[Biased] Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry
Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. … I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”
“All these characters are bait – disarming, charming, make you laugh bait. I can slap Madea on something and talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness, family, any of those.” “It’s attitudes like [Lee’s] that make Hollywood think that these people do not exist and that’s why there’s no material speaking to them.”
There seems to be a growing divide between “Sophisticated” Black America and “Southern Baptist” Black America. The characters of Tyler Perry’s movies and sitcoms speaks loudly to the S.B.B.A. group while grossly offending the S.B.A.’s.
Tyler Perry makes a valid point. His characters do exist in reality. They are the average hardworking, church-going Americans who have been excluded from the Big Screen. His characters are wildly popular and to some inspirational and hilarious.
Unfortunately, Black America has been historically satirized for the amusement of White America, which is the sole reason for the outrage from Spike Lee and the S.B.A’s. Movies like “Bamboozled” and “Hollywood Shuffle” have warned of the damage such images have on Black America as a whole.
A popular argument from the S.B.B.A.’s is that Black America is not a homogeneous group. There is not a single Black image or a body of work that can effect the Black image. They assert that the message in Tyler Perry’s movies and sitcoms are far more important than the embarrassment felt by the S.B.A.’s when the see a “loud and silly uncle” on stage.
Most S.B.A.’s agree that in a perfect world that would be true. However, they assert that human beings have a tendency to generalize and prejudge. Most people have preconceived notions about things they have yet to experience based on what they have heard, read, or seen on television. The lack of balance in the media between entertaining Black Americans versus informative Black Americans is cause for immediate concern. The election of Barack Obama immensely shifted the paradigm towards informative, but more can be done.
Does Tyler Perry use realistic characters to expose deeper issues or does his characters depict historically racial stereotypes that should be avoided regardless of the message? What do you think?