"Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘This is a coon; this is a buffoon.' I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘You vote by what you see,' as if black people don't know what they want to see."
So says writer/producer/director/actor/plague Tyler Perry to Box Office Magazine (via THR) in response to the constant berating from Spike Lee. Lee has been outspoken about Perry, considering Perry's multimedia empire an example of modern-day "coonery" and "buffonery."
"We can do better," Spike Lee told "Our World with Black Enterprise" back in 2009 (you can watch the full clip below). "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?"
Clearly, Perry regards Lee not as an opinionated artist with a pedigree but as a chatty mouth looking to impede his unquestionable financial success. "I am sick of him" says Perry. "He talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!"
The somehow beleaguered Perry seems to feel that Lee's words can damage his veritable money train, referencing an email he sent to his fans via his website. "I was writing about just people and how hard people work to discourage people from seeing my work," he said. "I don't even understand it [but] this is where the whole Spike Lee [comment] comes from -- the negativity, this is Stepin Fetchit, this is coonery, this is buffoonery, and they try to get people to get on this bandwagon with them, to get this mob mentality to come against what I'm doing." For the record, each Perry directorial effort has pulled in more in its opening weekend than Lee's last film, "Miracle At St. Anna," grossed in its entire global run.
Of course, it's not just Lee. Perry seems dedicated to addressing all his fans would consider "haters." "I've never seen Jewish people attack 'Seinfeld' and say 'this is a stereotype,'" says Perry, continuing his obliviousness by erroneously claiming, "I've never seen Italian people attack 'The Sopranos,' I've never seen Jewish people complaining about 'Mrs. Doubtfire' or Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie.' I never saw it. It's always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo." Oh, great, a victim complex.
Perry has weighed in on Lee's criticisms before, telling "60 Minutes" last October (clip below), "It's attitudes like [Lee's] that make Hollywood think that these people [characters like Madea who are based on real-life members of his own family] do not exist, and that's why there's no material speaking to them." Of course, this is a straw man, because like all bad art, Perry's material DOES speak to people. It is the great art that challenges, but it is soul-killing populist garbage that flatters and confirms the narrow-minded simplicity and primitive thoughtlessness of our worst impulses. It's what Perry has built his empire on, and to think otherwise is disingenuous and stupid.
As for Lee, he posted on his website last month that he was just playfully ribbing a fellow director: "Despite what has been written or said I'm not feuding with Tyler Perry. I was on a show being interviewed by Host Ed Gordon. The only words pulled from my answer about Mr. Perry were 'Coonery and Buffoonery'. Please read the below transcript of the exchange. I feel Artists should be able to critique each other's work, Athletes and Musicians have been doing this for ages. As long as it's given in a loving spirit (which my opinions were) it's all good." So you see Tyler, Spike really just loves you in his own prickly way.
"Madea's Big Happy Family" opens this Friday to a truly enlightened audience.