve made his shows on OWN some of the most successful programs on all of TV, and they are the ones who fill up the seats at his stage plays and continue to buy tickets to his movies. But Perry still can’t shake the people who say that his work is detrimental to the Black populace as a whole. When confronted by one of those people, in particular, Rembert Browne from New York Magazine, Perry finally spoke in-depth recently about why criticisms of him and his work were so off-base, in his opinion.

A decade of thoughts about Tyler Perry ran through my mind in that moment, and even if he’d made me laugh in Brooklyn, I thought I owed it to him — and myself — to say that, for years, when he was the foremost black person presenting black characters and telling black stories, I thought Tyler Perry’s films and shows made my life harder.

“So did a lot of people,” Perry said, calmly, after I told him how I’d felt. “Which is surprising to me. Let me tell you what took me aback about that, when people were like, ‘How dare you put fat black people on television, these are caricatures, these are stereotypes’ — I was so offended because my aunt’s fat. My mother’s fat. My cousins are fat. People who are like, ‘How dare you — these harken back to Mammy, Amos ’n’ Andy.’ I would hear all these things, and I would go, hmmm.

Perry continued, pointing out that while his characters happen to be mostly Black, they connect with all kinds of people because they often touch on “real issues.” Backing up his previous statements about those characters being like the people in his own family, he said what people see in his shows and films are not stereotypes, but rather, real individuals we all call kinfolk, even if we don’t want to admit it.

Perry, though, doesn’t see this argument as being about race so much as it is about class. “In some parts of the country, the audience is 60 percent white. And then I went to El Paso, and it was 60 to 70 percent Latino. And then I realized it’s not even about race as much as it is about stories that people can relate to,” he told me. “I know for a fact that a lot of my audience cannot afford to just get in the Volvo and go to a therapist and spend the day off and go to the spa,” he said. “The laughter and the dress and all of that stuff, it’s just the anesthetic to say, ‘Are you numb now?’ Let’s talk about some real issues,” like the relationship between a mother and her daughter, like drugs, like what’s behind infidelity. “There are so many people that society says their stories don’t matter because they’re poor.”

In other words, he still feels like an outsider, no matter how much money he’s worth. It’s almost as if his work is a purposeful way never to become a part of the group he loathes the most: the elite. “It is unfair for black people to say, ‘Carry my story in your story — show me in your story,’” he says. “And for people to say that they’re stereotypes of black people, that’s bullshit — it’s offensive. These are real versions of us. And every one of us has the right to tell our own story.”

This full interview had me thinking. Well, not about my predictability criticism. That’s still a problem. But it made me ponder on whether or not Perry truly has been misunderstood all these years by his “coonery and buffoonery” critics. Has he simply been berated for showing even the silliest, craziest side of us? A side of us that we often like to hide like the tabby cat we keep in the basement, far away from our superstitious grandma? From the obnoxious but lovable auntie to the mooching relatives and even the mothers who put men before their children, Perry shares the good, bad and the ugly. And while they’re not always the best images of men and women of color, many of us would be lying if we said we hadn’t come across them or even called them family.

I think it’s nice to want to see a variety of images of Black people on the big and small screen. It’s a reminder to one another of what we’re capable of in this world and where we’ve been, and I think that’s where some of the criticism stems from (and why there was an unhealthy obsession with the Cosby Show for all these years). But I can’t help but wonder if many of us have been coming at Perry all wrong, especially since his programs and films aren’t the only ones out there with men and women of color that we can consume. The attack on his characters reminds me almost of the arguments everyone had about all the slave, housekeeper projects that came out a few years ago (some of which were good). It would definitely be nice to broaden the subject matter, but why be ashamed of the real people in our history who’ve embodied all of the “good, bad and the ugly”? As long as we know who we are and what we’re capable of, why knock it? Just don’t watch it.

