Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Saving The World From Tyler Perry!

A friend of mine recently asked me to review her script; drama mixed with a modicum of intrigue and mystery.  With the exception of a few under-developed characters, I liked it.  However when I implored her to go deeper and asked a few questions about the characters, *hotseat time*, she couldn't answer them.  She didn't know her characters.  Invariably her answers consisted of statements like ".... I don't want anyone mistaking my characters for Madea or stories are varied, unlike Tyler Perry...."

Tyler Perry & Madea

Tyler Perry has come under fire by some whom I consider to be our harshest critics of popular culture; especially when the rifle is pointed away from their own work.  My friend is no exception.  We've had extensive conversations about her issues with Tyler Perry: lack of craft development and redundant story lines to say the least.  She has even echoed sentiments like that of Toure, equating TP Films to malt liquor.  I had my own Twitter rant with Toure for lecturing Tyler Perry and his fans, some of which are a cross-section of Perry and Toure.  And instead of giving Tyler Perry credit for some of his good work, like The Family That Preys, critics like my friend maintain that he couldn't have written the script.  Then there is Spike Lee who unabashedly criticizes TP films for a plethora of notions, specifically referencing his work as "buffoonery and coonery".

I, however, have my own issues with the type criticism leveraged against Tyler Perry.  He employs record numbers of people in front of and behind the camera, writers, lawyers, accountants, set designers, wardrobe, office staff, singers, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers.  He serves under-served communities who have been shut out and shut down by whole industries that have little or no regard for uniqueness.  He teaches and grants us permission to laugh at ourselves and those we love, who from time to time see the world just a little bit differently than we do.  

I loved how in Diary of Mad Black Woman, the movie, Perry showed a beautiful brown skinned woman of moral fortitude, resilience and value. Although she had been unceremoniously dragged out of her house and replaced, she maintained her dignity and looked gorgeous while doing it instead of broke down and broke out.  I loved how he gave voice to the other "Robin Givens" type by showing her to be intelligent, wise, compassionate and driven and when he seared the wisdom filled words of Alfre Woodard in our psyche, I stood in applause.  Now does he hit a home run with every project?  Absolutely not. 

As much as I love Diary of A Mad Black Woman, I loved Jumping The Broom, School Daze and Love & Basketball.  As much as I laughed at White Chicks, I rolled on the floor in laughter at Meet The Browns, The Movie.  As much as I adore The Great Debaters, I revel in For Colored Girls.  You see there is room for it all.  The market will and does decide.  We decide and we don't deserve loathsome criticism for doing so.  As for the filmmakers who bear down on Perry, you serve the audience with your creativity, he serves the audience with his.  Where and how is it ever productive for attacks? 

This is not to say that one's creative work shouldn't be discussed or criticized.  We have the right to our opinion, however what you say and how you say it does matter.  Criticism should not cross the line to attack especially from one's peers who have ample opportunity to counter the work you see.  Should and can Perry improve?  Absolutely yes.  Production, complete and compelling storytelling on Perry's part should progress and advance.  But remember, he is still holding the bat, Perry is still swinging. 

As for my friend, I leave her with this piece of advice ~Your work should never be the antithesis of someone else's, but in your own, authentic and unique voice, tell your story~  You may be out to save the world from Tyler Perry but while you're doing that, Tyler Perry is out to save the world.

This is Toni Staton Harris, checkin' up on your feelings.  How do you feel about the Tyler Perry Brand?

From The Bottom Up,


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