WTFlocka?! Tyler Perry you want Spike Lee, one of our greatest film directors who has given us a total of 24 films that embody the African-America diaspora – has given us films that mean and give something – Mr. ‘it’s-gotta-be-the-shoes’ – to go straight to hell? Is this Black-on-Black crime?
Perry lost his patience with Spike Lee picking on him for the imagery that his films portray at a recent press conference for his new film, Madea’s Big Happy Family. The anger stems from Lee’s 2009 criticism during his sit-down interview with Ed Gordon for Black Enterprise.
Lee, without anger but rather with wise observation described Perry’s works, “It’s coonery and buffoonery. And I know it’s making a lot of money, breaking records but, we could 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 and I scratch my head – we have a black President. Are we going back to Mantan Marlon and Sleep-n-Eat?”
“A lot of this is on us. You vote with your pocketbook and your time in front of the idiot box. The man has a huge audience. And Tyler is very smart…He started out with these plays. Church buses would pull up, packed and parlayed it. And he bought his own jet. If you could buy a jet, you got money. [the audience laughs] His imagery is troubling.”
Tyler explains his frustration, “Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”
“I’ve never seen Jewish people attack Seinfeld and say, ‘This is a stereotype,’” he said. “I’ve never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos, I’ve never seen Jewish people complaining about Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. I never saw it. It’s always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo…We don’t have to worry about anybody else trying to destroy us and take shots because we do it to ourselves.”
“It’s attitudes like [Lee's] that make Hollywood think that these people [characters like Madea who are based on real-life members of his own family] do not exist, and that’s why there’s no material speaking to them,” Perry said in 60 Minutes interview.
What Tyler Perry doesn’t see (because nothing could be wrong when your own people are paying you) is that Hollywood wants the negative imagery of minorities to be portrayed and perpetuated. As long as Tyler Perry continues to keep minorities laughing at themselves – never discovering one’s true identity, nor understand the enriched and complex history of Blacks, or the abilities to be leaders and thinkers – then Blacks will never have grown as a people, this also holds true for all American minorities. Maybe the comedics of Tyler Perry and the serious intelligence of Spike Lee could come together in writing, then maybe, something balanced be born in Black cinema.
Ed Gordon pointed out the disparity in popularity between a Tyler Perry and a Spike Lee film is, absurd – noting that Blacks prefer themes that dumb-down over educational and thought-provoking ones. Take Lee’s explosive WWII film, Miracle at St. Anna for example, the first time any movie-goer had seen Black soldiers fighting for America – proving how important Black soldiers were to American history, did anybody in the hood talk about this movie?
Lee says he is not deterred, “Even if nobody showed up because Hollywood historically has omitted the contribution of men and women who fought for World War II. I am tried of seeing these films time again and again – which does not give any love to us – the first person that died for this country was a Black man, Crispus Attucks – we’re more patriotic than anybody.”