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S & A Flashback - Why Do They Love Him So?

by Sergio
February 25, 2012 4:48 PM
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Tyler Perry

Well another Tyler Perry movie is out and there will be, of course,  his usual supporters and naysayers arguing over the merits or lack thereof of his movies (And for the record let me say that I think he's a bad filmmaker. But I think Michael Bay is too, but no one will jump on me for saying that.) Yet I can't think of another filmmaker who creates more talk or controversy than TP.

Not Lars Von Trier. Not Eli Roth. And not even Tom Six. Nobody gets people more riled up than Tyler.

Then again he has his die hard supporters who get equally riled up when someone dares to even say even the slightest negative syllable about him. For those people Tyler can literally walk on water. But exactly two and half years ago on S & A (time flies doesn't it?) I posed the question about why his supporters were so do-or-die for him.

Spike Lee makes a bad movie, very few will rush to his defense. But say Perry's latest film isn't good and they want to burn your house down.

As I said in that earlier article, many people have a very intense devotion to Perry. They "love him firecely no matter what and are blind to his faults. Yeah I know he hires black people and makes a lot of money...)

Well practically every black filmmaker hires black people, in front of and behind the camera, too. I don't know of single one who doesn't. But they don't get any praise for it like Perry. Why does he get all the credit? 

And as for making a lot of money, so does Aliko Dangote, but I've never heard anyone even once praising him. Who's Dangote you ask? He's the currently richest black person on the planet worth somewhere close to $15 billion and you think that people would be talking all the time about him and all the money he's making. But nope.

But as I stated in my earlier piece I suspect that there's something else going on here. And it's not just about his movies and that's because he's "one of us".

As I elaborated:  "by that I mean he's just regular folks. He's not particulary artistic or gifted in any way, but he's a success inspite of himself and his background. Everybody knows his story. Grew up poor, abused as a kid, lived in car for while, started off doing plays, worked hard and hustled despite everyone telling him he couldn't do it. You know "one of us'.

I have a feeling that a lot of people look at him and say to themsleves that maybe if I had better parents, maybe if my father was around, maybe if if I had just a little bit of luck, maybe if I hadn't hung around those losers for so long, maybe if I had stayed away from drugs, maybe if I had studied instead of spending most of the time staying out of school, maybe if I didn't believe those people when they told me that I wouldn't amount to anything, maybe if I had just believed in myself, then maybe I would be where Perry is right now.

So in effect when people get defensive about him and get upset with his critics when they go after him they are, in effect, saying that they are attacking them and their hopes and dreams. But that doesn't mean that the criticisms against him will stop anytime.

However I also said that I suspected "that if he was a brillant director from the outset, a star film student at NYU or UCLA, winning acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival or Sundance for his first film, on the cover of Sight and Sound, Film Comment and Empire, someone who just razzled and dazzled you with every new film like Quentin Taratnino or Martin Scorsese, I suspect that a lot of black people would respect him, but not necessarily love him. And there wouldn't be such an intense defense of him every time somebody critized him.  In other words, he wouldn't be one of us anymore. Instead he's somebody special, extraordinary and brilliant and that we couldn't relate to."

Well that's the only theory I could come up with. But if you've got a better one, let's hear it.

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  • Vaughn Turner | April 30, 2012 3:07 AMReply

    It's the throw back to a time where no matter what Family was everything. It was'nt perfect (no such thing) but it defined who we were as a people. The way that most of his productions cling to that ideal in my opinion, is what we are trying to protect, the image of family which is no longer valued as it was tweentyfive or thirty years ago. Noone is saying that he the best or cares if he's the richest, just that his thoughts speak to ours on a human level. Truth is the everyday black America, todays grandparents connect with what he writes it is who we are and where we came from with just enough realism to give us hope without a lot of complication. Noone has to die or be stuck where they are for ever no horible crashes no overly exsplicit sex scences this is what we want, this is what we defend.

