Forbes magazine recently announced that TYLER PERRY, within a calendar year, raked in $130 million making him the highest paid man in entertainment. Not the highest paid black man – the highest paid man in entertainment, surpassing industry veterans STEVEN SPIELBERG, JAMES CAMERON and Pirates of the Caribbean director JERRY BRUCKHEIMER.
Instinctively you’d think that fellow African-Americans would be proud, especially those in the entertainment industry like filmmaker SPIKE LEE and journalist/industry critic TOURE. That we would all big up PERRY aka “Madea” not only for his financial success, but for making his own movie empire – especially given that everyone in Hollywood from casting agents to producers to writers are primarily white. Instead, these two, (TOURE more recently) are the very people who have publicly bashed PERRY, citing his work as “buffoonery.” #shade
TOURE in particular was featured in a CNN segment this week where he described PERRY’s films as the cinematic equivalent to malt liquor. The snooty critic added that PERRY’s films “celebrate a certain victim-hood” among women of color.
As hurtful and negative as TOURE’s comments may have been, to be honest, there is some truth to his statements. Cinematically, PERRY’s films – the scriptwriting, the acting, and the directing, are mediocre at best with melodramatic acting and predictable endings. And granted, the slapstick humor of Madea’s Big Happy Family and Madea Goes To Jail aren’t for everyone’s taste.
But what PERRY does that makes him a success is bring a joyous, uplifting, and positive message to the under-served black community. If we can’t sing, dance, cry, laugh, and shout amongst ourselves as Black people, then who can we do it with?
All of us know a Madea. The chain smoking, pistol-toting, no-nonsense character represents the strong matriarch of the Black household that is strong because she has to be – not because she’s bitter or angry at the world. If white audiences aren’t embarrassed of JIM CARREY‘s role in Dumb and Dumber or Spanish audiences of SOFIA VERGARA‘s beyond stereotypical role in ABC sitcom Modern Family, why should we be ashamed of a Madea, a character created for us, by us?
The point that PERRY’s critics seem to be missing is that this isn’t just about work he produces. TYLER PERRY, similar to OPRAH, QUINCY JONES and JAY-Z, is a prototype for Black excellence. A Black man with no Hollywood connections, who at one point in his life was homeless, fought through adversity to become a multi-millionaire. If we’re not going to celebrate PERRY as a genius filmmaker, what’s the harm in celebrating the success of a black man who triumphed when almost every door was closed in his face?
The black community has an infectious habit of tearing down fellow brothers and sisters when they reach the top. Perhaps this is the same “crabs in a bucket” mentality that keeps a substantial percentage of African-Americans in poverty, in debt, in jail, or undereducated. If we learned to celebrate instead of player hate, maybe the next generation would aspire to be greater.
Can I get a big ole’ stereotypical “Amen?”
Watch the full debate with TOURE below: