Who do YOU know?

Big ups to my daughter for helping to plunge me back into the world of blogging.  Although I haven’t blogged lately, I always have something on my mind that needs to be said.  I have to thank my daughter because of a conversation that we recently shared.  I was trying to relay my extreme disappointment and total disgust at the idea that The NAACP has nominated Tyler Perry for 19 Image Awards.  That’s not just one, not just a few, but 19.  Many.  Plural.  In my humble opinion, that is just downright preposterous.

To my dismay, my daughter surprised me with the answer “Why is that so annoying?  Many people find his plays and works to be a blessing to their lives.  They feel that it has helped them to ‘make it through'”.  What??  Are you kidding me?  Tyler Perry says that.  Mainstream media says that.  I say that most artists who toots their owns horns cannot be taken very seriously.  We all know how the media has a knack for presenting information in a more than distorted slant.  So, I posed a question to her:  Who do YOU know that feels that way?  We danced around that idea for a minute or two, and by the end of the conversation, that question had never been answered.

As true as I am to my own ideals, I like to think that I am not so closed-minded that I cannot fathom that there are those out there who simply adore Mr. Perry.  I don’t deny that.  However, the numbers that I have seen, which are few and far between, have always come from sources that I, for one, can’t believe.  I admit that I don’t have a ton of friends, but, I do have many.  I say with authority that none of them – I repeat – none of them – have anything favorable to say about Tyler Perry’s work.  Not one of them has said that his art has changed their lives.  Perhaps it’s just too true that “birds of a feather” really do stick together.  Along with them, I have seen his work and was dismayed, disgusted, and disappointed.  Herein lies the problem – I paid the price of satisfying my curiosity and no matter what I thought of the movie, DVD, or play, the money was spent and nothing on God’s green earth can get it back (not to mention the wasted moments that I will never regain).  In other words, curiosity caused me to support something that I didn’t like.  It’s the blue pill/red pill dilemma all over again, except that there is no blue pill to take back the horror that the red pill has exposed.

I liken the situation to a movie that I saw  years ago entitled “Mission To Mars”.  It was met with much anticipation.  I knew when the movie was being filmed.  I watched every commercial with bated breath.  I could barely wait for the movie to hit the theaters and was in line the day that the movie debuted.  I am an avid sci-fi nut(case), but it was one of the worst movies that I had ever seen.  EVER seen.  The movie, however, grossed over ninety (90) million dollars.  Basically, even though the film was pitiful, once the money has been paid, it’s all over.  This is, in my opinion, no different than what Perry defenders offer up – “But, he’s made millions!”.  Sure he has.  Can it be that, like on so many other occasions, people have satisfied their curiosity, only to find that it wasn’t worth the peek?  I say “It can happen”.

I’m not so sure that my thirst for an answer will ever be quenched.  Can so many people really like him like that?  Do so many people believe that his “art” has been such a blessing to their lives?  I doubt that those questions will ever be answered for me because those who hold the answers are those in whom I have absolutely no trust.  I wish that I could hear it from the masses.  More likely than not, however, when the votes are all in and the answer is a resounding “yes”, I will probably say “Consider the source”.

I will leave you with one last thought:  Meet The Browns.  Every time that commercial comes on, I get just a little bit nauseous.  That is buffoonery and coonery at it’s very best.  It saddens me so because too many Mantan Morelands, and Stepin Fetchits did what they had to do to get us recognized as artists, and we moved on to a day when African-Americans were seen in a better light.  This generation has embraced this new coonery with open arms.  I’m a baby-boomer in the finest sense of the term.  In the 60’s and 70’s I was about as radical as one could be.  I took every opportunity to take part in any demonstration that was for the betterment of mankind.  We, the baby-boomers, fought long and hard to get the “n” word and the “b” word removed from our conversations.  We ventured out into unknown, uncertain, off-the-beaten-path movies to dispel the notion that the only thing that African-Americans can do is jig.  As  The Field Negro says “The jigging must stop”.  This generations seems to be taking a step back saying “Oh, it’s not that bad”.  “To each his own” is an honorary credo, but there has to be limits.  Seriously, though – Meet The Browns???!!!  What kind of nonsense has Tyler Perry spawned?

The Tyler Perrys of the entertainment world will never cease to be.  Their knack for charming the masses is ever-present.  I can barely fathom the idea that the masses are so drawn to them in such a manner.  I choose to believe that it is merely a case of  ‘pay me first, then see if it’s worth it’.  Yeah – I said that I am not so ‘closed-minded’, but truth be told, like an ostrich with its head deeply buried beneath the ground, I will go down fighting believing that this man’s art is worthless.

So, I ask “Who do YOU know”?  Peace.

copyright 2011 blackstarr


6 Responses to “Who do YOU know?”

  1. Good post, Free.

    As you probably know, I’ve always found myself torn on this issue. Not torn about whether or not TP’s body of work has to come to offer a certain definition to black cinema, as I think that’s pretty clear. Instead, it’s more like being torn about TP’s work is the evil personification of All Things Coon.