  • c collings | April 21, 2012 9:17 PMReply

    Sensible people love him and accept his work because he fhas illed many voids. Void(1) using black actors/actresses (2) depicting the lifestyles of a good percentage - not 100% - of black life (3) presenting films that made us escape, through belly laughs some of the uncalled for hate directed at us, and (4) allowing some of the massive profits to return to a black person/conglomerate. How about that as a reason for loving him? Whether or not you love him or his work, the criticism does not have to get personal.

  • Jeff N. | February 26, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    I pursue quality: projects, entertainment, art. Perry is the antithesis of quality. Didn't his latest film have the second-worst opening of his career? Just goes to show you:

    No "Good Deeds" go unpunished.


  • Adam Scott Thompson | February 26, 2012 6:21 AMReply

    The Prime Minister of Coonistan.

  • Rane | February 26, 2012 11:17 AM


  • Traci R. | February 26, 2012 3:08 AMReply

    Yeah I think I like Tyler Perry's life narrative much more than I actually like him (his public persona) and his art (filmmaking at least, his plays I dig shamelessly). I also take the side of Laura on the notion of calling his work "coonery." Quite honestly, I've never understood how that term ever applies to describing black humor for a predominantly BLACK audience.

    I think this concept of shame and humor has quite the complicated history in black entertainment on both the production and reception side of the equation. Many are ASHAMED of what we as black folk find funny because its so "VULGAR" and "LOW BROW." Eff that. I quite admire fanatical TP followers whose logic about why they like him steers far away from the intellectual pontification that "critical" film watchers give to describe and defend their film choices (i.e. present a case that shows that their tastes are less shame-inducing than the taste of others). It's called taste for a reason--my flavor ain't always your flavor--and I'm not about to sit up here and defend why I like salty and not sweet.

  • CareyCarey | February 26, 2012 11:30 AM

    @ Traci, I think I love you. Your comment was so right that I have to say it twice ---> "Many are ASHAMED of what we as black folk find funny because its so "VULGAR" and "LOW BROW." Eff that. I quite admire fanatical TP followers whose logic about why they like him steers far away from the intellectual pontification that "critical" film watchers give to describe and defend their film choices (i.e. present a case that shows that their tastes are less shame-inducing than the taste of others). It's called taste for a reason--my flavor ain't always your flavor--and I'm not about to sit up here and defend why I like salty and not sweet". Yep, I was just in a play that centered around my great uncle Tim Moore. He played the role of Kingfish in the 1951-1953 series Amos & Andy. If I can say so, we did the damn thang and the audience laughed their asses off. They loved it! Btw, the crowd WAS NOT a bunch of "church goers" nor were they uneducated. The mayor of the city in which Tim was born was there, along with every walk of life and educational background and finacial status a person could think of. Yeah, eff that and those who believe that if they read Socrates and carry the Wall Street Journal under their arm, that somehow makes them a better person than the man who reads the funny papers.

  • Rane | February 26, 2012 2:24 AMReply

    OMG! Just heard TP's doing a remake of Notes on a Scandal with Niki Minaj in the Cate Blanchett role and Medea in Judi Dench's... of course he'll direct and do the re-write... Actually what annoys me is that by TP releasing two films a year, he's hogging the middle- seems like the North America market only has room for his crap and fun stuff like Precious and Pariah.

  • Derrick | February 25, 2012 10:04 PMReply

    F Tyler Perry!!

  • Joe | February 25, 2012 9:38 PMReply

    In an anti-Black/anti-African fashion, sound analysis and critique of Tyler Perry(or any of the big black folks like Oprah & Obama and even when done lovingly) is seen as idiocy and hatin'.

  • al | February 25, 2012 9:14 PMReply

    S & A needs to send Tyler Perry a check.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 8:56 PMReply

    Only an idiot would disagree with Tyler Perry being the greatest filmmaker working today. He is our Orson Welles.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | February 26, 2012 6:20 AM

    Our Orson Welles? X__X

  • Man-Over-Bored | February 25, 2012 10:04 PM

    @Laura: if you were being facetious with the "...He is our Orson Welles" comment, I not only do I think your sense of humor is brilliant, but I also think I'm in love!

