The Listener 2.0

MY BEEF WITH TYLER PERRY!!!

 

I’ve been working on this post for some time now and I think I have it down to a science. Many of you may know me for my intense aversion of Tyler Perry and his Madea character. Well I’ve been doing some thinking and watching some of his work a little more closely and I am happy to admit that my opinions have changed.

My historical preference

It all started for me back in 2002 (I think it was 02…maybe 01) when I watched the Tyler Perry production “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” for the first time. I can remember watching it at my cousins house and thinking to myself ‘this is trash”, how could people like this?”. At the time I was coming into my own and learning more about black history in Africa and America. I couldn’t help but to connect the play to minstrelsy and the history behind it. Ya’see what made minstrelsy so bad is that blacks began to think it was comedy too. Its one thing for whites to make fun of us with blackface, I mean they’ve found ridicule in our race and other races for years. But what made me upset was that other black comedians of the day (like Steppin Fetchit) began to mimick black face and adopt the comedic tactics that whites once used in an effort to earn “white dollars”.

Steppin Fetchit

The first time I saw Madea walk on stage shuckin’ and jivin’ like the comedians of the past…I lost my moral cool and launched a verbal attack against Tyler Perry and anything he put his name on. For years I protested his plays, movies, and whatever else he did. I remember watching the switchboards light up at FamFM WSUW as people called in to tell me how stupid I was for my opinions and feelings. However, I was not alone in my convictions. I was joined by my brother Rodney, an actor and a playwright, who taught me about the chitlin’ circuit and the white actors and musicians who misused the name and culture for the public ridicule of blacks. I became more defensive with people and found myself unwilling to talk about it in order to avoid argument. What I noticed early on is that many people seemed to be emotionally connected to this man for reasons that I wouldn’t understand until some time later.  

What’s the big deal anyway?

Honestly I didn’t see what the hype was about.  Here you had a man dressed as an old woman who spoke with broken English and smacked people around all while contributing to her extremely high volume. He seemed to represent “down to earth” black grandmothers around the United Stateswho raised their families in a similar way. Well neither of my grandmothers, the late Recie M. Daniels (pop) and June Bradley (moms), were in any way close to Madea. They weren’t the classic “Big Mama” who (by history’s definition not mine) was slightly overweight, had at least three children, cooked everyday, went to church four days out of the week, and held the family together when the single mother of two was out of money, the grandson was selling drugs, and the little girl was being molested by some drunk uncle. Was this really the black family image? Why did his work seem to have a plot that was similar to that description or even worse? I didn’t grow up like that, I didn’t live that life, and I thought it was unfair and ridiculous to categorize the black family in that particular light. So for years I was a loner, never participating in the conversations of people who loved Tyler Perry’s work and always the one guy who dared not to laugh when a preview for his latest movie came on TV or someone did their best impression of a scene from his plays or movies. But one day that would all change.

A new respect

In February of 2008 I boarded the bus to travel with other students of the Black Student Union at UW-Whitewater to UW-Platteville to attend their Ebony Weekend. While on the bus someone asked if the driver could play the film “Why Did I Get Married.” The passengers on the bus sat up in their seats, some eager to see the film for the first time and some eager to gain attention by quoting each and every line (you know how some people do when they watch movies with a group of people, acting like they know all of the lines lol). Being that I had nothing else to do and only a fool would talk on the phone with a bus full of black people, I decided to pay attention to the film. I mean after all, Janet Jackson was in it and I’d watch her read a book in real time lol. After the movie I couldn’t help but admit that I was in fact entertained by the film. The acting was good and the message was awesome. I went home and told my folks (who also disagreed with me on most of my views) that I had found a new respect for Tyler Perry and this film in particular. I then went on to watch “Meet the Browns” this past Independence Day. And I once again had to admit that I was entertained and inspired by the message. I sat and watched the special features which included the making of the film and the adaptation of the popular play. It was then that I came to an emotional epiphany.

I realized that Tyler Perry was nothing more that a decent human being with a talent of spreading inspiration and God’s message of faith to people of all ages all over the world. Ya’see where I failed was the comparison of Madea’s family to my family. My problem was that I only compared her to my grandmothers and other characters to members of my family. I grew up in the suburbs (for most of my life) and my family was never the “traditional” black family. So that only led me to compare it to one family…mine. I realized that Tyler Perry was just exposing a life that I had never known and the reason people are so emotionally attached is because there are grandmothers who are just like Madea and people who actually do compare to the other characters in the film. The characters in his work were not fictional but were real people just like me. I was ashamed of the many tirades I went on. I wanted to call everyone and apologize to them for being so mean and radical about the subject. I was so much younger back then. Now don’t get me wrong, Tyler still includes a little more shuckin and jivin than I can take sometimes lol but I recognize the message and the purpose that his art holds in so many lives.

So that’s my confession. I want to know what you think. Do you like Tyler Perry’s work or do you think it’s a modern day minstrel show? Let me know what you think.

 

Rick Daniels

 

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July 8, 2008 - Posted by | had to do it, Things that make you go hummmmmm!

4 Comments »

  1. Wow!!! Wow! Wow is all I can say. It was a pleasure to read your post. I am a fan of Tyler Perry’s work. When my daughter first got me to watch his play for the first time as she and my niece watched it over and over again. I sat at the computer learning how to work it back in 2002. It irratated me to the 100th power that they could/would sit up and laugh watching a play that many times.

    See I had a problem with stage plays.

    I went to see 2 plays and they turned me off so badly, that I promise not to GO SEE another play IN MY LIFE!!! My thought was plays are stupid, dumb, and they dont make sense. They talked about gays, and always had a barbershop setting. I HATED THEM!!!! But they watched this DVD * Madea’s Family Reunion* over and over and over again. My daughter said to me Ma you should really watch this play, you would like it. I told her NO, and I kept doing what I was doing.

    Later that night when my daughter and niece was asleep. I said to myself, hmmmmm let me watch this * mess* to see what they were laughing about so much. I played it and it was one of the best movie/play/act/ whatever lol I had ever seen.It was different, it was about family, it was interesting, it was real life. The theme of Forgiveness, and Love and Family, are situations that IS HAPPENING ALL OVER THE WORLD.

    That is the real world. I am a Madea in many ways. I raised my only child, she’s 21 and will be going to Law School. The characters in the play I know people who are like this. I learned that people have LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of deep down secrets. Tyler plays explore those situations. Even of a person never admits them. When people can secretly or admit they are some of the people in his plays, they can see themselves and get solutions.

    The key to life is to get understanding……even if its them today and YOU tomorrow.

    Im happy for you, what a great article.
    Lacrease
    Neshacrese@aol.com

    Comment by Lacrease | July 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Congrats to your daughter for attending Law school.

    Comment by rickdaniels17 | July 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. Oh, here we go again. First, I will admit I did not read this entire article. I got to the part where you blame White people and stopped. Stepin Fechit, Tyler Perry, Lil Jon, Flavor Flav, are all neocoon clowns that make their own choices. White people never made any of them do a damn thing. You Black people need to accept responsibility for your own shit. It is simple – you are embarrassed by certain Blacks. That’s it. Man up, own up, back up, and Black up.

    Comment by Todd Gwynn | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. Todd,

    Thanks for the comments but I think it would’ve been better if you had read the entire article. It’s true that we are embarrased by other blacks but whites have taken advantage of our talent in years past. Once again thanks for reading and if you get a free moment please take a min and read the entire post.

    Rick Daniels.

    Comment by rickdaniels17 | July 9, 2008 | Reply


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