Thursday, March 01, 2012
Tyler Perry's latest film, Good Deeds, debuted last weekend to an underwhelming $15 million. But don't cry for him, Argentina. He's got three more times to get it right this year. With The Marriage Counselor, Madea's Witness Protection and Alex Cross all slated for release before Christmas, he'll more than recoup any losses at the box office. But does the top-paid man in entertainment risk overexposing himself?
The Grio asked that very question in an article that ran on their site last week.
Jarrod Harden and I, along with a few other folks, received the link to the story via email.
Here's Jarrod's response.
Do I personally like Tyler Perry movies?
They’re okay. I’ve enjoyed some of them but I don’t really watch movies that often. However, I hate the debate about whether or not he should be allowed to continue making them. I think that there is some inherent self-loathing that many black people suffer from (myself included) that forces us to allow this dialogue to continue. "Good" art must not be solely dictated by what has come before it or parameters that have been set up by people with perceived taste. (Think of movements like surrealism in art). If I consider the idea that Tyler Perry has created a genre, or is working within an existing one; I can attack him and/or the genre (or simply avoid both) but I would not want to liken myself to those who have tried to ban forms of art that I love, like hip hop music.
He has done something outstanding for the black community with his work. Those stage plays gave an underserved segment of our population an ability to go to theaters and see familiar faces, voices, and stories. It gave black couples, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, families a chance to get out of the house and spend time together in a new way. I’ve been going to see Broadway musicals since high school. With the exception of period pieces in which racially charged storylines call for black faces or other Black specific musicals, most of the time there are only one or two faces that look like mine dancing in the chorus. Tyler Perry celebrates (and employs) black actors on the stage and screen. In a Tyler Perry production, I can be an investment banker, teacher, Verizon technician or a bus driver.
I have heard the argument that says Tyler Perry allows his characters be “Stepin Fetchit”. I can understand someone who has that point of view, though, I do not completely share it. What I find most powerful about Tyler Perry productions is the idea of redemption. If my brothers or sisters have to endure whatever outfit “Mr. Brown” is wearing to walk away with a feeling that they can overcome any adversity, perhaps it’s a small price to be paid.
Getting back to the article about Tyler Perry taking on too much and being overexposed, I understand where the writer is coming from and she makes a great case. But I don’t think it warrants silencing an artist who clearly has some head for business - and knows what his audience likes.
Though I do feel bad that Idris Elba, and any number of other men, are missing out on one of the few roles available for black actors in Hollywood each year, I’m looking forward to seeing Tyler Perry as Alex Cross. Who knows how he might grow as a director, actor, etc when he gets to work under different creative influences and processes.
If you didn't catch the Oprah Oscar Special, you should make it your business to watch it because Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis dropped some gems. One in particular from Viola was that "It’s not in our genetic make up to be happy for others" I am paraphrasing (quite poorly) but she made a lot of sense when she explained how she had to work at that. Octavia Spencer also added that after being in the number one movie for three weeks, her phone did not start ringing.
I, too, will cringe if Octavia and Viola star as “NASA scientists whose prostitute pasts comes to wreak havoc on their family lives” in Madea Goes to Mars next year, but at least I will know my sister girls are working.
Jarrod Harden is an ex bartender, ex dancer, ex personal chef, ex project manager in search of his next future “ex” title. In the meantime, he keeps a blog about trying new things at Jarrodonline.com.