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 10:01 PM

    Uhhh, again that's another Laura. That is most definitely not me.

  • Mark & Darla | February 25, 2012 7:54 PMReply

    It amazed me yesterday across internet blogs, it same that every critic woke up at the crack of dawn, ran out the door, straight to the nearest theater showing 'Good Deeds', ran back to their blog site to gave their negative revive, all before 12 noon eastern time. There sure are a lot of people uptight about Tyler Perry. Relax people, see nothing happen the world did not come to an end because another TP movie came to the theater.

  • Nadine | February 25, 2012 6:41 PMReply

    Interesting theory, Sergio. Spike took the film school route through to his Masters (NYU), but was always an outsider - a kind of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps kind of person which, I think, could be another way of framing Perry's experiences. They can both find a connection in that, but yeah, I think you're on to something. There is also this "Chuch" thing, never deserting he who is at the pulpit. Perry has become, almost, a Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, megachurch leader type with a forgiving and protective flock. All I know is this dude just pissed me off on Chelsea Handler, and it almost seems as if he is going the "wider audience" route. Straying away from his Black female fanbase (of which I was not a member) for more commercial success on their backs (based on his statements in the CH interview and his recent choices as an ACTOR. Alex Cross, whose wife, though deceased is being played by Carmen Ejogo. This is classic Hollywood. Same old formula. He's looking to become another peg claiming to have no authority over decisions made in Hollywood even after claiming to KNOW the issues.

  • Sigh | February 25, 2012 6:21 PMReply

    Dr. MLK, I know you are rolling around in that grave of yours and asking, was it worth it?

  • Nadine | February 25, 2012 5:59 PMReply

    I pretty much stay away from TP posts, but I can't back down from my love of Steve McQueen when some, or shall I say, the successful Black males in Hollywood can have conversations with non-Blacks, supposedly schooling them on Black people and the ever-so-trendy "what Black women are thinking" or "what wrong with Black women". Tyler Perry on Chelsea Handler is why these cats, honestly, need a meteor to strike them where they stand I don't give a hoot about Kim K, but I guess it his duty to tell CH, a whore, that BW don't want KK, a whore, in their movies or for him to marry "a CH", I guess because she's White, because BW are the problem... this is your dude folks.

  • Lucas | February 25, 2012 5:57 PMReply

    Serigio get off of Tyler's dick!

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 5:53 PMReply

    d) CONT. I considered coon work stereotypes that white folks make about us that we perform. I see Tyler Perry work steep a certain kind of American Black humor, not white humor about Black folks. And personally I don't care what white folks think about us (all these comment about TP making us look bad etc. is about the white gaze). If white folks ain't gonna like you they ain't gonna like and it ain't nothing you can do about it. If you don't beleive me go ask the President. e) TP have a national reach and in many parts of the country where Black folks live it aint much arts and entertainment out there. There are a lot of sports and its a form of family entertainment. But creative arts. No. I have lived out in the boonies in various part of the country. Let me tell you. It ain't nothing out there. f) Please don't assume that people who like TP are some how not cultural or intelligent. I know people with advance degrees who enjoy TP. I personally know Black woman who is a Tyler Perry and a fan of Cindy Sherman -a New York based avant garde photographer. TP fans are not as simple as you think. g) TP movies are pure escapism and a people under various social, economic, cultural and personal assault need some form of escapism to get through the day. TP provides that. And for the record, I don't think TP is a good film maker at all. I think his stories are excruciating but hey my girlfriends seem to love him.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 10:02 PM

    Cool. No prob.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 9:30 PM

    I replied in the wrong spot. See my "I'm implying that media literacy"

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 8:47 PM

    This is not an attack on you Other Song, so don't take it the wrong way. But the next time some says to me "the Chinese are making films why can't Black people do it." I'm going to tell my Chinese-American colleagues who complain about their representation in American cinema, "the Nigerians are making films. In fact the have 3rd largest film industry in the world. Why can't you Chinese make films." I just get so tired of people comparing us to a nation. Black Americans/African-Americans are not a country.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 8:16 PM

