Tyler Perry – Epitome of Mediocrity

Tyler Perry has another Madea movie opening this week – which of course has started a storm of criticism and bashing. Instead of promoting his movie, Tyler has spent most of this week defending his movies and his skills. Personally I don’t feel sorry for TP. I’m really surprised that he even did another Madea. They’re all a blur in my mind right now. I have big issues with Tyler Perry – especially since just 5 years ago, I was a huge, huge fan. Obviously, a lot can change in 5 years.

Before I dive into my ‘Why Tyler Perry needs to go to directing, acting and writing school’, see below for an email he sent to his fan club (which I joined 5 years ago).

Email sent to TP fan base:

You know I don’t dwell in negativity. I try and stay above it, but I wanted to say this to you. You and I both know that there are folks out there that work overtime trying to keep people from seeing my movies. Even though I don’t say anything, it doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of it. They say all kinds of things about the films, Madea and me. They call me everything, but a child of God. I even had someone tell me in a press conference that I don’t have a “white” following. We all know that is not true. Had they been on tour with me they would know White folks, Black folks, Asian folks, Latin folks, Navajo folks, and everyone in between was there laughing side-by-side having a good time. It’s crazy the things people print without any facts. What is also interesting is how hard they work to try and discourage you from going to see my films, as if you don’t know what you enjoy. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about! But it’s okay, you know why? Because I know that they don’t get it! They don’t get the spiritual side of this, they don’t get the folks that not only laugh, but also get something out of it that they can use to make their lives better. They don’t get that this is about more than making a movie and telling a funny story. They don’t get that it’s about uplifting and encouraging the soul. They don’t get that most of you have been with me long before they knew who I was, and they don’t get that you have my back. And to tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter if they get it or not, as long as you do. I thank God for you every day. You know what you enjoy, you know what makes you laugh and gives you a bit of uplift after you’ve seen it. So come laugh with me this weekend with Madea. MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY opens in theaters this Friday. You know how important the first weekend is, so I sure hope you are planning to go out and see it. I promise you, MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY is funnier than the mall. You will laugh ‘till you hurt, so take some aspirin to the movies with you. THIS LINE IS FROM MADEA (say it in your best Madea voice) “All y’all that squirt a lil pee when you laugh, be careful!” ….LOL I’ll be on the message board all weekend waiting to hear from you. ALSO, BIG NOTE HERE!!!! WEDNESDAY, April 20th, from 1:30 until 2:00pm Eastern, I will be taking your questions live at this link http://tylerperry.com/live. I want to talk about HOUSE OF PAYNE and Madea. Who knows, she may even take your questions. See you live Wednesday!

I don’t doubt that Tyler Perry is talented – my biggest issue of all, is that TP isn’t giving us 100%. After this long in the business, after the great success he’s had, and all the money he’s accrued, I expected that he would have elevated his movie making to a level that is worth our time and his talents. Instead, Tyler is stuck permanently in his comfort zone. As soon as he does something that seems to work, he repeats it over and over again. There is no indication Tyler Perry has grown in the last 5-8 years. Frankly, his first Madea remains his best and the rest are just copycat jokes that should never have hit the big screen.

And Tyler’s biggest excuse is this – you know what you enjoy, you know what makes you laugh and gives you a bit of uplift after you’ve seen it. Tyler Perry has a die-hard following, and instead of giving them the best quality production he could ever give them, he says – you know what you want, this is what you want, this is what I continue to give you. Has he heard of ‘good, better, best’? Just because I laughed hard before, doesn’t mean you can’t make me laugh harder with a movie that isn’t filmed on a cardboard set (I can do bad all by myself). I just don’t get Tyler and it makes me suspect that he’s an opportunist. He makes millions year after year and his movies still have the look and feel of a newbie film student.

Let’s take a look at some of the great black movie directors and the work they’ve done.