Do we want to see only positive images while quelling the rest, even if they are based on someone’s reality, in order to make a good impression on ourselves or for White folks who we think base their judgments solely on what they see on-screen? And why is it that we aren’t looking at certain forms of entertainment in the way that some of Perry’s fans do–as mere entertainment? Do we need to lighten up? As pure entertainment, Perry’s work doesn’t do it for me, so I’ve long stopped tuning in. But I can’t deny that it is work someone is connecting with–like a lot of the women in my church. And connecting to an audience is the main reason many a storyteller share their tales. Even if that audience doesn’t include his critics.

In a quest to push storytellers of television and film to share the most vibrant of images of people of color, I wonder, could we be a little too hard on Perry for keeping it a little too real?

So Tyler Perry’s Hosting A Passion Of The Christ Musical For Fox

December 16th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

I hate to say it, but the danger of the success of shows like Empire and The Wiz Live! is now any and everybody is going to want to make a musical and, because of the numbers those two projects brought in, Fox is going to let them. Case in point, this news from Deadline that Tyler Perry is set to host and narrate The Passion, a live, two-hour musical that will tell the story of the last hours of Jesus.

“Set in modern day, The Passion follows Jesus of Nazareth as he presides over the Last Supper, and then is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, convicted, crucified and resurrected,” Deadline reports. “The story will be staged live at iconic New Orleans, while featuring a procession of hundreds of people carrying a 20-foot, illuminated cross from Champion Square outside the Superdome to the live stage at Woldenburg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River.”

I guess the bright spot in all of this news is Tyler Perry isn’t actually producing or directing anything — not that we’re trying to keep a Black man down, we just know his projects can sometimes take a turn for the worse. Dick Clark productions and Eye2Eye Media and Anders Media Inc. will actually produce the musical, while Tyler guides viewers through the story.

“The Passion is both wonderfully entertaining and genuinely inspirational,” Fox Entertainment president David Madden said. “Tyler Perry is the perfect host to lead the cast – and viewers – through the streets of New Orleans in this contemporary re-telling of a timeless story.”

The Passion will air live from New Orleans on March 20, 2016 8-10 pm. Will you tune in?


Come Through 6-Pack! Check Out Tyler Perry’s Weight Loss Game

November 23rd, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Tyler Perry’s weight loss game is strong. The director might be a new dad but a dad bod he does not have.

Yesterday, the man of many behind-the-camera talents took to Facebook to show off his progress with the picture above and this important message:

I’m 18 lbs away from my goal. I hope I don’t blow it this holiday season. Gonna try to stay on it. It’s hard as heck to lose weight after 40, but it’s so worth it. It keeps the doctor away. Don’t let anything keep you from being healthy and strong. I wish my mother had fought back. She turned diabetic at 40 and died at 64. Don’t let that be you!! Fight back!!

Perry just turned 46 this September and became a first-time father last year. On November 30 his son, Aman Tyler Perry, whom we have yet to see, will turn 1 years old. We’re guessing the man responsible for the recent success of OWN with his show The Haves and The Have Nots is having no trouble chasing his little boy around. Keep up the great work! We see that 6-pack coming through!

Now That Oprah Winfrey Network Has Finally Found Its Footing, It Needs Less Tyler Perry

September 14th, 2015 - By Nneka Samuel
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

Television networks aren’t built overnight.  It takes time to develop and produce shows that not only gel with a network’s brand but speak to its target audience.  This is something Oprah Winfrey knows all too well.  In 2011, after saying goodbye to The Oprah Winfrey Show, one of the most iconic and game-changing programs in television history, she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network, better known as OWN.  But despite being dubbed the “Queen of All Media,” the television maven’s network initially struggled to find its way.

That is until Winfrey’s good friend Tyler Perry swooped in to save the day.  Perry now has four shows on OWN: The Haves and The Have Nots, If Loving You Is Wrong, Love Thy Neighbor, and For Better Or Worse.  OWN’s ever-growing ratings owe a great deal to Perry, who now virtually owns the network when it comes to original, scripted shows.  But what about non-Perry content?  OWN could flourish even more if it branched out and made room for content creators who aren’t Tyler Perry.

Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry does have an undeniable knack for drawing in Black women in particular.  His catalog of work, however, has been slammed by critics. It’s been called “insulting,” for promoting “coonery and buffoonery” (according to Spike Lee) and for repeatedly portraying Black women as being in need of “Jesus and penis.”  In an infamous CNN Newsroom clip, Touré even referred to Perry’s films in particular as “cinematic malt liquor.”  These critics would certainly agree that Perry’s brand is distinct and readily recognizable (though not for good reasons).  Whether or not you’re a fan of his work, if you watch Perry’s OWN shows, you can readily discern that his material skews to the overtly formulaic. It relies on the same tropes and, therefore, offers limited and very similar perspectives.

Seeing as how OWN is still a relatively new network, it has a unique opportunity to take daring chances and widen its appeal.  This could prevent the network from eventually becoming stale, predictable or overridden with too much of the same thing.  OWN has taken small steps to promote content diversity with the announcement of Queen Sugar, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, which will be helmed by Selma director, Ava DuVernay.  In July, it was also announced that a new drama series about a megachurch, Greenleaf, was greenlit.  But air dates for either show have yet to be released.  The network is also full of inspirational, self-help content that continues where The Oprah Winfrey Show left off and garners tremendous interest.  The OWN audience, however, clearly wants to see scripted content as well.

The issue of content diversity at OWN is two-fold.  As previously mentioned, Winfrey and Perry are indeed friends and seemingly kindred spirits.  When you meld that friendship into a working relationship, it’s often a formula for success.  Clearly, there’s a reason Spike Lee made so many films with Denzel Washington.  Or why Martin Scorsese consistently collaborates with Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Or why Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo, who will be shooting their third film together next year, continue to work side by side.  Needless to say, working with someone you actually like, especially in an industry where incredibly long work days can be the norm, goes a long way.

Perry also has a proven track record, and networks, new and old, are much more likely to foster relationships with known talent, as opposed to those who have yet to establish themselves or their brand.  When millions of dollars and ratings are at stake, it’s easy to see why any network would readily promote a known talent like Perry, controversial or not.  But Perry shows being a majority part of a network that promotes “endless possibilities,” has the opposite effect.

The writer and director’s status at OWN puts him in a unique position.  He belongs to a small group of content creators that include Shonda Rhimes, who has numerous shows on one network (and as such, one could also argue that her dominance offers limited and similar perspectives, although I believe her shows and characters are nuanced in ways that create multiple perspectives and empower women in a manner that Perry has yet to master).  Both Perry and Rhimes have created minority-led shows that pull in huge ratings and go against the norm as far as racial diversity on-screen is concerned.  If you are distinctly Team Tyler Perry or Team Shonda Rhimes (or both), we can swap notes about their work for days on end. But what’s obvious is that there’s room and love for both, just like there’s room for new and upcoming content by new and burgeoning creators.  That’s the wonderful thing about television.  There are so many stories that have yet to grace our screens. Even though OWN is still in its growing phase, I hope it continues to succeed, and I look forward to seeing it expand its offerings of scripted content to include more than just Tyler Perry shows.

Fall TV Preview: Who Got The Answers To Last Season’s Biggest Cliffhangers?

September 14th, 2015 - By Anslem Samuel Rocque
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Whether it’s the jaw-dropping cliffhangers, post-show memes on social media or just great writing, there’s something to be said for a good show, especially when it comes back from hiatus.

The fall TV season is almost upon us and there are a host of new and returning shows we’ve been anxiously anticipating. From comedies and dramas to reality shows that are a little mix of both. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites.

With so much great TV programming on the horizon, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with which shows to watch live or binge on later. Fortunately, with the X1 DVR™ from XFINITY®, you can record up to six shows at once, so you won’t have to miss an episode. Plus, with XFINITY On Demand™, you can catch up on entire past seasons so you’re ready for all the fall action.

