Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

On Another Front

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This Sunday is Easter, one of the holiest days of the year.  I’ll do my regular Easter hop, going from one Grand Dame family member’s house to the other to give holiday wishes, talk about church sermons and eat until I can’t eat anymore.  Along with the traditional spring ham there is another holiday tradition that has sprung up in the last few years: a Tyler Perry movie playing at each relative’s house.

I don’t know how it started because I came upon Perry fairly late.  Several years ago, before he started making movies, Perry was a staple at family gatherings.  A video recorded Perry play was on the TV as we gathered around my Granny’s bedside in 2003.  Cousins talked about going to the play the next time it rolled into town and what the next “bootleg” video they were going to purchase.  They anticipated going to the movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and for his next movie, “Madea’s Family Reunion” I was forwarded his entreaty to go see the film opening weekend several times.

By then I still hadn’t caught any of his videos/movies all the way through.  I only saw them on on the fly with a scene here and there.  But what I saw was a paradox for me; my family members are “black conservatives”.  They vote Democrat but on every social issue they lean Republican.  Some of them were people who pressed upon me it was a sin to buy gas on the Sabbath. My family felt the Perry movies were something of modern day religious allegories but most of the scenes I caught were Medea totin’ a gun, someone wanted to fight someone else and references to drinking.  I didn’t get it.

And Perry blew up with religious black theatre and movie goers as his base.  A la Chappelle, he should be at the end of his movies with a wad of cash screechin’ “I’m rich, bitch!” because he is.  It was his mansion they used for the movie “Diary”.  Tyler Perry Studios is the first African American owned studio in the country and his movies, critically panned, brings in millions of dollars from audiences which cuts across color lines.  He’s a triple threat in the industry as an actor, writer director so it’s hard to knock his artistry, or hustle, as some would call it.

Some have been knockin’ it, and knockin’ it hard.  Entertainment Weekly picked up on the culture war over his movie in their March 17, 2009 issue.  But over on the What About Our Daughters? Blog  (WAOD) the criticism has been going on longer.  The blogger and her readers take offense at the demonization of the portrayal of educated black women in Perry’s movies.  One commenter likened the hit at black female intelligence as the beginnings of the Khmer Rouge (ouch) because of the anti-intellectual slant of Perry’s movies. 

Roslyn Holcomb’s blog says Perry is just a symptom of something that has been pervasive in the black community for a long time now. 

He is emblematic of the reckless disregard that the so-called black community has for black women. We’re to ignore this blatant insult because there are ‘more important issues.’ Eff that, because as a sociologist I can tell you that imagery is important. That rhyme sticks and stones is a misnomer, and here’s why. Before you can destroy a people you must first depersonalize them, strip them of their humanity. The people in Rwanda didn’t suddenly start hacking their neighbors to death with machetes. The media was used to indoctrinate them into the notion that they were less than human and thus suitable to be slaughtered.

The low brow humor of Perry’s plays is what has kept Perry from presenting his work at the National Black Theatre Festival.  The late Larry Leon Hamlin stated Perry would need to raise his quality level before an invitation would be extended to which Perry gladly said he would never do.

I have only paid theatre price to see one Perry movie, Why Did I Get Married?  which left me feeling why did I pay matinee prices to see this film?  Nothing of substance was put forth, no circumspection in the characters but I did laugh which is all he ever promises from his films.    Gina McCauley says on WAOD that she can’t be too mad at Perry “because the professional Black folks he is demonizing aren’t launching their own counter revolution.”   I would suspect that most intelligent people don’t detect the slams because they aren’t watching Perry’s films or plays.  For a “united” black community the low brow and high brow blacks don’t seem to be aware of this silent conflict.  Or maybe, like me, some people are too busy trying to get another plate of collard greens on Easter to be too concerned about what all the laughter is about on the TV screen.


Written by rentec

11 April, 2009 at 3:56 pm

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