Don’t get me wrong. I hate Tyler Perry’s work. Diary of a Mad Black Woman might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I feel the same way about his television shows, “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne.” Sitting through an episode of either is painful. The characters are one-dimensional, the “jokes” are flat, and the Christian overtones are offensive. No, not because they are Christian, but because of the way the “lessons” are shoehorned into every episode, like I’m watching a religious version of “Captain Planet.” There was more subtly on the 80’s sitcom “Amen,” and that took place in a god damn church! Yes, I think Tyler Perry’s work is overrated garbage, and I don’t understand why it appeals to anyone over the age of five. And I’m certainly not alone in my view.
But so what? It’s not a crime to write crappy comedy. If it were, 95% of Hollywood (and 100% of Screen Junkies) would be in the slammer. People are entitled to their opinions, and if someone actually wants to sit through a Madea movie, that’s their problem. After all, it’s just entertainment, right? Well, not according to Spike Lee
For the past few years, the director has been taking digs at Perry’s work. But his complaints have not been about the poor writing, the lack of humor, or the overall shittyness of the shows. No, his complaints have been racial in nature, as they always are.
“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery,” Lee said in 2009. “I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. … I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry‘s ‘Meet the Browns’ and ‘House of Payne’), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”
So, Spike Lee thinks that when it comes to black sitcoms, “we can do better.” This raises an interesting question: Has Spike Lee ever watched a sitcom? With a few rare exceptions, they are all horrible, regardless of whether the characters are black, white, Asian or even god damn cavemen. They all traffic in stereotypes, and they are all filled with “buffoonery.” It goes with the territory. That’s what a sitcom is: familiar, often ridiculous characters in everyday situations that everyone can relate to. And by everyone, we’re talking the lowest common denominator.
Up until recently, “Two and a Half Men” was the most popular sitcom on television. The entire production, from top to bottom, was horse shit. The characters were predictable and boring, the writing was crap, and even so, it was the most watched comedy in the country. Everyone watches this shit, so, why does Spike Lee feel that African-American viewers are different? What makes black audiences so special?
And where does he get off telling Tyler Perry to “do better?” