However, the actor/writer/producer/director/entrepreneur has been controversial ever since the moment his works left the church tour and hit the multiplex. One of the main debates has been whether or not his work, produced for and consumed mainly by black audiences, is actually destructive for the African American community. Spike Lee famously called his broad comedy and melodrama “coonery and buffoonery” and, now that Perry has reached the very top of Forbes‘ “Highest-Paid Men In Entertainment” list, social commentator Touré has brought the discussion to CNN. Amazingly, his critique is even harsher than Lee’s.
Touré began by knocking Perry’s actual talents as a filmmaker. Perry’s never been famous for his cinematic craft, not that his fans have seemed to mind (witness the trouble a stunned Roger Ebert got in when he harshly reviewed Perry’s first film). His fans argue that, whether or not film critics like the movies, it doesn’t matter. They aren’t for them. However, Touré argued that Perry’s message, while it may go to an audience that gets overlooked, is dangerous.
Touré, comparing the films to “cinematic malt liquor,” said they taught black women to embrace feelings of “victimhood.” However, they were popular just because no one else is talking to those women.
“Tyler Perry is definitely serving an audience that is underserved by Hollywood. Especially black southern women do not see themselves at all in Hollywood fare. So, when he’s serving them movies where they appear to be in situations that are naturalistic and recognizable to them and definitely have that Christian message, I absolutely understand why my grandmother, my mother, and my aunts love this stuff, and my family down south, they love this stuff. I just can’t watch it without cringing because I’ve seen good movies and I know these are poorly made films.”
Defending Perry was Dr. Boyce Watkins who pointed out that, while he wasn’t thrilled about a black man becoming successful for wearing a dress, you can’t argue that Perry has done something that Hollywood hasn’t done for years; give black entertainers jobs. Touré countered that drug dealers create jobs too but it doesn’t make them “good jobs.”
It’s a fascinating conversation with tons of implications for the black community and entertainment as a whole. Watch the clip from CNN below:
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