    @Other song. "Advance degrees don't make you smart." What are you implying? That TP fans are not intelligent even though they have advance degrees. Or that TP are inherently not intelligent and advance degrees do not prove other wise. I don't know. But the I get from some TP bashers is that it is the low class unedujumacated black folks are the ones who are into to Tyler Perry and that is flat out not true. They may not give a damn about "art" but many are far from ignorant. And when it comes to mediocrity, you did see what I'd written for reason a) two posts below? Mediocrity is celebrated. And with TP one can be mediocre and successful. Or better yet, be Sub-par and successful. And the celebration of mediocrity is contemporary American phenomenon. And I never compare a nation (China) with an minority ethnic group within a nation. That's like comparing apples with bubblegum. I can tell you I can tell you that from the very few Chinese-Americans I know who work in film they ain't to crazy that their stories about being Chinese American not being told in American cinema. ANd they quite tired of the wise ancient chinese man with his wise eastern philosophy with a splash of martial arts being the major "Asian" trope in American cinema. So they ain't got it so good, neither. And finally. The list of reasons I put in those three post do not all to every fan. It's just that's what I get from the various people I encountered when it comes to TP. ANd I forgot the older generation like TP because they are proud of him. It is a breakthrough for the "Black race" for a Black man to have his own studio and make his own film. It shows that we are progressing as a race.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 7:51 PM

    Advanced degrees don't make you smart, and especially don't make you CRITICAL. Which is something that even some degree holders struggle with. A lot of people are media illiterate. I know finance degree holders who love Chris Brown and think he's 'sexypuss' despite the fact that he's a raging douche who beat his ex-girl and never really apologized about it (but that's a whole other debate). TP's stuff is just way too low-brow for those who like a little thought in their movies, and way too weak for those who like at least some narrative intelligence. Secondly, TP makes us look bad whether people want to admit it or not. It holds up a mirror of mediocrity for US as people to look into and accept. Yes, I agree that we shouldn't worry about the white gaze but that doesn't mean we should cast it into the wind either. If white people think we're inherently good for nothings, ignore that. But if white people think we're not educated and adverse to school, maybe we should consider if they have a point, as sad as it is. It's all about the quality and accuracy of criticism. We don't live in a bubble - we live in the real world. And in the real world, people look at TP and think 'wtf'. MEANWHILE, the Chinese have decided to make movies that big up their heritage and culture. and it makes a huge difference, whether people want to admit it or not. Dignity is beautiful. It's unfortunately a concept that escapes us Black people far too often. I'm not saying we can't do 'crass commercialism' or portray anything 'negative' - I'm a huge Mobb Deep fan, and they were never talking about 'positive' shit -- but the difference is that they had standards. Artistically their stuff was brilliant and enlightening, so you respected it regardless. And it was kind of beautiful in a way. Again, dignity is beautiful.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 5:38 PMReply

    b) He is a throwback to old chitlin circuit entertainers like Pigmeat Markhan and such. That ain't too many generations ago. Also he does church plays and church plays are viable cultural product with their own set of story telling rules and aesthetics -I think that's why one of the reasons why is films are badly put together because he adheres to rules storytelling via church plays. c)He represent the American dream for Black folks. d) Tyler Perry films present certain cultural tropes and memes in southern based Black American culture that are absent from mainstream American culture. That is why I refuse to call Tyler Perry work "coon" work. Can you call his humor low-brow. Yeah But do I consider him a not a good film maker. Yeah.

