By now I’m sure you fruits have all heard of Tyler Perry. He directed those Madea movies as well as Why Did I Get Married?, which opened this past weekend. I’ve never seen any of his films myself, but I heard they all suck balls, and I’m willing to believe this is true.
However, the guy’s got a legion of fans who would suggest otherwise, and would also like to add that you’re a racist for even having the sheer balls to have such an opinion. Over the past couple of years, they’ve conducted email harassment campaigns against critics who have savaged his films. And recently, they’ve even gone so far as to start harassing reporters who ask him the wrong questions in interviews. No, really.
The other day, some poor bastard out of Sacramento made the mistake of asking Janet Jackson, who’s in Why Did I Get Married?, about that time Justin Timberlake pulled out her old, withered titty during a Super Bowl halftime performance in an interview her and Tyler Perry did to promote their new film. Which seems like a reasonable enough question to me. I mean, that’s been a major issue in this country for the past couple of years now.
I’d direct you to check out the clip for yourself, but it’s already been pulled and replacd with a clip of the guy, accompanied by a waste basket full of 19,000 angry emails he’s received (in a few days, mind you), apologizing and explaining how much he enjoys Tyler Perry’s films, please stop emailing him.
Which begs the question: Is it racist of the largely white mainstream media to give negative reviews to these films that they supposedly just don’t get? I’m gonna go ahead and suggest that it isn’t and, if anything, the mainstream media is doing humanity a grave disservice by beginning to kowtow to this asshole.
For example, in addition to this guy in Sacramento and Pulitzer Prize-winner Roger Ebert, who learned the hard way when he ran a negative one-star review of one of those Madea films a couple of years ago and ended up having to publish this lengthy apology (of sorts), there was the review of Why Did I Get Married? in the New York Times last week, which kinda danced around calling a spade a spade (sorry) and instead made it a point to note that people in screenings have been breaking out into applause and talking back to the screen, as if this was Dreamgirls.
It should be obvious to anyone with the sense god gave those kids who broke into Six Flags and drowned in Thunder River what’s going on here. White people whose job it is to give honest reviews of films are refraining from doing so because they’re afraid of being called a racist. Or maybe they’ve even managed to convince themselves that there’s really something about these films that they just don’t get. (Though why a journalist should have to issue a public apology for asking a question is still beyond me.)
And here’s why this is a problem. First of all, as is the case with BET, this is especially embarrassing, because this is supposed to be the “achievement class” in the black community. I mean, it’s one thing when a bum like T.I. goes out and does something stupid. But when the black middle class embraces such garbage, it lends credence to the theory put forth by this guy James Watson that the reason Africa is dying of AIDS is because black people just aren’t as smart as white people. (Yes, there’s a connection here.)
Also, is there any greater threat to free speech in this country than angry, lonely-ass church-going black women? If you’re noticing a similarity between the harassment campaigns conducted against the journalists who pan these Tyler Perry films and the one conducted against Don Imus, it’s probably because these are the same people. We should be doing anything in our power to kill this nascent movement before it grows to the level of, say, the Christian Right or the Israel Lobby – both of which, I should note, employ similar tactics.
In fact, there’s reason to believe that these groups are already working in concert. For example, it was suggested that one of the reasons President Sieg Howdy was re-elected in ’04 is because he was able to play on the ridonkulous level of homophobia in the black church. And I’ve heard that he’s got several of these black religious leaders in his pocket thanks to his faith-based initiatives, which basically function to funnel tax payers’ dollars into religious institutions in exchange for political support.
So you see, when the mainstream media fails to give Tyler Perry the beating he deserves, this is the kind of shit it feeds into. Who knows what kind of effect it’s going to have in the long run? I know there’s a genuine fear of being branded a racist (and maybe having to take a six-month paid vacation like Don Imus), but fuck that shit. As a black man myself, I’m willing to give any white person who’s up to the task license to ride as hard as possible on the Tyler Perry-ization of black popular culture. After all, the fate of mankind may depend on just that.