If you’re white and/or Jewish like Hollywood, I’m sure you’ve been scratching your head recently thinking: “Jeepers! If the smarty blacks don’t like Tyler Perry eeeeither, how have his movies managed to gross hundreds of millions of dollars? I daresay IIIIIII haven’t seen one of them.” Well crackers, The Tyler Perry Effect is REAL. Oprah, get to steppin’! There’s another full-size black media mogul with big titties ready to take your place.
That’s right people. It is time to talk Tyler Perry. The man who somehow jacked RuPaul’s “Most Famous Black Drag Queen in America” tiara, who is pissed at Spike Lee for being so goddamn smart and black. The man who comforted Janet Jackson after her bro took that last Propofol cocktail, the man determined to enter the American zeitgeist even if the uppity blacks and the regular whites don’t want him there.
Hollywood’s been feeling peckish about the success of this black individual and his attempt to alter the American film and television landscape. His formula, well documented by now, is simple: take one of the most underrepresented populations in the country, make them suffer, offer redemption, stir in a healthy dose of Christian dogma, star and include your full name followed by the word “Presents” in the title of each of your movies and upset the hoity-toity, cantankerous (read: “educated”) blacks of the north by using trusted racial stereotypes that may still harbor fraught historical implications, but doggone it! they make us laugh. Oh, and yes, lest I forget-as often as possible, do it in DRAG.
Perry has a lot of haters. Indeed, when he went to California to get studio backing for his first film, he was met with rejection. It went like this:
Tyler Perry’s Midnight Train From Georgia
TYLER PERRY: [rather naïvely and with a faint southern accent] My loyal fan base consists of an unprecedented number of black, churchgoing females!!!!
HOLLYWOOD: [lamenting the golden era of Quaaludes] Black people who go to church don’t go to movies.
I agree with Hollywood. Since when are God-fearing, Christian Negresses fans of movies with cross-dressing, gun packing, weed smoking, crack peddling, wife beating, pussy selling black folks? “He realized that there is a segment of the black community that would define itself as churchgoing, and that simply has no interest in what Hollywood, the stage, and, to a certain extent, the music industry was offering,” is what Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture at Duke University said for a feature on Perry in the New York Times. Well, I define myself as a woman responsible enough to treat others with respect but I’ll be damned if I let some crazy bitch step into my house without knowing the rules. In other words, like “high holiday” Jews that bang the goy (and, LOL, schvartzes too!) there are “high holiday” blacks that define themselves as “churchgoing” even though they only show up at church on Easter and Christmas.
Perry bankrolled his first film with his own money. Now he is entirely made of money, because he owns it all. And since then, Perry’s original fan base has evolved, unlike his films. Those primitive, feel-good, sanctified productions filled with the Holy Ghost now appeal to black women who want to watch movies about other black women (or black men in drag). These are women who, when not scrounging around trying to make ends meet while their baby daddy is in jail, get bored and want to watch movies in which a black man prances around in a wig and fake boobies, waving a gun and carrying an assortment of belts in his purse in case he needs to open up a can of whoopass. Genius. Duh!
And then there’s Oprah. “Do not play him small because he is not just some lucky rich Negro-turned-black man” she said of Perry in an interview with 60 Minutes. Perry has been compared to Oprah because of his Midas touch; his fan base is so loyal, so driven and committed to his films that they’ll likely come out even if he starts adding quality to his work. The recent success of the indie favorite Precious, a film Perry produced with Oprah, suggests Oprah may be grooming Perry as she carefully shapes the final act of her legacy. His success is only growing.
Now, I know people love them some Oprah, but if you’re like me (raised by a single black man), you were taught to think of Oprah as a man-hating devil woman with lots of money and a big mouth. In short: every black man’s nightmare. So, when Oprah makes a laudatory comment about a black man, you know shit is going to go DOWN. When Perry was broke and thinking about how his father used to beat him like Kunta Kinte, it was Oprah who said, let there be light, influencing Perry to pick up a pen and create his cash cow Madea. Since then, Perry is one of the highest earners in the industry that won’t even have him.
Is all the flack Perry’s received justified? Can’t a man wear drag and make movies in peace? Riddle me this: If Barack and Michele Obama are the paragons of black culture, why are the characters in Perry’s resoundingly successful “black” films so different from our first, first black family? If the themes in “Tyler Perry Presents…” are universal, than why would his movies only appeal to churchgoing black women? There are so many questions about this man it makes my weave turn. I think this means that Tyler Perry is just another extremely astute businessman-a perfect foil (as well as body double) for Oprah.
Let’s wrap this up with chitlins. Ever had â€˜em? They are an acquired taste-you either love to love them, love to hate them or learn to enjoy them in spite of their bad smell. This is much like Tyler Perry’s movies. “Yeah. Superstar of the Chitlin’ Circuit, I’ll take that,” Perry said in his 60 Minutes interview. It will be interesting to see, if Perry ever distributes his films overseas, how they are received in other parts of the world. Here in the U.S., the summer flick Death at a Funeral clearly rips some of Perry’s formula and the brothas at Mo Money Taxes knew a good thing when they saw it, too. They turned Perry’s fat black cash cow into a much funnier, albeit derivative, fat white parody.
I cannot at heart be a hater. I’m always glad to see a black man making money, but I hope Perry is smart enough to use his new-found fame and fortune to diversify his oeuvre because all black women don’t go to church. That diversification is way overdue. I want a movie about black women that speaks to me too, thank you very much. I can see it now: “Charlie Presents: Charlie’s Charlie.” It’s a blockbuster waiting to HAPPEN.
Charlie is the pen name of a young woman in New York City who is merely hungry to see something that represents her experience (however confusing and slutty it may be).