There’s no doubt that Tyler Perry’s work dominates Black film and TV and people are in need of more diverse programming. Tyler’s work, which is often criticized for dumbing down the black experience and reinforcing stereotypes, has folks wanting something different. People want something better and more “positive” images on our screens. Understandably, some are tired of the Mammy character, the hyper-aggressive homophobe or the downtrodden woman.

To show that we are not a monolith, there’s been few efforts recently to present us with different images. Even BET, which has been guilty of portraying black folks in some of the more trifling ways, is trying to do better. The network created shows like “Reed Between the Lines” and “Let’s Stay Together” in the last couple of years with decent buzz. And Hollywood is also trying (just barely), with the release of the movie “Red Tails” (and by Hollywood, I mean George Lucas, but you get the point). When each of these projects were introduced, deep sighs of “Finally! We’re not cooning on screen” came leaping from viewers mouths. But was it too soon?

Before we fist pump too much, we need to keep our thirst for different programming at bay and maintain our critical eye. Shows and films that depict upwardly mobile black folks should not rest their laurels on the fact that they’re “positive.” The absence of stereotypes and cliched characters is not equal to the presence of good work. “Positive” and “good” are mutually exclusive words when describing the quality of art and we shouldn’t be afraid to recognize this.

It is not enough for Black cinema to show us as professionals or to show us in a good light if the work itself isn’t entertaining and well-executed. The writing still needs to be good, and the dialogue should be realistic. The production value should be impressive and the storyline should pull us in. We cannot give these works a pass just because they shatter the currently flawed mold. I’ll give them credit for that though, but I won’t sing their praises if they’re poor in every other aspect.

I’ve noticed that when people bring up things about these so-called “positive” films or TV shows, others take it as some larger critique of diversity in black cinema. Not liking “Red Tails” or “Reed…” does not mean one wants to see Madea on their screen. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of “Reed…” because I see huge flaws in the way its done and the writers haven’t made me care about the characters.

While I haven’t seen “Red Tails,” what I have seen is the backlash about any criticism people wager on the film. I’ve noticed the “Oh you didn’t like ‘Red Tails?’ You must be a Tyler Perry fan” type comments and I’ve wondered how disliking one is directly related to loving the other.

We can support black shows and black cinema without enabling them to get away with just being “positive.” We deserve quality programming and I’d like to think that being critical (not just being a hater) of all of it across the board will challenge Hollywood to do better in the name of entertainment. Positive and good can actually happen at the same time. “Pariah” has done it. Why can’t others?

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  • Reason

    What about the possibility that poor quality is an arrival of sorts in its own right? No, seriously. You know how when people complain that “there’s no WHITE history month” and we tell them the other 11 history months are? Well, just about all non-black movies are “White movies”, and I don’t have to tell you that they’re not all good.

    G. Lucas made a corny, sentimental hero movie about hero who happen to be black. JUST like Pearl Harbor was. You could watch the two movies back-to-back (or even spliced together) and be convinced they are one long, 4-hour bad movie with Terrance Howard and Ben Affleck.

    IN OTHER WORDS, we as blacks always just wanted a story to be told about us. Accurately. Because we know (sadly, to this day) white people do not know us. But maybe a cheesy, high-budget movie is a sign of the post racial society many keep trying to say we’re in. After all, the white masses seldom complain about movies lacking historical accuracy (only critics do that). Titanic, Pearl Harbor, The Patriot (ugh!), no one cares that it was BS. Heroes did herioc things. Must EVERY black movie be Schindler’s List or Passion of the Christ heavy?

    • Reason

      Sorry about my typos.

  • The movie was simply too simplistic. The characters lacked depth, and it was underwritten. Post racial, yes in every sense. Black people continue to want to be accepted by whites even Aaron McGruder sold out on this one. The only people who are colorblind are those in Hollywood and they want those of us who work everyday and experience gentle doses of racism to drink the kool-aid. Look at the location of the film, they positioned the story not in Tuskegee but in Italy and of course the most beautiful woman ever was a non-black woman who couldn’t converse that being said it objectified all women but it did attempt to sooth white guilt. The line that I won’t forget…”They’re not all bad” Really? Not that they are~ but I doubt that during that era there were too many whites trying to see the brilliance and capable attributes of our people. No, every black movie doesn’t have to be Oscar worthy but it should at least have substance.

  • Nikeeta

    Omg! I have been saying this for a long time now. I think what ends up happening in this quest to create “positive” movies, tv shows, etc., we end up losing out on complexity. Reed Between the Lines is God-awful because the story lines and the characters are flat and uninteresting. And for those who say “Well every movie/show doesn’t have to be Roots!” That is not what we are advocating. One of my all-time fav shows was Girlfriends because it managed to tackled real life issues with complexity and I didn’t feel like they were beating me over the head. On the other hand, it also managed to do comedy really well (imo) and the characters were very well developed. As Luuvi says the goal should be more so about quality rather than “positivity” per se.

  • BlacknAmazed

    @DivineBrown….Yes. They must be getting a little checky check…to keep bringing up last weeks news….lol