I was called a “negative Uncle Tom” because I didn’t like Tyler Perry’s movies. Well I’ll be that because Tyler Perry’s movies are mostly trash. But this isn’t an indictment on the man himself. I’m very proud that a black man with his passion and struggles worked hard and now sits atop an industry which is hard to penetrate for people of color. She also told me that it was people like me who ‘hate’ on black people and ‘kick us when we are already down’ and that hurts us as a people. And she said this as I was eating my steak in Applebee’s. Uh-oh, why she do that?
Cue The Rant!
If you know me, you would know that her statements couldn’t have been any further from the truth.
First of all, I understand the struggles of the black man and black people in general. I know the effects of slavery and euro centrism are still strong and prevalent today. I’m the first one to have our backs and I truly study us as a culture today and our history. I understand we are products of our environment and our circumstances both past and present. Part of the reason I started this blog was to give us an outlet that showed intelligent minorities engaging in important and impactful conversations. We as a people need to start taking responsibility and work harder at being the best at our craft or putting out the best product.
And relax, I’m not becoming a Republican. Their way of thinking is part of the problem. Marc Lamont Hill said it best in an article on Philly.com, “we certainly don’t have to buy into right-wing notions of responsibility, which require us to take full blame for the hell we’ve caught in America. Responsibility is not the same as blame.”
I’m not going to generalize here because I know this isn’t true for all, but why is it when I go into a black owned or managed business or institution, more often that not, I’m greeted with subpar service and/or quality of product? This happens far too often when I step out. Black owned institutions and businesses seem to suffer from the same common ailments, including the most frustrating ailment, a lack of professionalism. And our complacency as a people has lead to subpar entertainment, institutions, standards and expectations. Just look at some of our HBCU’s with awful graduation rates and poor money management and facilities (see Alcorn and Grambling State). Just look at us still patronize bars that have terrible customer service and can’t pay their bills on time. Look at entertainment like Tyler Perry’s movies.
While he employs otherwise out of work black actors, actresses and company’s, the product he puts out is still trash. All his characters are stereotypical archetypes that, if had been recreated by anyone else, would ignite intense anger. He’s like the neighborhood drug lord.. he gives opportunities to people who would otherwise not get one. He gives them jobs to make and distribute an awful product to the masses. Tyler Perry is smart. He will do what he has to do to keep making money, even if it is at the expense of our people’s reputation.
I know he markets to churchgoing, traditional black women, the most under-marketed group of people in Hollywood. I gave him a pass the first band of movies but Tyler just refuses to develop these flat, uninteresting characters. I know his product has inspirational and positive messages but I just think those stereotypical archetypes and poor storytelling methods overshadow the message. I don’t believe those overall messages are worth our dignity.
Viola Davis summed it up beautifully in an article in Entertainment Weekly magazine. ”People feel the images [in his movies] are very stereotypical, and black people are frustrated because they feel we should be more evolved. But there are very few black images in Hollywood, so black people are going to his movies. That’s the dichotomy. Tyler Perry is making money.”
We, as successful black people especially, have an obligation to shine through what the world perceives us to be. We are the barometer for our entire race. Just like your Grandma or Mother told you before you left the house back in the day, don’t act up or crazy, you’re representing your family. So we must be aware of this and be sure to represent adequately. Whether you’re a successful restaurant owner, on the office staff at an HBCU, Tyler Perry, or just trying to make your folks proud, remember, people are watching. And your actions could help solidify or change the preconceived notions that others are carrying.
There isn’t much room for us to mess up or fail. While its not fair, it’s a reality. There’s a microscope on us and whatever we do is magnified.
That’s it for this week. It’s Friday, so don’t forget to cue the Sir Charles.