From The Grio — I have never been a fan of Tyler Perry and his films. Ever since I was dragged to his first one, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, back in 2005 by my then girlfriend who was a huge fan of his stage plays, I’ve had a ardent disdain for everything to come out of the Tyler Perry assembly line. He simply is not a talented filmmaker. Aside from the common assertions that Perry’s films are reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows and that his characters are “cooning,” he’s not an adept storyteller. His dialogue is clunky and unrealistic, his narratives are worn, and his hard-line Christian ideology is served in large doses, dumping his messages on his audience with the nimbleness of an 18-wheeler.

So when it was announced that Perry would be in charge of adapting Ntozake Shange‘s classic choreopoem For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf for the screen, I was, like many fans of the work, dismayed. We couldn’t wrap our minds around the idea of Perry, a man who has not dealt very well with representations of black women, typically vacillating between broken/down-trodden crack mothers who need a strong man in their life to make everything better and the sassy/too independent for her own good black women who need a strong man in their life to make everything better, being tasked with tackling this epic portrayal of black womanhood.

Click here to read theGrio’s review of For Colored Girls

There’s nothing in Perry’s repertoire that suggest he would be able to deftly handle the themes that run through Shange’s work, such as sexuality, mental illness, love of self, domestic violence, and rape. Perry has never exhibited the type of nuance and understanding of moral ambiguity required to handle these memes. Where any other filmmaker would be understated, Perry forces messages, stating with explicitness the ideas it would have served him better to explore with more care.

He has trouble getting ideas across to his audience without relying on broad, bold statements that undermine his story. The characters in Perry’s films have always felt like caricatures, or representations rather than human beings. And while there has been much criticism launched at him for his handling of black women, and rightfully so as most of his films center around the lives of black women yet he never affords them their full humanity, little is said about the men he uses to tell his stories.

To be sure, the women get the shortest end of the stick, but black men do no fare better in Perry’s films. In his black-and-white world of morality, black men are narrowly confined to two camps: the righteous and the evil, with many more falling into the evil category. They are all too often portrayed as drug dealers with a taste for blood, womanizers with no heart, abusive with no chance for redemption (save for through joining the church and accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior), or thugs without respectable jobs or hope for a brighter day.

Perry relies heavily on the well-worn stereotypes black men have been subject to in our culture, and while we can easily point to the idea that “we all know someone like that” what Perry lacks is any compassion or ability to humanize these characters, pull his audience into their worlds and try to find a place of understanding, where we can explore what has brought these characters to this “evil” place. Rather than take us there, Perry simply asserts evil as evil.

But he does have an affinity for a certain type of black men. The counterpart to the “evil” characters are the “righteous” ones, and this more often than not represented by a hard-working, blue collar, family-oriented, Christ-fearing black man who can simply do no wrong. He may not be rich, but he loves unconditionally, cares for his kids, doesn’t adhere to the “hoodlum” aesthetic, has aspirations for himself and his wife that reach beyond their humble reality, and never participates in any activity that is even remotely immoral. This is Perry’s idealized black man, who has found life in the form of Shemar Moore’s character in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Idris Elba inDaddy’s Little Girls, and most recently Hill Harper in For Colored Girls, which has an abundance of “evil” black men, among them a “down-low” brother.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • Can we not offer passionate opinions, critiques, without being vicious and demeaning of the brother? I have never watched the Browns because the ads come across as too slapstick for me, and I tend to agree that nuances are often missing in the couple of movies I’ve seen. Still, I do not think TP’s character should be attacked or devalued. No one has walked through his particular fires and cannot judge, and I believe that in his own way he is trying to make a contribution.
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  • BKL001

    I’m very proud to say I never seen any of his movies. Tyler Perry movies will drive a brotha to the arms of a white woman.

  • Ms Jackson

    WOW! I’m so disappointed how quickly we are to point the finger at who’s doing what..I applaud the man for his efforts. You complainers arent walking in his shoes. He’s expressing what he’s seen and experienced and trying to provide an outlet. I love Mr Brown…as slapstick as you put it. he makes me laugh…i love humor. I’ve cried many times, the world is so cruel because of us..as a people. If you don’t like it then be quiet! Yet we praise rappers and other artist who degrade women constantly! Leave our men ignorant in how to treat a woman…but yawl bash TP. SMH!! And brother please! Don’t use TP movies as an excuse to run to a white woman. A strong black woman full of love and compassion will scare you to a white woman cause you lack bravery! I’m tickled I am. I thank God for Mr Perry. He’s inspired me. His strength to push past the negative voices of his own people alone is encouraging. You nay sayers will free Barabas before you commend the man for trying to offer people an alternate way to view things and laugh about it…if you cry too long, depression sets in … then suicide. I know. I’ve been there. Maybe he gets his strength from the haters…so i guess…keep pushing him. After all…the Lord has blessed him and has given him double for his trouble. His enemies are his foot stool. So keep hating on him,…he’ll keep standing tall on with the prayers of blessed people…and the strong backs to stand on of the haters!

    • Stephan Thurman

      Wow Ms. Jackson you sound very ignorant. He was just stating his opinion. Better yet, I will just call you Jackson because you responded more like a male than a female. These are opinions expressed by him. Everyone is entitled to that. You stated, “If you don’t like it be quiet.” I guess that’s what Martin Luther King should have done huh lol? He said nothing about leaving black women for white women. Also it doesn’t mean that a black man is weak either, or don’t have the courage to be with a black woman. He just gets tired of the bad attitudes and always talking about how many degrees she have or how much she makes. But always want you to pay for something. White women will come out of their pocket. What are you talking about? What he is saying is the truth. My second biggest problem is that all of his movies that does not focus on madea focus on misery. Clearly you have some issues just like Tyler Perry gay ass. He is clearly gay, and I don’t have a problem with it. He just needs to stop lying. And stop making such God awful movies. The plot is always easy to predict and terrible. Here is a quote to remember I created. “If different people are saying the same thing about you, and they don’t know each other. There is some truth to it.” God bless and have a nice day.