Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deconstructing Tyler Perry

I am still trying to figure out why most of the black women I talk to will defend Tyler Perry to the death. I mean, it’s not like it’s a sexual connection, I think. After all, this is a man who you see most of the time dressed as an angry, violent, fat, black woman named Madeia.

Perry’s obsession with carrying out the misrepresentations of black women being obese, ugly and cruel is a turn off; but black women will fight to get into a damn picture show featuring a black man who does a fucked up job in portraying female elders of the black community, and black women as a whole.

Is it his dashing mediocre looks? In my opinion, his over manscaped eyebrows and mere persona activates the gaydar siren every time he pops on the screen as himself absent the drag.

Noooo, so they tell me, as they argue me down for purchasing Tyler Perry bootlegs. In resounding agreement they say, “Ecosoul his movies are goooood.”

They just love his movies. All twenty of them that have the same plot, same dialogue structure, similar characters, all taking place in Atlanta or an Atlanta-esk setting, same conservative TD Jakes Judeo-Christian botchery beliefs, same male dominant philosophy, and the same damn Madeia acting in full buffoonery-coonery.
Being a black woman myself I really don’t get it. Perry’s film aesthetics (if you want to call it that) appeals to a nice chunk of black women (and men) from all economic and socio-economic classes is quite disturbing.

Instead of me arguing anymore, I will just blog my issues as to why I will only watch Perry on a bootleg, or most times, not at all.

I will focus on the typical characters that are narrowly defined at best, and stereotypical caricatures in most films.

The Bitter Black Bitch. This consistent caricature is a black woman who has been wronged, has unnecessary volatile baggage, or is just nasty for no certain reason that is ever teased out by Perry. She is a cheater, or foul-mouthed, most likely, she is overly aggressive, loud, uncouth, verbally caustic, and in most cases, a lonely individual who usually targets black men in an emasculating manner.

Usually, this woman is a high achieving in her career (aka successful) and has issues with finding or keeping a “man,” or getting a decent screw. She thinks men, especially black men are beneath her, thus throwing more fuel onto the mythical fire that a woman can earn more money in a healthy relationship.

Bitter Black Bitch or B3 resembles the mainstream media’s black female stereotype of the Sapphire, an emasculating creature who validates the reason why black women are ugly on the inside and out when they confront or challenge issues they dislike.
Ironicially, B3 is disempowered by a man thus suggesting that male domination has reasserted its position, and conveniently, at the expense of a sister.

The Weak Black Wench. She is a horrible replication of a Victorian Lady. However, her color indicates she cannot afford to be upper class, so the weak woman is physically and verbally abused by a man. Ironically, she finds her strength in the next man thus relegating her powerlessness, and her subsequent empowerment through the recognition of a male authority figure.

The weak one also “gives herself to God” often going to a male preacher or spiritual leader for guidance on one of the most underreported domestic issues in black households, abuse.

It is interesting that the weak one always is a Christian, specifically Protestant, and submits to a patriarchal religion to find herself in the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Unfortunately, the weak one is not present in her religion’s divine trinity, but tithes the hell out of the church.Emasculating Black Male. When Madeia is not having a very cruel and condescending “Yo Mama” session with her brother, who constantly berates her in an obvious borrowing from a “Red Foxx and Esther (Sanford and Son)” scene, here comes the spineless black male victim.

It is not that the screen shows a black man who is subjected to the viciousness of a Sapphire character, it his ascent to power that is troublesome. He only comes into his power once he trumps the black female who is “emasculating” him in a way that is as aggressive or volatile; hence slapping her, calling her a bitch, fucking someone else.

Not only does Perry miss the social, cultural and economic issues that black men face just being a black man, but validates the age old myth that it is the black woman who keeps him from his power. Once again, Perry narrowly defines males’ source of powerless as being through an unhappy, dishonest, and sometimes abusive relationship.

Sisterhood Undone. In my discussions with Ayankha the Blogger about Perry’s directorship, she points out a scene in “Why Did I Get Married,” when Jill Scott’s character finds out her husband his fucking the woman who is seated at the table with them and all of their close friends. Scott busts him in the head and runs out of the door. The next time when see Scott, she is being soothed and wooed by the local Sheriff. “Where are her girls?” asked Ayankha. “If they were here girls, not only would they have gotten into the husband’s ass, but they would’ve run to her aid and not left her stranded at some shabby hotel in the mountains.”

This is a perfect example of bad representations of black sisterhood, a collective that has been at the cornerstone of many black women getting through a lot of life shit. But Perry, who writes like he swears he can conjure up the heart of black women, along with a vagina and some ovaries, undermines the power of sisterhood, and twists how sisterhood operates in the black community.