    In the eterrnal debate about his work, I think we have to face facts: despite most efforts, it is not likely that we will ever see a full reconciliation between camps of folks who love and hate his work. Certain human attributes of ours dictate our we respond to one another’s tastes and ensure that we will probably never fully agree on perspectives. People hoping for less stereotypical depictions in cinema will never be able to sit through “Medea Goes to Jail” or “Meet the Browns” In that same vein, people looking for a cheap laugh without being required to examine the sociological implications of what they’re viewing will probably be turned off by some of…let’s say…Spike Lee’s movies.

    Truthfully, there is no quick fix to this growing schism. This conflict represents (to me, at least) the idea that black entertainment is merely a creation of the audience who consciously decides to view it. As Tyler Perry pointed out, people quick to question his entertainment methods should talk to his fan base; a base witnessing increased growth by the day.

    As much as it stands against everything I preach from my tower, I concede to the idea that not every piece of black entertainment has to include an educational component. Not everything has to be produced solely to advance the race. I also think it’s important to consider that people like Tyler Perry never launch a project specifically with the exploitation of black people in mind; just like I’m sure Spike Lee’s analytical and ‘thinking man’s’ approach was never intended to deliberatly bore non-scholarly types out of their minds. I have always maintained that as a culture, black people do not monolithically subscribe to the same tastes, values, or thinking. To expect us to become a monolith where entertainment is involved is a direct insult to those beliefs. As long as we are committed to diversity – even within our own cultural ranks – black representation in media must be allowed to have variety. As much as I have to admit it, this includes Tyler Perry and (gulp!) Flavor Flav. Egh.

  2. Dre – as eloquent as ever, you are. Thanks for the input and thanks for inputting in such a straight-forward manner.

    I have to say that in regards to an artist’s accountability for their work’s merit, I truly believe that we are to be held accountable. We (African-Americans) were not seen in so good a light many years ago. We were only given roles that depicted slapstick and farce. The artists who went before us endured such nonsense and persevered until we were finally given their due. Without those pioneers, we would be nowhere. The idea that an artist’s should not be held accountable surely opens the door to usher back in the woes and shame of black-face, exploitation movies, and foot-shuffling. As it seems to me, this may be a generational thing – that is, folks saying “Oh, it’s no that bad”.

    In many, many instances, the only place that others see African-Americans is on TV and on the big screen and it is up to us to show that we are not a race of people who can only portray the idiot. I have witnessed this idea first-hand. I lived in a small town in Central Pennsylvania. There were only two African-Americans in the town – me and a guy named “Bob”. He was 2-ft-4 and I was 6 feet tall and they never failed to confuse the two of us. It was reverse “culture shock” for them. They wanted to feel my hair and my skin and asked the most ridiculous questions that one can imagine. The reason? They had never seen African-Americans up closely and personally before. Many were forthright in saying that the only African-Americans they had ever seen had come by way of TV and the movies.

    I must agree that not all movies need to be educating, uplifting, or made from a one-size-fits-all formula. The fact of the matter for me is that I go to the movies to be entertained, not be educated, not to be made to feel “whole”, nor to use my brain-power to decipher what the artist is trying to say. However, I feel that if one wants to create comedy, it can be done extremely well without the whole “shuffle and flow” that artists like T.P. tend to put out. A creative mind such as T.P. has to be able to do better and can probably do it in his sleep, yet, what we see is drivel.

    I am too far over the line when I say nay to the idea that T.P.’s millions are a result of his fanbase. There has to be someone out there in his corner – it’s undeniable. Again – that comes from T.P. and the media. The problem is that I have given my theory and asked the question “Who do YOU know?” I know no one. Thanks again. Peace.

  3. Blessings my friend, I have to say that I and a few of my friends enjoy Tyler Perry. Not because it is “media” dictated or motivated rather for the content and substance of the topics he takes on boldly and without apology. While I do not enjoy all of this work I enjoy many including his movies and his way of addressing issues that many would prefer stay under the covers: domestic violence, incest, rape, emotional and psychological abuse, he gets people talking whether they like him not and that’s a start. Yes he uses a comedic a stature, approach but make no mistake there is no missing the seriousness of the subject matter.

    Why shouldn’t he be awarded and given accolades for his work? He did not, he didn’t hire people to write his work and then took the credit, he also gives back to the community, hires many African Americans when others pass them over whether overtly or boldly for obvious reasons. The Academy, American Music Awards, the Oscars all do it bypassing most people of African lineage. I say more power to him.

