August 14, 2009

Tyler Perry and Madea's Popularity Comes Under Attack by Media Blogger

Courtney Young writes about media images of Black women in popular culture. She asks Perry, "How can black women achieve equity in media ownership, images and leadership if they're always portrayed as stereotypes? Mr. Perry, you owe your audience something better."

"Tyler keeps saying that Madea is based on black women he's known, and maybe so.... But Madea does have connections to the old mammy type. She's mammy-like. If a white director put out this product, the black audience would be appalled," says pre-eminent film scholar Donald Bogle. Black female relationships within Perry's films are often interrupted by the Madea character, who shows up in order to "teach" these women the proper way to femininity that will ultimately lead to Prince Charming and a happy ending.

Each of his films advances nearly the same message to his audience (which is overwhelmingly African-American, female, devoutly Christian and over 30). Be demure. Be strong but not too strong. Too much ambition is a detriment to your ability to find a partner and spiritual health. Female beauty can be dangerous. Let a man be a "man." True female fulfillment is found in the role of wife and/or mother.

-Tyler Perry has rapidly become the most bankable African-American moviemaking brand in Hollywood and an entrepreneurial heavyweight. The seven feature films he has conceived and produced have earned more than $300 million at the box office, with an average opening-weekend gross of $25 million--no small feat for films with predominately black casts. He credits his creative inspiration for these films, in part, to African-American women. So far, so good--that is, until you see the films.

Filmmaker Tyler Perry may see himself as creating modern-day fairy tales for black women, but he's actually reinforcing some seriously conservative gender politics. Perry's films typically follow the same timeworn narrative: a woman experiences abandonment and/or abuse at the hands of a "bad" man; she takes umbrage, lashing out at those closest to her, most notably a "good" man in her life; she experiences a revelatory moment of change; and she ends the film settled down with the good man who promises her a better life. Read more>>
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