Madeia. My grandmother is in her ninth decade and she is nothing, not even close to Madeia. I know that elders have their own personality, but the saying is true, “You don’t get to be old by being a fool.” And Madeia is a goddamn idiot.

The representation of black elderhood is absolutely atrocious in Madeia. My friends tell me that Madeia is the black older woman they wished they had because Madeia “keeps it real;” however, Madeia’s advice is always convoluted with unintelligent jokes in the midst of dealing with a serious situations such as domestic violence, drug abuse, and child abandonment.

As well Madeia’s advice can be very illogical, and the “suggestions” she offers would get you put away for sure. Like when she suggested one character to slice up the clothes of her husband’s mistress, or throw hot grits on an abusive spouse, or shot someone, now that is just some bullshit. The real deal, most women who have fought back in a domestically violent situation, have been put away because the courts of law has little mercy on women who kill or maim their spouses regardless of the situation beforehand.

Oversexualized Black Slut. One of the bad women in Perry’s movies is always depicted as an over-sexualized whore—be it the mistress, the cheating wife who sleeps with her boss, or the woman who givers her husband a sexually transmitted disease. This woman is not tolerated in Perry’s movies. She is silenced and disciplined in many ways, but is always played against an emasculating black male to embellish her “loose” unchristian ways.

Women cannot date in Perry’s movies. They are either whores, prudes looking for a husband or wives with no in-between.

The list goes on and on about Perry’s caricatures. Though I slightly regurgitate at most of Perry’s movies, I really hope he gets some creative input from the characters he tries to accurately depict.

History has also shown how we can destroy our own potential when we cut a tree that has yet to blossom. So I will give Perry the benefit of the doubt and say that he is still growing. But I must hold him accountable to step up his film game. And also pay his writers or perhaps, get some new ones because I can only take about five minutes of one of his terrible television shows. Then and maybe then, I’ll pay for a movie again. In the meantime, the bootleg man is calling my name.

Below, Perry speaks out against some of the criticism he has gotten for his horrible flicks. Negro puhleaze...

8 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Reggie said...

I don't get it either. I've never ever watched one of his movies from start to finish. I've never gone to a theatre to see one of his films. Fortunately my wife and I agree that what he considers funny.....we don't.

I don't get it. I honestly don't see just what's supposed to be so goddamned funny. It's just another example of coonery to me, plain and simple. I don't hate on the brother for making a little money, but he won't make any off of me.

If you ask me, the brother is just a little too comfortable in that dress.

Monie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monie said...


I too have been confused as to why so many Black women (and some men) are fans of Perry's films.

It really took me having a little historical perspective to understand the phenomena.

When Lincoln Perry aka Stepin Fetchit was at his heyday he had lots of Black fans just as Tyler Perry does. Many Blacks admired him because he had become a millionaire as many Blacks admire Tyler Perry's wealth.

Many Black people admired his films even though they he portrayed the most vile stereotypes, just as Tyler Perry does.

So I realized that some Blacks suffered then and suffer now from internalized oppression and so much so that they crave and will support these stereotypes and then they will love the person responsible, as long as they aren't White of course.

Monie said...

P.S. I wrote a post which was inspired by this post. It will be up tomorrow morning and I've linked to this post.


Lola Gets said...

Ive read a few of your posts, and I really like the way you write! Ill be back!


EcoSci said...

thanks lola. thanks monie. thanks reggie

ayankha said...

Tell it! I think the caricatures you outlined are spot on and I'm sure you could have gone through many more.

His films seem are watered-down plays thrown on the big screen. I'm not very familiar with how writing goes for either media genre, but it does not translate well if particular elements aren't changed. And I will not even go into the TV series (House of Payne, Meet the Browns)

Thanks for including the sistahood Qs I asked and points made. I'm curious if improvements will be made in WDIGM 2.

I too am hoping that TP makes improvements, but for now...(((sigh)))

ayankha said...

Furthermore (I been thinking about the friendship among women a little more), I can outline some of the gilfriend relationships in his movies:

Diary of- NONE. The lead had no friends to help her in her time of crisis.

Family Reunion- NONE- well only her sister and , frankly, that doesn't really count. But that relationship was marred with childhood drama btwn their competing relationship with their mama.

Daddy's Little Girls- Gabby's friends encouraged her to go for a white collar man yet hooked her up with Black scumbags (a 40 yr old rapper who reminds me of someone we both know and a married dude). But all in all, she is way too busy to cultivate those friendships.

Why Did I get Married- explained already.

The Family that Preys- the only good/healthy friendships I can recall being portrayed in his movies is the one btwn Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates (a white woman).

Meet the Browns- Angela Basset's character has a half crazy, half bout it bout it LATINA friend.

Medea Goes to Jail- Keisha's character is a hooker with a friend that turned her out.

I've not seen the most recent film, but it is apparent that there is a pattern of seriously lacking Black female friendships.