  1. Spike Lee: Jungle Fever, Get on the Bus, Clockers, Malcom X, Inside Man, Do The Right Thing, Miracle at St. Anna
  2. John Singleton: Boys in the Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, Baby Boy, Four Brothers, 2 Fast 2 Furious
  3. The Hughes Brothers: Dead Presidents, Menace to Society, From Hell, The Book of Eli
  4. Antoine Fuqua: Tears of the Sun, Shooter, King Arthur, Training Day
  5. Lee Daniels: Precious (need I say more?), and he produced Monster’s Ball
  6. F. Gary Gray: The Italian Job (yes, a black dude directed that), The Negotiator, A Man Apart, Set it Off, Law Abiding Citizen

Tell me, how does Tyler Perry rank against these giants? Everyone gives Tyler Perry a hall pass for his mediocrity. We make excuses for him – we say that’s his niche, he doesn’t have to be like Singleton and Spike Lee. Comedy is his thing. People, comedy doesn’t have to be that bad. Whatever it is that you want to do, whatever genre it may be, you can give 100% especially when you have the time and resources to do it. With what Tyler Perry has at his disposal, he could do so much more. So what really is the issue? He doesn’t have the talent to pull it off? He doesn’t care? Are his fans enabling him to the point of laziness? Or as long as he’s making a buck, he will never change? If it’s the latter, I promise him that the buck will ran out soon enough.

M. Night Shymalayan is brilliant. You can’t really doubt that. He’s an Oscar nominated director and writer – The 6th Sense and Signs. M. Night is also a tad egotistical and is just unable to see his faults. (side note: there is a website up now that is trying to raise money to send M. Night back to NYU to learn more about movie making). Tyler Perry has the same issues as M. Night (the combo of writing, starring, directing and producing doesn’t seem to work very well for most). Instead of being self-reflective and listening to critique, Tyler Perry just wants to lump all critics together as negative haters who don’t get what the fans want. See below for what he said about Spike Lee at a press conference just yesterday (Wednesday, April 20th, 2011)

“I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee,” Perry said during the press conference (via Box Office Magazine). “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.”

For a man who claims he’s all about sprirituality, ‘go to hell’ isn’t very spiritual is it? Tyler Perry is just unable to admit that he could do better. And his success continues to blind him. It’s a really silly excuse that annoys me no end. Financial success aka box office numbers or even record sales don’t always equate artistry talent. Ask Eddie Murphy (he lost an Oscar he should have gotten because of the ill-conceived and poorly timed Norbit which overshadowed all the great movies he’s done).

Additional Criticisms

In September 2009, Jamilah Lemieux made remarks on National Public Radio. While thanking Tyler Perry for employing blacks in front of and behind the camera and for making work with humor and “positive messages about self-worth, love and respect,” she criticized him for making television shows “marked by old stereotypes of buffoonish, emasculated black men and crass, sassy black women.” She took him to task for his character of Madea saying that through this, “the country has laughed at one of the most important members of the black community: Mother Dear, the beloved matriarch. …Our mothers and grandmothers deserve much more than that.” She stated that she appreciated that he was dismissive of critics’ comments concerning his work, “but many black folks have expressed some of the very same attitudes about your work that white critics have.” She stated that blacks “have been fed the same images of ourselves over and over and over because they sell.” She felt that his success had been “mired with the worst black pathologies and stereotypes” and called on him to “stop dismissing the critics as haters and realize that black people need new stories and new storytellers.”

Lemieux’s criticism of Perry was cited and expanded upon by the author Tom Burrell in his 2010 book Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. Burrell cited Perry’s 2008 film Meet the Browns as an example of when “we black people pull the trigger for our own image assassination.” Burrell also stated, “…it’s not entirely fair to expect Perry to chart a new course alone. His movies and TV shows would not be so successful if blacks didn’t have a raging appetite for messages and images that project us as dysfunctional or incompetent. Nothing that occurred during Amos ‘n’ Andy’s radio and television reign could match the words and actions of black comedies like Madea and The Browns. Our attraction to self-demeaning images came way before, and goes far beyond, Tyler Perry.” Burrell called for new images of blacks in entertainment and a new vision of black self-image.

Tyler Perry needs to stop with the excuses – NOW. He needs to take a close look at his film and TV portfolio and think really hard about what’s he’s putting out there. What message is he sending? He needs to quit hiding behind ‘my movies are spiritual and uplifting’ and be real with himself. The Secret Life of Bees is a brilliant uplifting movie, with excellent acting and high production quality. It didn’t make as much as any one of Tyler’s movies, but it’s better than all of them combined, AND it was uplifting. Uplifting, spiritual and funny SHOULD NOT equal ludicrous. That’s an absolute cop-out.

In my personal opinion, unless Tyler Perry changes the sub-par trend he’s on and matures into the director he’s capable of being, his name will never be on any list of Great Black Directors.