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Tyler Perry Starts Fight With Real Filmmaker, Says Spike Lee Should 'Go Straight To Hell'

by Gabe Toro
April 20, 2011 2:10 AM
42 Comments
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"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.



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42 Comments

  • brandi | September 8, 2011 3:32 AMReply

    Oh god, some of these comments.

  • Lakita | July 14, 2011 12:26 PMReply

    People like Spike are afraid of what Tyler has become. The are afraid of his strategy and mainly because he is doing it outside of Hollywood. Spike has a hang up and it is not because of Tyler filmaking status. he is making more than he is. Lets face it Spike is a great film maker but this attitude makes people think. Why is he so mad. Is it because it takes the lime light from him or because he didnt think of it first. as blacks we need to be united and not get upset at someone elses success

  • Todd | April 21, 2011 9:45 AMReply

    Ill be honest I was only reading this article because I hate Tyler Perry. However, this Gabe dude already ruined all of my hatred toward Perry. So I think I kind of like him now. Not really. He still sucks.

  • Edward Davis | April 21, 2011 8:04 AMReply

    At the back up what you say and really mean it school of journalism, you mean?

  • Hmm... | April 21, 2011 8:01 AMReply

    Isn't one of the basic tenets of journalism to back up what you say?

  • John Constantine | April 21, 2011 7:38 AMReply

    "These comments are really outrageous. This piece simply summarizes what Perry and Lee have said. I don’t understand why people are getting so worked up." - Ryan (in a comment down below)

    from "this piece"

    -Tyler Perry Starts Fight With Real Filmmaker
    -So says writer/producer/director/actor/plague Tyler Perry
    -Clearly, Perry regards Lee not as an opinionated artist with a pedigree but as a chatty mouth looking to impede his unquestionable financial success [you know, even an opinionated artist with a pedigree can have a chatty mouth]
    -The somehow beleaguered Perry seems to feel that Lee’s words can damage his veritable money train
    -says Perry, continuing his obliviousness by erroneously claiming
    -Oh, great, a victim complex.
    -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.
    -opens this Friday to a truly enlightened audience.


    perspective? where? I only see bias. and btw if you like this kind of "perspective on things" so much you shouldn't be offended by the comments. after all, they have the same kind of "perspective on things".

    and you (Gabe) shouldn't take sides. good journalism is when you try to be as objective as possible regardless of your personal opinions. this is not a "I like X' article, this a "he said, he said" article where you should let the reader make up his mind who's right or wrong, who's good or bad.

    I've never seen any of Tyler Perry's films (not from US) and I saw at least five Spike Lee films. I do know what kind of movies Perry does (let say commercial) and I really believe Spike Lee is great director. So in my subjectivity I like Lee over Perry as a director. That said, even if I should side with Spike Lee, I still don't like this article. It's a cheap blow directed towards someone just because YOU don't like him.

    based on this so called article, I, in a subjective manner I agree, don't like you, but I won't in any way try to insult you just because of that.

    @Ryan it's not a funny title. at all. It's like "Ryan stars fight with real [your profession]". not funny, don't you think?

  • Juke Early | April 21, 2011 7:16 AMReply

    If only Moms Mabley & Malcolm X were alive to see this. . ..

  • David | April 21, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    This Gabe is a douche bag. A writer should not show his bias opinion.

  • Ryan | April 21, 2011 4:26 AMReply

    @John specifically, about the title, Tyler Perry knows he's making certain decisions to cater to an audience to make money. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but Spike Lee didn't make Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, or anything in his career (besides "Inside Man") because the film would make money, and I think if you're Tyler Perry, you've got to know that criticism is part of the game.

    I've been an independent filmmaker for years, putting my own money up, making projects I believe in and no one watches my films. I'm fine with that. I don't consider filmmaking a profession. I have a job that pays the bills and it's lame, but I think that Spike Lee is a real filmmaker because he takes risks as a filmmaker.

