Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Afternoon Randomness-Spike Lee on Tyler Perry, Cooning, and Race Minstrelsy

You know we respectable negroes love us some Tyler Perry (yeah right--insert vomiting sound here). I don't understand the fixation on Madea or any of Perry's other "artistic" creations, but I will allow the masses their pleasures.

To that point: Spike Lee has apparently stepped up to the plate and is calling Perry out for his nouveau race minstrelsy in an interview set to air this weekend with the Ed Gordon on Our World with Black Enterprise show.

Related random anecdote: did you know that I had a student brought to near tears by my critique of Madea as a race minstrel? Second related random anecdote: did you know that in this same histrionic moment said student conflated Madea and Rosa Parks as inspirational and heroic figures? And no, I did not make that up.

Per tradition, take a close look at some of the comments which accompanied this story on the website, Global Grind. Both follow:

Spike Lee Rips Tyler Perry

Spike Lee had an interview with Ed Gordon on Our World with Black Enterprise scheduled to air this weekend. In the interview he complained about “coonery and buffoonery” and both of Tyler Perry’s shows “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne,” comparing them to characters from minstrel shows.

“We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made 'Boyz in the Hood'], people came out to see it. But when he did ‘Rosewood,’ nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us! You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African-Americans, we’re not one monolithic group, so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it harkens back to ‘Amos n’ Andy.’”

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“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. … I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?

Some Choice Comments:

hold up hold up, i like spike n all he got sum good movies n his archive, but anybody who say he aint hatin know damn well he is. he jus mad cuz Tyler Perry currently got him dethroned as one of the great directors not includin john singleton and who eva else gud dat i left out. neway, regarding meet the browns and house of pain, if u dont like that u must not like nun on tv cuz errbody kno they single handedly keep ppl watchin tbs. so if u dont watch em DONT! if u dont like em DONT! dont nobody care bout yo opinion cuz at da end of da day he still gettin payed haha so big upz to em and hopefully spike cum out wit sum gud enuff worth hatin on lol


Spike, Next!

To touch people's hearts, you have to know how to relate to them first. Tyler Perry is the master at this. I was once a person that wouldn't spend a dime on his movies, but now I get the brotha.

I get you too, but your messages are way too deep and subliminal for our people. People need clear, cut, messages!


Spike is so right. In my opinion most of the people laughing at the coonery that goes on in these shows perpetuate those coon stereotypes themselves. Wake up, it's the 21st century. I don't know how any self-respecting black person can watch House of Payne and laugh at it. Then again, I see lots of people like this in the South, who aren't aware of the stereotypes, shuckin and jivin right along w/ this foolishness. Tsk, tsk.


Come on Spike. Sounds like hate to me. I wonder have those people criticizing Tyler Perry ever watched any of his work. I wouldn't call it coonery and buffoonery. Some of Tyler P's stuff is very inspiring. He covers real life subjects like substance abuse, infidelity, abuse and on top of that Madea is funny as hell. I am both a Spike Lee and a Tyler Perry fan. I think it is just a dude from the east hating on a dude from the south.


Spike we thought you had a life. It took us years to understand and figure out your movies. 2 each his own:) does that mean anything to you. What you call coonery and buffoonery many of us are enjoying as comedy. I also appreciate the fact that he uses actors/actresses that other movies makers wouldnt touch like overweight, african americans or hispanics. also spike I am an NBA fan as well wasn't you a die hard for life new york fan. LA is a long way from new york. we see you courtside. you dont jump ship from your team just because they haven't won anything in years!!



The Succulent Dish said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Spike. Don't misunderstand--no disrespect is meant to Tyler and his success, as I for one am happy to see another person of color get paid. However, Spike is fully, unquestionably and wholeheartedly correct that these movies are absolutely perpetuating the uneducated, blackface, tap dancing for a quarter stereotypes that our culture is facing. We have fought for the right to vote, are still fighting for equal education and equal pay. After we’ve finally finished our educations, we get to the workplace and our education and experience seem to be dismissed if we aren’t pickin’ and grinnin’. Entertainment is entertainment and I suppose people can choose what they wish to entertain themselves. But what would author Richard Wright think? What would author/director Sam Greenlee think? What would Frederick Douglass think? Wake up!

