Thank You, Tyler Perry, for Making Family Movies

Tyler PerryWe’ve ingested some pretty subpar television programming since reality TV mania hit. If someone would have told us 15, 20 years ago that we would find entertainment in watching washed-up celebrities battle through weight loss drama, seeing groups of catty no-names duke it out in one volatile household, or cheering random stars learning to rap, ice skate, or ballroom dance, we probably would have smacked them with the remote and told them to sit down. Ratings prove, however, that we’re eating it up.

So I find it difficult to understand why so many moviegoers — particularly in the black community — are critical of Tyler Perry’s films, shows, and plays. Before him, I can’t remember too many movies that I could take The Girl to see that didn’t have a stupid talking animal, animated character, or numbingly foolish storyline. For creating material that I can enjoy that she can enjoy too, I am forever grateful to you, TP. 

Advertisement

When we were in our Menace II Society/Dead Presidents/New Jack City phase, folks complained (and rightfully so) that storylines depicting black America were too violent, too stereotypical, and too negative. A gross misrepresentation of who we are. Most of us don’t live like this. Give us something that’s a positive influence on our children. Don’t let the rest of the world think that we all have this shoot-em-up, irresponsible lifestyle ‘cause it ain’t true. And honestly, it’s not. So Hollywood responded with the shuckin’ and jivin’ contained in flicks like Soul Plane and any and every Wayans Brothers production. Also a fail.

With the exception of a handful of movies that manage to strike some sort of balance between endearing characterization, believable storylines, quality script writing, and some semblance of dignity — Brown Sugar, Love Jones, Soul Food, and Love & Basketball come immediately to mind — we resigned ourselves to being unable to take the whole family to see a nice, normal movie featuring people that looked like us. I guess we chalked it up to another oversight and called it a day.

Now Tyler Perry has given us films that the whole community can relate to and families can enjoy together — if we allow ourselves to give the man some credit. We can laugh, we can cry, we can even slip in a few values and moral lessons because his productions always include a little gem of wisdom, whether you subscribe to his Christian beliefs or not. He even has the nerve to weave some elements of pride and unity into the dialogue. Remember Cicely Tyson’s speech in Madea’s Family Reunion? Not many filmmakers have been able to intertwine all of those qualities into million-dollar blockbusters.  

True, some of his content is over the top. But in order to appeal to the whole family — Mama, Daddy, Grandma, Baby Girl, and Lil’ Brother — he’s got to fuse some shock value and some drama with some mushiness and some comedic antics. The end result is films that have gained a following outside of the black Christian community that entertain the whole gang without blood, guts, gore, or gun-play. Except Madea’s, of course.

Lighten up on Tyler Perry, y’all. I’m starting to take it kind of personal. I don’t know why exactly. He isn’t cutting me a check every month and he surely ain’t gonna send me a thank-you note for coming to his defense. He’s a big boy and he can handle the heat — heaven knows he gets enough of it. But I guess I’m just tired of us being our own worst critics. When there’s good to be seen, I believe to my core that we should open our eyes and see it.

OK, rant finished. Back to my regularly scheduled silliness.

Do you give Tyler Perry movies an enthusiastic thumbs up or an adamant thumbs down?

 

Image via jon gos/Flickr

Read More >