Radio tycoon Cathy Hughes recently voiced her discontent of the portrayal of Black women in film in an interview with MsDramaTV. She lambasted the movie “Precious,” saying, “it should have been burned,” but her criticism wasn’t just reserved for “Precious” and Monique. She lit into Halle Berry’s role in “Monster’s Ball” that earned her the Oscar Award.
Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Radio One founder takes no issue with Black actors in drag. When asked about Tyler Perry, Hughes said:
There’s always a need to laugh. Laughter is healing. And Tyler Perry balances that. Tyler Perry has done a miraculous job of portraying Black folks. More importantly, he’s giving Black folks more jobs than all of Hollywood combined.
She has a point regarding Perry giving Black actors and actresses jobs.
Next week Martin Lawrence’s “Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son” hits theaters nationwide. Audiences everywhere get twice the cross-dressing for their money. In April, Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family” hits theaters where Perry will once again play the no-nonsense, pistol carrying, overbearing matriarch. But why is Hollywood so obsessed with creating caricatures of Black women, usually stereotypical and inaccurate, only to be played by Black men? And why are Black male actors hell bent on playing these roles?
I love comedy. Eddie Murphy or Katt Williams in stand-up is hysterical.
There are people who will say, ‘lighten up its just comedy.’ However, comedy plays into the real-life perception of how others view Blacks. The problem with the comedic cross-dressing movies is the lack of balance.
Hollywood lacks a balance when portraying Blacks and telling our stories. Black women are damn near non-existent in positive roles. Black actresses are constantly typecast, and struggle breaking down the barriers for roles that aren’t stereotypical. Movies such as “Night Catches Us,” directed by a Black woman, went by somewhat unnoticed. In comparison, any movie Blacks are depicted as some type of stereotype, Hollywood thinks it’s a hit. Hollywood sees big profits when reading scripts for the movies that make those of us concerned with the image of Blacks in film cringe. Positive Black films are not considered profitable, hence the lack thereof.
If a balance in Hollywood existed, I would be very indifferent to the cross-dressing men portraying Black women on the big screen. But the reality is – Black actresses need to play roles of Black women. Period.
Several Black actors and directors have not been careful enough in their portrayals of Black women. Stereotypes about Black women are reinforced through the Big Momma and Madea characters. Both Madea and Big Momma are loud and obese. The feisty, attitude having Black woman trope is beyond played out. Only it isn’t to the audiences supporting them with the almighty dollar. “Big Momma’s House 2” raked in nearly $28 million opening weekend in 2006. “Madea Goes to Jail” topped that pulling $41.1 million opening weekend in 2009. Hollywood will continue to serve those types of movies on a platter with earnings like that. Can you blame them?
There’s no denying that an audience exists who like to laugh at cross-dressing men in movies. Hell, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is still a classic as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s just comedy, maybe it’s not. But I’ll be saving my $13 to support something that doesn’t mock the very existence of Black women.