March 18, 2009
Perpetuating Black Stereotypes?
Tyler Perry's films are hugely popular, but are they dumbing down African Americans?
Popular, yes. But are they politically incorrect? Or even offensive?
"Tyler Perry's films are rooted in some of the worst stereotypes that have ever existed," Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at USC School of Cinematic Arts, told EW.
Donald Bogle, author of Toms, Coons, Mulatoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, tends to agree: "If a white director put out this product, the black audience would be appalled."
Perry's critics argue that his movies include "regressive, down-market stereotypes," as EW put it: "In many of his films there's a junkie prostitute, a malaprop-dropping uncle, and Madea, a tough-talking grandma the size of a linebacker ('Jemima the Hutt,' one character calls her)." Bogle says that Madea has "connections to the old mammy type. She's mammy-like."
Perry comes to his own defense, telling EW, "These stories have come out of my own pain and everything I've been through. These characters are simply tools to make people laugh. And I know for a fact that they have helped, inspired, and encouraged millions of people."
Indeed, Perry, a Christian, infuses his movies with stories of hope, forgiveness, and redemption -- partly mirroring his own personal journey out of a painful past, which he shared with CT Movies in this interview.
What do you think of Perry's films (if you've seen any)? Do they perpetuate stereotypes, or not? Are they uplifting and inspiring? Chime in on the discussion thread below.