  • Laura | February 26, 2012 9:19 AM

    @Ghost. I stand by on what I say about him hogging the air. I had sources who work on a few of TP films told me that TP doesn't even direct some of films. They related that to me that while shooting was going on TP studio elsewhere. They also stated that TP has other on his crew long standing workers(non-directors) directing his film. Now he gets credit for directing. If he doesn't direct his film why doesn't he let other up and coming director take helm of the camera. More importantly, if "Church Plays" is his film genre why doesn 't let produce other Church Plays for cinema. There are other writers who are well verse in Church Play dramaturgy (Not that I will pay to watch it in theatre). He hogs the air. Remember the JFK saying "To those whom much is given much is expected."

  • Ghost | February 26, 2012 12:09 AM

    I don't think Perry hogs the spotlight. I put that at the foot of the black media that unlike the white media forgets there are other directors/writers out there. Tim Story directed 2 films that made a combine billion dollars (Fantastic Four). Dwayne McDuffie (RIP) did what Tyler did and create original black stories (along with other races) and gave us Static Shock. Don't Erecka, Alphas, Underworld films and a few other shows/movies have black folk writing/directing them? Yet we never hear about them? You want to stop it? Don't buy the magazines , watch the shows/movies and so on. Hurt them in the pocketbook or page hits. Then when they ask why? Tell them that they need to learn what variety is.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 11:43 PM

    @Laura, exactly! and that's why I can't STAND Tyler Perry. It's amazing to me that people defend him. His biggest flaw isn't that he makes weak-ass films, but that he hogs the spotlight HARD and lowers the bar for what people consider to be a "Black" film (making it harder for people to trust that Black film is worth investing in creatively). Those are two major problems. What talented Black writer/director has broken through thanks to Tyler Perry or his films? He's so busy NOT paying his writers and/or taking credit from them that no foundation is being laid.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 10:33 PM

    I agree we are in a position that other ethnic minorities and Africans/Blacks world wide look to Black/African-Americans sort of like social/cultural beacon. And I have to say we are squandering a many a opportunities. If I have one issue with TP is that he is not putting others on the map. With the influence that he has he is not building a foundation. I'm not talking about showcasing actors. They go to him because the work is scarce and what so noble about that? My issue is that Spike love him or hate open the doors to people who would have never worked in the industry . Because of his films he has help people into the unions in which entrance into the union was based on race AND nepotism. He has help other directors start their film career. He Exec Prod Dee Rees' "Pariah". I have said in a few weeks ago TP can be our Roger Corman. I say that with admiration and pride. No doubt Roger Corman films were mostly crappy and exploitive. However, they were training ground for great American directors (Scorseses, Ron Howard, Cameron and the list goes on). He a part of the reason why we know who Pam Grier and Jack Nicholson are. His distribution company put out" Sweetback Badass Song". And he helped introduce American audience to Godzilla. He created classic like: Little Shop of Horror, Forbidden Planet. Great writers like Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont came through Roger Corman. His accomplishments in American Cinema are varied and far-reaching. I really admire that man. This man had an impact on American culture. If TP wasn't so busy running trying to be a star everywhere essentially "hogging up all the air" I believe he could achieve that kind of greatness.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 9:29 PM

    I'm implying that media literacy has nothing to do with having a degree in engineering, law or whatever. You can be a medical doctor and have shitty taste in film. It's actually quite common. And it's even worse if you live in a bubble of some sort, because great film is all about challenging or enlightening your view on something. And let's face it, a lot of professionals are not the most enlightening people. They do their work, and go home. It's not their job to think on an artistic level - not that it should be. But you get my point. Most people will never ask themselves: "hmm, is TP's portrayal problematic on any level?" And I'm not saying that to be "look at me, I'm such a snob - I think your taste sucks", it's the fact that most people don't deem entertainment as worthy of being analyzed, and thus don't do it. Which is a problem in itself but that's another discussion. I agree that there are vast differences between China and Black America. and yes, Chinese-Americans aren't even close to having representation in media. With that said, there are TONS of Black Americans who are wealthy/known figures in entertainment. We have the monopoly when it comes to defining what is 'Black' worldwide. Which is why it's so sad that we can't seem to make great films on a mainstream level. We have the most media representation out of all minorities in America. Our music is global. Yet we (meaning TP) choose to make crapola. Other minorities would KILL for our position. It's not about whether a black man owns his own studio. What does it mean if he can't do anything to help others and bring necessary (and entertaining) stories to the limelight?

  • CareyCarey | February 25, 2012 6:39 PM

    Bravo Laura! You laid it straight on the line. Listen, if a person gains their knowledge or wisdom about a specific race or person from a movie, that person is an idiot from the jump. That's right, they are well below the curve. So yes, some black folks should stop looking at TP's products through blue eyes. Hint: that means, draw your own conclusions and look out your own window to see who we are, what we do, and how far we've come.

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 6:07 PM

    @ Sergio. Ah ain't never said was as good as Pigmeat. But seriously. The reason I point out the whole chitlin circuit entertainers is because because the I know of adults from the previous generations that were ashamed of the chitlin circuit entertainers like Pigmeat because "they made us look bad." I did not get to hear know about them until my mid-20. When I got around to listening to them I thought it was some great stuff. I got to listening to them because I sought them out. My sisters, brothers, cousins, friends that I grew up with ain't never heard of a lot of these entertainers.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 5:52 PM

    Laura, you make great points. Why wouldn't you call TP's work "coon" work? after all, the negative stereotypes that came out of slavery/Jim Crow were heaviest in the South. So why is it absurd to say that TP adheres to them?

  • Sergio | February 25, 2012 5:42 PM

    Except that Pigmeat was FUNNY! I still have some his old recordings. "Open The Door Richard' is an avant garde performance art classic

  • Laura | February 25, 2012 5:31 PMReply

    Just speaking from my neck of the wood. I think a) Tyler Perrry represent that you can be Black & mediocre and still can be successful. Back in the day you have to be 2X better than white folk to be considered half as good. He blew that theory right out of the water. a) He tapped an underserved market "Black Chuch Wimmin" noticed I put that in quotes because I know a lot of Black women who love Tyler Perry and ain't never step foot a church. However they old school Black women who family members are/were members of a church. TO BE CONT.

  • other song | February 25, 2012 5:11 PMReply

    Michael Bay is a WAY better filmmaker than TP, and doesn't drag down his race in the process lol. The chase sequence in Bad Boys 2 is better than just about anything TP will ever attempt. Yes Bay makes a lot of crap. But he's at least made coherent, adequate movies that stretch the imagination. The Rock. The Island. What has TP done?

  • Akimbo | February 27, 2012 3:51 PM

    Michael Bay has great technical skills, but no storytelling ones. Tyler Perry has neither.

  • James | February 27, 2012 9:10 AM

    I think both are pretty terrible. The reason that there isn't such a fervor about the merits of a Michael Bay film is pretty much ever body agrees that Michael Bay makes action popcorn movies. If people were to compare a Tyler Perry movie to The Vow or to The Notebook or some similar movie made for a specific niche, then fantastic. It's when Perry's fans start crying foul for the movies not being adorned with awards and glowing reviews that I believe the arguments escalate. Last night is perfect example, Octivia Spencer wouldn't have won a thing if it had been directed by TP. Filmmaking is an art or it can be a business. He chooses to run it as a business, and he does it well. Let's just stop pretending he's a filmmaker. He is (at best) a competent producer and entrepreneur.

  • Sergio | February 25, 2012 5:26 PM

    "Michael Bay is a WAY better filmmaker than TP'

    Well I confess I did like The Island

  • other song | February 25, 2012 5:16 PM

    People who love TP love him in the same way they love God. It has nothing to do with logic. TP pretty much sells religion with a few cheap laughs sprinkled in-between. You're simply not going to 'out-debate' why his audience shouldn't like it because his audience doesn't think.

  • jmac | February 25, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    Sounds like a good theory. When blacks succeed - especially to the extent that whites grudgingly recognize their success - it's usually because they are the cream of the crop or best in their business whether they started out dirt poor and disadvantaged or not. Black mediocre person does great is a rare headline -although it's been increasing as of late. Can't think of a better reason.

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