Why Tyler Perry Isn’t Enough for Black People

Tyler Perry is doing a lot for Blacks in Hollywood and paving a way for others – showing young Black men and women that they can write, direct, produce and maybe even star in their own films. It is this drive, this energy that we need in the Black community, but at what price? While Perry has a very large following and his films do very well, what are we giving up?
His characters present sketches of African American life and although the work is predominantly family oriented, that does not seem to necessarily challenge. Moreover, his goal seems not to challenge our thinking, but to represent another version of the “Mama on the Couch” play. His latest attempt departed from his usual Medea character and focused on a Black professional class of characters whose lives were full of infidelity and secrets towards and from their spouses.
His scenes were cut straight from plays and his characters, however interesting, scratched only the mere surface. Tyler Perry’s character, (cleverly named Terry) was the only one never shown at work. He was a pediatrician married to a lawyer, who never confessed about her hysterectomy, but was outed during dinner at their couples’s week.
There were so many rich moments in the film and many heartwarming stories – almost too many for the nearly two hour film. Much of what could have been good about the film was skimmed over. I knew the characters types, but I did not fully know the character.
Will we continue to accept this as good black filmmaking or will we challenge Tyler Perry to take the next step. Because of the lack of popular Black Film makers we cannot look at Tyler Perry the same way. There are not many other mainstream filmmakers to go to besides Spike Lee. Even then, it is unfair to label the good and the bad. Had we more Blacks in the business, we could accept Tyler Perry and move on to another mogul.

Garlia C. Jones

October 2007

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About blackboardplays

Familiar with the collectives for poets and other Black writers that had been created over the years and slightly envious of that sense of community, I became curious about a similar place for playwrights. I wanted to see Black playwrights, actors and directors excited over each others work and supporting each other. I was longing for a “home” as a Black playwright and wanted to see other Black artists in that home, not to be exclusive, but because there was a void. I was also eager to find other Black playwrights who shared a passion for the craft of storytelling. The stories of the Black community are diverse and are often hidden behind the blockbuster stereotyped versions. The non-artistic Black community, not involved in the writing of these stories, is yearning to see themselves in our stories and it is apart of my life’s work to ensure that happens. the cell is any artists’ dream: a new space that supports you as you grow, committed to new work and the art. This allows the writer to focus on the craft - to focus on their story. Nancy Manocherian and Kira Simring welcomed this idea with open arms and instantly became apart of what we later called “Blackboard Reading Series”. Every reading will conclude a twenty minute talk-back with the audience. Dialogue with the community is essential to what we want to do with the series. As we grow, there may be more readings a month, play festivals and of course productions. We want to nurture and develop new black playwrights for this generation! Thank You! Garlia Cornelia Jones Founder, Blackboard Reading Series
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2 Responses to Why Tyler Perry Isn’t Enough for Black People

  1. Yasmin says:

    Garlia

    Tyler Perry developed his success using the old chittlin circuit approach; appealing to Black folks that gather collectively on a regular ( church) and gave them the comedic view from a place of love and understanding. His formula worked. I for one hope that Tyler Perry will continue to bring other Black writers, producers and directors into his production company which will give a wider scope to his end products. Perry is clearly a very shrewd business man and this is “show business”.

    • He is a business man and yes, it is show business. I agree with all of that. There is no doubt what he has done has been influential as a business model. Those are definitely not things I take issue with. I was saying in 2007 and I will continue to say now that we need more variety, so people not in the community and even those in the community can see different parts of the Black Community, because not everyone can relate to the models Tyler Perry portrays.

      His business is clearly solid, but the variety is most likely what we need on a grander scale… and that is definitely not an easy thing in “the business”.

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