    I totally agree with you that Tyler Perry considers filmmaking his professional, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I don't think you can be a real artist unless you're risking something, and Perry isn't risking anything by making "Madea's Big Happy Family", which is fine, but I don't think we need to defend him for treating filmmaking like a paycheck and I think it's perfectly appropriate to criticize him as being a non-real filmmaker.

    He can handle it.

  • Dave | April 21, 2011 4:19 AMReply

    I'm not trying to defend Tyler Perry, I hate his flicks, but I know people who are the exactly like his characters. So he is going to connect with clack audiences a lot more than Spike can.

    Also I love Spike's films but he comes across as a raging, holier than thou ass. Pickn' on Clint was a low point . I do believe Gabe Toro and Ryan need to stop stroking each other in public and get a room.

    Gabe, I bet you love the sound of your own voice...don't you ya Douchebag

  • Rob | April 21, 2011 4:01 AMReply

    Ive watched some of perry's movies and don't get them. some have twisted scenes and i don't understand where his mind is when he's writing these. and i totally think he stole his Madea character from Ernest Goes to Camp, jail, saves christmas !!!!!

  • The Playlist | April 21, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    1) Never tell us what we should and shouldn't do. That's never going to well.

    2) This is an opinion based website and has been since day 1. We report news and then editorialize around it. If you want a faceless trade, go to Variety. We happen to like blogging because you CAN inject your opinion in there. Blogging has always been a mix between editorial and basic tenets of journalism. We like that mix of things and having done straight up journalism for a long time where I couldn't inject any opinion, the whole reason I started this site back in the day was to have that kind of freedom that I relished.

  • SotoMojo | April 21, 2011 2:26 AMReply

    I'm not a fan of anything Tyler Perry does, but with that being said, Gabe Toro seems like a pretentious douche.

  • Daniel | April 21, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    I agree with Todd. I'm perfectly fine with writers of this site inserting their own opinions into news articles but I find it incredibly disrespectful to use it as a forum to essentially call people "stupid" because they like a certain movie or genre of movies. I mean jesus christ can we generalize people a little more? You're basing people's level of intelligence on liking one thing. I know people ten times smarter than me that could give two shits about what most of us would call a good movie but it doesn't change their IQ level, it just shows where their interests lie.

    I think humor, sarcasm, and news can go hand in hand but at what point does it become cheap shots? I don't think Gabe needs to necessarily see Tyler Perry's films or TV shows in order to comment on their standards of quality exactly. Obviously it would be better if he has seen them and can give an informed opinion but much of Perry's work can be taken at face value. And I'm sure many of us know by now the types of films we won't like before we even see them.

    If The Playlist wants to spark intelligent debate, start with an intelligent post. These mindless cheap shots with little to no formation of an intelligent argument will only lead to a comment section rampant with mindless bickering and petty quibbles. Also, nothing is worse than coming to a comment section and being routinely bad mouthed by the people who want you to read their articles. Please take the high road, it makes me shiver in disgust even when I do think the comments are tasteless and mean spirited.

    I visit the playlist because, as of now, it collects news that's both "art house" and "geeky," something I don't get anywhere else. And hell, shoot me. I want the writing to be better than it already is. You guys are all better than this. And no, I'm not saying stop making posts like this but do so in an intelligent fashion.

    Sorry I didn't comment on race and stereotypes but after reading that post I wasn't much inspired to do so.

  • Alex | April 20, 2011 12:21 PMReply

    Wait, Tyler Perry doesn't know any Italian-Americans? Talk about burying the lede!

  • kanye | April 20, 2011 11:38 AMReply

    the playlist hates black people

  • Todd Gilchrist | April 20, 2011 10:55 AMReply

    First of all, thanks for crediting the original source for this story. It is sincerely appreciated. But I'm curious - in writing about this, what is the point of being so antagonistic not only about Perry's movies, but towards their audiences ("opens this Friday to a truly enlightened audience," Gabe's responses in the comments section, etc.)? Is it to play to the site's constituency? To make sure readers know that the writer knows he's better than Tyler Perry's movies? Or to take a few cheap shots at an easy target?

    I have only seen one of his films, his latest, and I have no vested interest in defending his work. But has the author of this article seen any of his films to mount an argument against their artistic merits? If so, fair enough. But whether you think he has "a victim complex" or not, your editorial comments about his complaints are poorly contextualized, and overlook that what he's talking about is the fact that the black community is as eager if more more eager to tear down successful blacks as anyone else, and he believes (I think reasonably) that a marginalized community should support its success stories, not the least of which because they pave the way for other artists to be able to tell their stories, some of which may actually live up to your artistic standards.

    Regardless of that, however, I would argue that you shouldn't be surprised when people react negatively to an article which not only says that the entertainment they like is terrible, but because they like it, they're terrible too, and then act indignant when people criticize or argue with you about those assertions. If your editorial policy is to write interpretive pieces about breaking news items, then, again, fair enough; but don't be shocked or accuse those who disagree with you of behaving like jackasses, when the standards set by the piece they're commenting on aren't setting a bar that's much higher than that.

  • hank | April 20, 2011 8:45 AMReply

    I apologize if anyone is personally offended, but unfortunately writers have to take responsibility for what they write.

    Is calling Tyler Perry a "writer/producer/director/actor/plague" not a personal attack? I suppose the writer of this article deserves the same amount of respect that he has given to his subjects.

    When you write an article on a site like this, you are responsible for it and the misinformation that is spread by it.

    "Tyler Perry Starts Fight WIth Real Filmmaker," reads the headline. Well, did he start the fight, or did Spike Lee start the fight? Get your facts straight, that's all I ask. And please, yes, be respectful.

  • Ryan | April 20, 2011 8:36 AMReply

    @ Hank This piece is totally legit. It is not different from other Playlist pieces. Gabe is a fine writer and you obviously have a personal vendetta which is getting a little ridiculous.

    Let these guys do their job. Focus on the content without going for personal attacks. I don't think that's too much to ask.

  • Ryan | April 20, 2011 8:15 AMReply

    Well, it was worth a shot.

  • hank | April 20, 2011 7:52 AMReply

    not a Tyler Perry fan. I think he's a hack. Spike Lee is one of the most important filmmakers of his generation, no doubt. That doesn't mean he isn't an asshole. The problem is a poorly written piece using juvenile language like "The somehow beleaguered Perry seems to feel that Lee’s words can damage his veritable money train". 99% of the time this site does better, and actually gives us interesting information instead of hackneyed grandstanding. I'm glad all the writers on the playlist aren't starving for attention.

  • Bickle | April 20, 2011 7:25 AMReply

    Spike is a great example of artists who respect themselves and their culture way too much. Look where that's gotten his feature work today.

    He could never hope to make an evolved or relevant piece of art like he did when he was 30 if his life depended on it. He's like rock music - respect yourself until all you do is recycle yourself into oblivion, while "ignorant" artists like Waka Flocka and Lil Wayne, who just do what they feel behind a mic, get to have all the fun and leave it up to history to decide what's great about their work. Meanwhile, what's on the top of the iTunes rock charts? Journey, Aerosmith, 311 and Motley Crue. What a fun, fresh party.. Spike can suckit until he can make a fresh feature (I do love the Katrina docs, though).

    I don't know much about Tyler Perry, but from what I can see, he just makes comfort food that reaches a lot of people and keeps them going to theaters. Good for him, I have no beef with people who consistently bring crowds together to laugh at something (even if that "something" is a woman sloppily made-up to be a big woman). He really didn't need to react that wildly to Spike, though. Bad look.

  • Ryan | April 20, 2011 6:47 AMReply

    These comments are really outrageous. This piece simply summarizes what Perry and Lee have said. I don't understand why people are getting so worked up.