    Have a blessed weekend

  4. peace. thanks for the post and the humorous read. i share the same feelings as you, Blackstarr, and your “evaluators” (the readers who left comments).

    i can say that i am also torn – torn b/t TP’s “art” and his sticking it to hollywood. although i am not a fan of his directing style, his one-dimensional characters, his after-school-special cookie-cutter scripts (nothing in life wraps up that neatly in two hours), i am, however, a fan of how he does not grant previews or private screenings to critics; his voodoo spell that summons whoopi, alfre, sanaa, blair, lynn, cicely, phylicia, and my girl kimberly to his production studio – all ready with seemingly sound reasons WHY they signed on and why we should see it – none of which included “ain’t no work for us black folk.” (now, if denzel and halle show up – even though halle says she was disappointed that more didn’t go to support “for colored girls” – then i KNOW it’s voodoo). so let’s face it: TP is here to stay.

    i admire his budding empire. he’s done what i hoped spike and john would have done. i guess they didn’t need the bells and whistles. the lowly, humble, grassroots indie filmmaker vs. the new-money blockbuster hustler. granted his art could use some work. yes, he should take some screenwriting and directing classes or hire writers and directors and just finance the joints. but he will not stop. as long as he is working out his personal issues through his characters and believes he is helping the masses, he will ride this out. he’s already branching out. read his blueprint for the hollywood takeover (my words, not his) in Ebony.

    sooooooo…i say the fan base is b/c spike, john, and my sis kasi (lemmons) are not mainstream right now. i hate to say that. most blacks aren’t into indies that much. and black indies don’t make for blockbusters. so TP is the “flava in ya ear” for this season. unless we see DIVERSITY in the gene pool of black film (there are too many extremes, especially within TPs movies) for us to truly see our TOTAL selves represented (and more), hollywood will have its way with us – we will always be divided. TP isn’t for everyone. his traveling plays picked up where “beauty shop” and “the living room” left off. shelly garrett picked up where the chitlin circuit, vaudville left off. TP had no competition and knew that his audience (hope i don’t offend anyone) is the audience that relates to the madness – those church-goers who love drama, foolery, over-the-top church hat MESS, and a message at the end of the day to repent for enjoying the aforementioned so much as if the demon had taken over and they needed healing at the end of the movie. sorry. had to say it. and (haven’t done the numbers but based on experience from having actually gone to see his movies) his fan base is mostly women – BLACK women. TP is handsome, young, single (well…he SAYS he has a gf…ahem), loves to dress, tall, has an athletic build, a gorgeous smile, is a hollywood player, best buds with oprah and janet, has a grip of money, and reads his Bible. need i say more?

    just for kicks (and a little controversy on your blog), i will dare to say that his fan base – mostly black women – are not paying to be entertained, but paying to be “touched” by Perry himself through his movies and will fiercely defend him in debates about his art. THOSE are the fans that say “he changes people’s lives.” or maybe TP – through his movies – speaks to the black woman as if appearing in a dream saying “this is what you want..” in a low whisper. Perry is the ultimate fantasy…(say whaaaaattt??)

    i think THAT’S more horrifying than his poor script-writing skills: that perhaps he merely represents “the ultimate black man” all black women want. IS IT???? O_o

    i digress…this is NOT my blog…

    having said that, i did like “the family who preys” (although it was two movies in one) and “why did i get married” (even though the characters were all one-dimensional). both movies had some likable qualities: NO MADEA. it was refreshing to see TP step out of his dress and tell a story in trousers for once. both were entertaining even though they were – like so many of his movies and plays – PREDICTABLE. that’s dangerous to blacks watching how blacks are being portrayed. what does that say about us as a people? “this is media. this is black people on media…” (i shudder at the thought).

    to (finally) sum up, i’m on the fence about TP. i used to be one-sided – “HATED IT.” fortunately, i only paid for ONE TP movie (“for colored girls”) and that was b/c several of my cast mates and i wanted to do our own review after having done the (real) play on stage together. of course, there were mixed reviews. but i won’t make my comment a blog, which by now is way too lengthy…

    maybe TP is riding this wave and then later will settle down/back like russell simmons, take up yoga, and groom others to take the ball and make it better. but for now, he’s enjoying the fruits of his cinematic labor: he owns all of his work, has a major studio, and oprah on speed dial. it doesn’t matter if he sucks as a screenwriter and director. he’s box-office PLATINUM, and for THAT hollywood is giving him props! he’s bringing mass audiences to openings. for black movies, he’s been consistent. advertisers lust after him. yes, his movies don’t cause us to critically think, suspense-less, or contain any witty life anecdotes, clever wordplays or interesting characters that leave foot imprints in your mind long after the movie is over. that doesn’t matter. as long as the CHUUUUUUUCHt tithes at the box office and says “amen” when the credits roll at the end, it’s all good in TP world…and hollywood ain’t mad at him (at least anymore.)

    but to answer your question, i do NOT know anyone who says his/her life has been changed for the better after having watched a TP film. i will say that i personally have walked away pondering over one of the many “words of wisdom” spewed out by madea. i can’t say it changed my life. but it did make me think…and smile. so sue me.


  5. Well, I must say that I love a person with an opinion, and you certainly have a few. Thanks so much for chiming in. Your insight and views mean a lot. Cookout today, bit I look forward to exploring your page soon. I have few tweeple that you may like to follow who also have great web pages and sites. I will pass them to you when i get back there

  6. Got cut off – typing from phone.
    Wanted to say that no comments are ever too long. Whenever you visit, “stay” as long as you like. V.

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