Perhaps I am being a tad too melodramatic. I certainly don’t want Tyler Perry to die, just punched in the face repeatedly until he is made to understand that he is just as guilty of what we’ve accused White Hollywood all these long years: perpetuating negative black stereotypes.
I went to see Why Did I Get Married Too this past Saturday. I wanted to see it, not because I thought the movie was going to be good or because I have an undying need to see everything Tyler Perry puts into theatres. Understand me clearly when I say that I hate Tyler Perry films with a passion. I just don’t think they’re good movies. The only reason I ever bother watching the horrid flicks is because if I don’t, some other black person is going to think it’s a crime against humanity if I don’t. I had never even heard of the guy until after he’d put out his second major film. Someone said, “Oh MY GOD, you’ve never seen a Tyler Perry movie? Girl, Diary of a Mad Black Woman was sooooooo good.”
It is like a personal affront to all black people and I might as well go in the bathroom and scrub the blackness off my skin, because obviously if you don’t like his movies or never seen any of them, you’re just not black enough. *eyeroll* For that reason alone, because I just can’t stand the moral indignation I face every time I admit I haven’t seen one of his movies, I try to keep up with them, forcing myself to waste $8.50 on a movie that I know is going to give me hives. Why put myself through such torture, you ask? Sometimes it’s just easier. I pick my battles that I choose to fight and this one is just not worth it. At least, I can say that I’ve actually seen the films before declaring my undying hatred for the rubbish.
Why precisely do I dislike Tyler Perry films? Remember when black women were only good enough to play three roles in Hollywood? She could be a junkie, since all black people are on crack. She could also be a hoe, because all black women are whores. Or she could maintain her dignity by being a maid, since most black people are only intelligent enough to sweep floors, do dishes and baby-sit white people’s kids. You can thank Aunt Jemima for that, even Mrs. Butterworth has more credibility than she does.
Thanks to Tyler Perry, a plethora of new roles are available to black women. Let’s see, we are now eligible to play the unstable, screaming black woman who carries a 9MM in case she has to shoot her cheating husband/boyfriend (because all black men cheat on their wives or girlfriends); there’s also the I’m so independent and focused on my career, don’t try to hold me down cuz I got my own thing black woman who is incapable of having both a relationship and a career; and the super Christian woman whose faith in Jesus is so strong that she is unable to put that strength in any other aspect of her life and repeatedly shacks up with the most unsuitable men she can find. These women can fall into the sub-categories of baby mama, ball buster and my life is so screwed up that I’ll just pray on it and leave it in the hands of Jesus, but fail to take responsibility for my own actions.
I’m not pretending that these stereotypes don’t exist, but they aren’t necessarily limited to black people and Tyler Perry’s film perpetuate this madness. They don’t put black women in a very good light. I’m sure a film about a strong black woman who manages to take care of home and office would not make very much money, but I don’t think we need to belittle our race even further for a dollar. Tyler Perry’s films are entertaining, but at the expense of black women. They make us look like a joke.
His latest jewel in his crown of filth Why Did I Get Married Too simply offers us more of the same drivel. All of his films are precisely the same formula, with the exception of Daddy’s Little Girls and The Family That Preys (and I’m only saying that because the previews looked different; I’ve never seen either of these.) The rest of the nonsense: Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married, Madea Goes To Jail, I Can Do Bad All By Myself and Why Did I Get Married Too are exactly the same.They are about black women whose lives are all fucked up because they’re involved with some wack ass man they should have never been involved with in the first place. The husband is somehow physically or mentally abusive, and the woman thinks it’s all her fault and she tries her best to change him, even though she knew what she was getting into when she married his sorry ass. There’s always a “come to Jesus moment” when the woman is so fed up she wants to leave, but then she gets advice from Madea, who usually advises her to violence, such as throwing hot grits in his lap or shooting him. A more reasonable older woman will advise her to “put it in God’s hands.” Enter famous black people from times gone by, a church scene, or some other type of “black” event like a family reunion or Sunday dinner. The woman will meet another man, one who is soooo much better than her sorry ass boyfriend. He’s handsome, well-built, and most important, just as Christian as she is. Aww, how lovely. The woman dumps sorry ass husband, even though there’s a good amount of “you should try to work it out because divorce is bad,” and she marries nice Christian brother and they all ride off into the sunset.
Amen. The end.The messages of “try to work it out” and “put it in God’s hands” are suitable messages, but if your husband is physically abusive, trying to work it out is not really the best advice. Most of the time, abusive men don’t ever stop and no amount of praying and putting it in God’s hands is going to change that. Bad advice. An emotionally abusive husband may change, but it’s really only a matter of time before he becomes physical. Tyler Perry’s films also make black men look stupid. He makes it seem like all black men who are successful are abusive, lying cheating bastards. The main theme I take away from his films is that I need a man to make everything all right. After being in a shitty relationship, getting beat down on a nightly basis and being cut off from my friends and family, I should probably run into the arms of another man. In reality, women who get into these types of relationships, usually continue to get into these types of relationships because they’ve got a lot of internal things going on that draws them to this sort of nonsense. That is what Tyler Perry fails to address. He fails to address the internal battles these women face. Everything is superficial and centered in some man. After you get out of an abusive relationship, the first thing you need to do is focus on yourself. If you have children, they also need to be considered. There is a lot of grief and healing involved, and none of his films every portray that. What about the struggle abused women face, trying to rebuild their lives and their self-esteem?