    The Playlist has a certain point-of-view. You know that going into pieces. "Tyler Perry Starts Fight With Real Filmmaker" is a very funny headline.

    If you want straight-up news, go to Hollywood Reporter. If you want a perspective on things, that's what The Playlist is here for. A lot of people appreciate what they do, and it just happens that most of those people don't bother to sling mud in the comments section.

    If you take issue with the piece's "criticism" of Perry, do so in an intelligent way. You can't just yell at someone for having a different opinion than you. Well, apparently you can, but why not use this forum for thoughtful debate?

    Whatta ya say, fellow commenters?

  • Gabe Toro | April 20, 2011 6:27 AMReply

    Who the fuck ARE some of you people? Does Tyler Perry really require some of you to act like jackasses?

  • hank | April 20, 2011 6:08 AMReply

    you are lucky some of us even pretend to take you seriously as a journalist. keep spewing senseless verbiage

  • Abner | April 20, 2011 5:57 AMReply

    Oh, actually, I'm not serious at all.

  • dee | April 20, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    What is this dude even talking about? Robin Williams isn't Jewish and if his character in Mrs Doubtfire was, there was no mention of it. Dustin Hoffman wasn't playing a Jewish character either. Get your facts right.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | April 20, 2011 5:41 AMReply

    I'm glad this post spurred such a great conversation about race, filmmaking and stereotypes.

  • The Playlist | April 20, 2011 5:39 AMReply

    Abner, you're seriously such a tool.

  • Abner | April 20, 2011 5:37 AMReply

    Considering the quality of your site, you can't rightly have high standards. Don't kid yourself. Where can I report grammar problems in this post?

  • Gabe Toro | April 20, 2011 5:20 AMReply

    Some of you are lucky we have such low commenting standards on this site.

  • latinchic | April 20, 2011 5:02 AMReply

    I don't understand Spike's problem. Both types of films are valid. There's an audience for everything. Not everyone wants to see artsy-fartsy films all the time....and most of those directors and writers hardly make money. That's the trade-off, Spike. Deal with it.

    I personally appreciate both directors.

  • dusttracks | April 20, 2011 4:59 AMReply

    whatever...movies are entertainment, not art.
    hollywood was built on stereotypes and continues to grow on the same icons.
    leave perry alone. if you don't like his movies, don't go.

    jesus...

  • Mijo | April 20, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    Only black people can comment on this.

  • Ryan | April 20, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    Learn how to write and correctly-spelled comment.

  • hank | April 20, 2011 4:31 AMReply

    your an asshole learn how to write and objective article

  • ben | April 20, 2011 4:28 AMReply

    "I’ve never seen Italian people attack ‘The Sopranos,’"

    Actually they did. Wasn't it the Italian-Americans collation went after the show for negatively stereotyping Italian-Americans as nothing but mobsters and mindless thugs?

  • Ryan | April 20, 2011 3:58 AMReply

    saywhat, come on. Gabe was just pointing out box office numbers.

  • saywhat | April 20, 2011 3:23 AMReply

    "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."

    Gabe don't be an asshole. Hop made more money this weekend the entire oeuvre of Abbas Kiarostami, so does that mean the Hop is a quality film??

    Lee is not arguing the box office prowess of Perry's movies, he's specifically targeting their quality.

  • Mark | April 20, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    Spike Lee is a real filmmaker. Tyler Perry is a fraud.

  • William Xifaras | April 20, 2011 2:35 AMReply

    Both Spike Lee and Tyler Perry teach through their own stories and methods. One happens to use comedy, while the other takes a more dramatic approach.

  • Gatz | April 20, 2011 2:27 AMReply

    Dear Tyler,

    There's one minor hole in your argument....SPIKE IS TOTALLY RIGHT!!! (And that's the first time I've ever 'said' that).

    Go to hell,
    Gatz

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