Apr 08 2010
Apologies to anyone about to somehow be offended by this post, but I really don’t think anyone should be. Also, I say “black” all the time because I didn’t feel like writing out “African-American” sixty times.
I was at my local movie house in Michigan this past weekend to unfortunately witness the idiotic pile of nonsense that was Clash of the Titans. On my way into the theater, I saw a line for another movie playing next door, a line made up quite literally of 100% black people.
Being the deductive sleuth I am, I immediately said to myself, “Oh there must be another Tyler Perry movie out.” If that sounds like some sort of racial jab, it’s not, it’s the logical conclusion to draw when you see a movie that A) has patrons all of one race and B) has a line for it. Knowing that practically every Tyler Perry movie ever has won its opening weekend, I figured this must be a fair assessment.
And guess what? I was right. Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too was opening, and explained the homogeneous line forming for it.
It was then I decided to do an experiment. Practically every white person I know enjoys ripping on Tyler Perry movies to some degree. The seemingly obvious pandering, the cross dressing and fat suits, the constant use of “Tyler Perry” in every title. They’re pretty easy targets.
But how many white people have actually SEEN a Tyler Perry movie? Judging by that line, and others I’ve seen like it over the past ten years of similar racial makeup, I’m guessing barely any. So on Sunday, I
downloaded rented two Tyler Perry flicks to see why A) white people avoid them and B) black people love them.
I decided to go with Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, the movie whose sequel I had just seen playing at the theater, and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself because I remember writing several posts in the past making fun of that nonsensical title.
I thought this would be hilarious exercise in “white guy doesn’t get black culture,” but what I found actually surprised me in a lot of ways.
There are a large number of white people who often view black people in stereotypes. It’s true, and you can shut the hell up if you won’t admit that exists in society today. Many associate “black culture” with rap and basketball, and not a whole lot more than that.
But being a stereotype, we forget that even though yes, there are black people who play basketball and love rap, the VAST majority of them do NOT conform to such visions, and more specifically, there is an entire segment of the population that is overlooked by practically every entertainment force out there.
Middle-aged and older black people place very, very high value on family and God, something that Tyler Perry knows and has tapped into. His movies (at least the ones I saw) are illustrations in family values and morality, and have captured an audience who prize themselves on those things above all else.
Why Did I Get Married tells the story of four couples struggling through various issues in their marriage while on a get-away in the Colorado mountains. There’s an overworking wife who doesn’t have time for her husband, a couple dealing with the death of a child, a pair with a problem with infidelity, and one emotionally abusive relationship between an asshole and his overweight wife. Similarly, I Can Do Bad All By Myself tells the story of a woman forced to take care of her dead sister’s children against her will, dealing all the while with a physically abusive boyfriend.
Yes, it’s true, all of these movies are almost ENTIRELY populated by an African-American cast (a white woman once showed up to imply a black character was about to steal something), but there is nothing exclusively “black” about them besides a few gospel songs here and there (one which includes the inexplicable “I Can Do Bad” title that STILL makes no sense).
I caught a brief glimpse of Tyler Perry’s trademark “Madea” character in the second film, which isn’t so much a caricature of anyone’s old black grandmother, she’s just a ridiculous ass person all around, and I will say she heavily confused the mood of what was supposed to be a drama in I Can Do Bad. I don’t really have the heart to watch a Madea-centric film like Madea Goes to Jail however. At that point it’s just Big Momma’s House in different locales.
Tyler Perry’s films are decently written and acted, though they can be pretty heavy handed with their life lessons. Everything is always resolved to perfection, and the movies seem more like a audio/video version of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Yes, it’s statistically true that black woman are much more likely to be single mothers, and black fathers are more likely to be absent, but these stories really could apply to any race. It’s just that Tyler Perry uses them to target the concerned aging black population who is worried about the destruction of the traditional black family, as they are willing to sit through a rather boring, cliché movie so long as everyone’s happy, and more importantly, married in the end.
White people would never go for this. White people don’t want to watch a movie about couples working through marital strife. If they do, they want it to be something like Closer, where Clive Owen cheats on Julia Roberts with Natalie Portman as a stripper. For every boring family drama like Everybody’s Fine, there are a dozen Nicholas Sparks movies which contain not familial love, but insanely unrealistic romance love that involves kissing in the rain and almost exclusively white casts in every single movie.
With that in mind, it’s strange to complain about how Tyler Perry’s all-black movies are furthering divides among the races by giving blacks “their own” movies to go to. When you look at Hollywood as a whole, and you view the kind of roles that blacks are usually given onscreen, you will see a whole lot of sidekicks, slasher victims and Denzel Washington. So when Tyler Perry gives them a franchise to call their own, of COURSE they’re going to flock to it, and rightfully so if it’s what entertains them.
So hopefully I haven’t been too offensive in this article, and it turned out to be a lot less funny than I anticipated, but I do feel like I learned a little something, though I probably won’t be going to the theater to check out Madea’s next adventure anytime soon.
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