Is Tyler Perry Treating His Workers Fairly?

August 12th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Tyler Perry

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It’s really messed up when White folks don’t treat us well; but for some reason, it is probably more disappointing when our own people don’t treat us well either.

I am talking about Tyler Perry and how recently, two actors’ unions announced that they were barring members from participating in his newest play, Madea on the Run. According to Deadline, production, which was slated to begin on September 3, was put on the “Do Not Work” list for both SAG-AFTRA and the Actors’ Equity Association. Both are unions that represent stage actors.

According to the report, the boycott comes after Perry and other producers of the project neglected to sign a contract with Equity. The union contract would ensure things like a set minimum wage, health benefits, and safe working conditions. As Deadline reports, SAG-AFTRA doesn’t represent stage actors but is barring its members from participating in the show because of a reciprocal agreement it has with Equity.

This is not the first time that a Tyler Perry production has found itself trouble with unions. According to Shadow And Act, in 2008, the Writers Guild of America, West sued Perry’s production studio for an “unfair labor practice complaint.” This suit was filed after the studio fired four Black writers (all African American) from his TBS comedy series, House of Payne.

As reported by Shadow And Act, the four said that they were allegedly let go after Perry refused to agree to a WGA contract that “would give the writers health care benefits or pensions.” Likewise:

The WGA said that the four writers were fired after negotiations between the Writers Guild and representatives of Perry’s production company, broke down. The writers were also working on the development of what was then a new comedy being produced by Perry, “Meet the Browns.”

The Black film site also reports that the matter was eventually resolved, although the details of the agreement were not made public.

Madea on the Run, which as the title suggests, is about Madea being on the run from the law, is supposed to mark Perry’s return to the stage. No word yet on how this boycott will affect cast members, which include Cassi Davis, Claudette Ortiz and a slew of other Black actors and actresses.

I have heard of independent producers and directors, particularly Black producers and directors, going around the unions before. This often has to do with the costs associated with producing a union-approved film being too high (those insurance and retirement benefits have to come from somewhere). In the book, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (as well as the documentary Baadasssss!), famed Black director Melvin Van Peeples spoke rather frankly about how he had to pretend like he was making a porn film in order to psyche out the actors’ unions and get his cult-classic film produced.

But what makes Perry’s situation interesting is that he is no longer an outsider. In fact, some would argue that although he remains independent, he is still very much an insider with a lot of pull, and most importantly, money to spread around Hollywood. If I had to categorize Perry’s film empire, I would say he is like the Black version of George Lucas. Not only has he helped to get some Black films onto the screen that would have struggled to otherwise, including Peeples and Precious, but he is also credited with helping and reviving the careers of many long-forgotten Black actors. Then there is his fruitful relationship with the OWN Network.

All this to say that as a Black businessman with a vast empire made off the backs of Black people, he should be ensuring that all of his Black workers are protected and compensated fairly. And he certainly should not still be producing non-union productions. Productions are able, under union rules, to hire non-union actors and actresses (although they have to give a good reason why they didn’t go with union workers first). So it is not like the requirements are hurting his ability to create. The only benefit at this point to not hiring union labor is that it cuts down on the bottom line.

And if that is the case, it sucks because non-union employees are often paid very little for their services and are not guaranteed benefits, including health insurance. Perry, who is a man who grinded his way to the top, should be able to sympathize with the hardships of being a struggling creative such as a writer or an actor and actress. He should also be actively working to make sure that our people, who struggle already to break past Hollywood’s racial and gender glass ceilings, are paid fairly.

Perhaps Perry has some side deal with the actors and actresses (you know how our people do)? I surely hope so. But if the reports are correct, right now he is behaving no differently than your average right-wing, entitled, union-busting Republican. And in my opinion, that is unacceptable.