Sure, going to church and being involved in one’s family is a way to rebuild a broken life, but the first thing a Tyler Perry woman gets involved with is another man. Take Shelia from Why Did I Get Married and Why Did I Get Married Too. In the first film, her husband emotionally abused her repeatedly. It is also intimated in the second film that he physically abused her. He constantly called her fat. He made it painfully clear that he was no longer sexually attracted to her. He even brought his hoe with him on their marriage retreat. The whole time she just kept on trying to get him to love her and wouldn’t listen to her friends when they were trying to let her know that her husband was cheating on her.
Everything comes to a head and after the big breakup, she meets Troy, the nice, Christian cop that lives in the neighbourhood. Aww, how sweet. Instead of getting away from everything to get her mind right, because, call me crazy but finally getting away from a loser like her husband and having absolutely no money (he cleaned out her bank account) wouldn’t you want to take the time to get yourself right? Nope, she runs right into another relationship. In Tyler Perry’s fantasy world, Troy just so happens to be the perfect fit for her, but that doesn’t happen in real life. Your rebound man is usually another man just as bad as the one you got rid of. Shelia hasn’t solved anything in mind. She is still screwed up and weak.Although I laugh right along with everyone else in the audience, I feel embarrassed when I watch a Tyler Perry film. I sometimes wonder if I am being portrayed accurately in one of his films. When people look at his movies, can they then look at me and say, “Oh, she is so Angela, so Shelia, so Patty…?” The sad thing is that I can say that about some of my friends, but that only speaks to their negative qualities (everybody has them). I cannot ever find the positive qualities of my black female friends in any movie, not even the black films that are on the market today, and that is really the saddest thing about Tyler Perry.
He commands the black audience right now, and with great power comes great responsibility. When you are in such a position, you owe it to yourself and to the rest of the black community to put out something positive and uplifting. Why would you continue to perpetuate the same nonsense that white Hollywood has been doing to us all this time? Black people everywhere are eating this slop up, double-fisted. Many black people feel that Tyler Perry can do no wrong, and that is because they have been socialised to think that this is is acceptable. Because we’re no longer junkies, hoes and maids, this is seen as a complete 180 to all the grim horror we’ve seen ourselves in other films.
Because Perry decorates his shit in in brightly coloured wrapping paper and a fancy bow, most black people don’t even see how they’ve been bamboozled. If you find his films acceptable, ask yourself why you like it. Is it the strong Christian themes? Is it because you see yourself, or a family member or close friend, in one of the characters. Is it because you’re just thankful this isn’t another black film about thugs and video hoes? What is it that you like and why?
Why Did I Get Married Too was entertaining, if I can say that. It really was. It was funny and I did laugh at some of the stupid human tricks, just like I would at any white comedy I watch. I was impressed with Janet Jackson who suddenly learned how to act after Why Did I Get Married, in which she was so awful that I wanted to puncture my own eyes. There was a shocking ending that I did not suspect and that was interesting. However, if there were more black films to choose from, I would not be so hard on Tyler Perry. Why Did I Get Married Too would fall into the same category as Pretty Woman or Sex in the City: The Movie. They are silly romantic comedies that negatively portray women, but are funny and entertaining. But because Tyler Perry commands so much of the black audience and there isn’t a whole lot for us to choose from, he gets a thumbs down from me.
It’s not about haterism, as Tyler Perry has defended. I don’t want to be a film maker or rich and famous (just rich). I want to be able to go to a movie, have a good time, have a few laughs, maybe it’s a cry-baby fest, whatever, and when I come out the movie I don’t want to feel like someone just gave me a piece of shit wrapped in foil and told me it was a Tootsie Roll. I don’t want to feel like I’ve just been insulted but I was too stupid to realise. When I come out a Tyler Perry film, I’m laughing and then I take a deep breath and say, “That was just sad.” Everybody stops to look at a train wreck, because we can’t tear our eyes away. We’re held in thrall by the sight, but afterwards, you realise, no, that wasn’t very funny at all, was it? When you’re done watching a Tyler Perry film, you realise you’ve been tricked into taking another free boat ride to exotic locales unknown, but really when you get there, you’re just going to be the guy that works out in the field all day long. Tyler Perry has the whip hand over us and we’re all his field workers. “Yes, suh, Massa, I’se gonna go see yo’ picture film.”
Every white movie a white woman watches doesn’t degrade her or negatively stereotype her in some way. She has a lot to choose from. She can be a hooker than somehow manages to marry a billionaire as in Pretty Woman, a neurotic, spastic fashionably-savvy woman chasing after a man who doesn’t appreciate her like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City or she could fight big business like Erin Brokovich. The white woman has a lot of options, where as the black woman has to take what she can get.
Since the Tyler Perry films are all that’s offered, I guess we’re just going to have to swallow these sugar-coated jagged little pills.