This weekend, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas raked in a paltry $16 million, which is low considering it was projected to bring in at least $25 million. Perry’s Madea franchise has its fans and devout critics. Similar to Beyonce, you either have people who love the movies, or those who will write dissertations in the comment section as to why they hate them.
But then you have those people like myself, who don’t care either way and realize the entertainment industry is just that, entertainment. Do I fault people who rush to the movies to see a Madea film? Never. It’s a free country, do as you wish. Will I ever rush to see a Madea film? Yes, I actually did, only because my cousin starred in Madea Goes To Jail.
In a recent piece for The Daily Beast, Rawiya Kameir describes Perry’s Madea films as an “an ugly mix of minstrelsy and moralism”:
What’s uglier, however, is his standard, go-to combo of minstrelsy and moralism. As has been widely noted, the exploitation of historically exaggerated black caricatures is a fundamental feature of Perry’s work: Mabel “Madea” Simmons, the temperamental, bumbling matriarch at the helm of a large Atlanta family whose members misbehave full-time in more than 15 of Perry’s plays and films, embodies the minstrel show-like use of negative stereotype associated with black people for the purpose of entertaining; she is buffoonish, lazy, and greedy, to ostensibly comical effect. His treatment of the black men and women who belong to Madea’s narrow world further perpetuates the worst of cartoonish tropes about African-Americans: men are inherently predatory, abusive, and good-for-nothing; women are immoral, manipulative, and bound to miserable fates.
Plus, the melodrama belies the heavy moralizing that guides each Madea film. Perry’s religious fervor is known and characters’ piety is used as a simplistic marker through which to evaluate their essential good-ness. Redemption is only possible through the church and is reserved largely for the working class, who consistently save the day in the face of victimization from the rich. Take, for instance, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, in which a woman who marries into wealth is saved from the fallout of her breakup with a rich, abusive husband by returning to her blue-collar roots and accepting the love of a simple, decent, churchgoing bus driver.
Are the only people who have an issue with Perry’s films, whether they’re Madea or any others, “elitist” black people, or those who want to purport that they are? As one commenter put it, those are the people who see the films as low-brow and simplistic. But are they really any different from “Honey Boo Boo” or “Duck Dynasty”?
Maybe people like buffoonery? Regardless of it being black or white. Some people tend to take things for face value. As a simple means of entertainment and humor. Not everyone is looking for a film with underlying social messages, or even want to have to “think” while watching a film.