Anonymous said...

I would have to concur. Mr. Perry seems like a nice man -- and he has offered paychecks to quite a few black actors now -- but I cannot be called a personal contributor to his success; because I don't go to shit he produces. I can't even bring myself to EVER watch his sitcom (even though I used to have a kinda crush on Allen Payne).

I saw one movie he did about a family reunion, or something to that effect. Even worse than the 'minstrel show' vibe I got was the loss of wind in my chest when he came out as Madea. My question was... is this who brothers think we are? We already know some white folks do... but why the artistic assault from the Brothers? Another fucked up part is... try making a concerted opinion in public or online without being brushed off as an 'angry black woman'. Thanks a fucking lot, Tyler. (And to think I was FINALLY getting over Teri MacMillan making us look like we weren't worthy of being on the Earth without a man in 'Waiting to Exhale'). I guess pimps are still UP -- and hos are still DOWN in the "I'd like to give all praises to God for my success", house-negro world of Tyler Perry.

MilesEllison said...

Some of those comments sound like people that are auditioning for Perry's chitlin' circuit blackface "entertainment." They make a box of rocks seem intelligent.

Spike is exactly right. The audience is not blameless. Most black people are getting exactly the ridiculous minstrel crap that they deserve. Millions of people are willingly paying to see this garbage. It only guarantees that there will be more of it. The sad thing is that people used to picket stuff like this in the past.

Unknown said...

i watch from a relatively unburdened european point of view now i like a madea movie as much as a spike movie.. i will watch them both but with different hats on...

i think spike is missing the point of tyler perry's madea.. perry says it best in the clip above and i paraphrase heavily...
madea is that elder, cranky, ride or die for her family, righteous woman he grew up around and this woman is now gone... she has been replaced with a younger less 'life experienced' model..

i watch madea and say ''hmmn hmmn go grandma!'' she says and does things we do only dream about.. and it is funny as hell..

we all want that woman around at some point to show up and save our ass even though she warned us about the consequences of our actions.. she will tell you exactly how to fix whatever mess you have got yourself into or if you still won't listen, fix the problem in her own way even if it means going to prison.. because she loves you..

perry makes the scenario funny but he makes the point... madea can save your butt before you get yourself into a mess if you take the time listen to the message and make notes..

MilesEllison said...

There are ways to put across the persona of the loyal, funny, "fix it" woman without exhuming racist stereotypes. But Mr. Perry lacks the talent to do so.

Anonymous said...

It would be one thing if August Wilson had criticized Perry’s plays. But this is Spike Lee, a guy who has spent his entire career trafficking in caricatures of women.

In Perry’s non Madea melodramas (and in the melodrama sections of the Madea movies), they follow typical melodrama convention: no ones character ever really changes or develops but the story rewards the goodhearted and punishes the cynical and selfish. But even there in something like “The Hand that Preys”: it’s not just that the Alfie Woodward character is treated with more class than the black female caricatures in Lee’s films; but even the scheming jezebel is treated with more respect.

Madea is more lovingly written and more multi dimensional than any of Lee’s misogynistic caricatures. The biggest laughs in Madea movies and the ones that people talk about immediately leaving the theatre are the ones built around her being very sacrilegious. Madea may be the most sacrilegious mainstream movie role since Kurgan slapped out the votive candles in Highlander. That Madea is that sacrilegious and yet fully “Christian” is more dimensionality than anything I’ve seen out of the women in Spike Lee movie (unless women being lesbian and yet being man hungry is an example of multidimensional portrayal).

I have a hrad time seeing Lee as a guy who is in any position to complain about the negative images Tyler Perry works with.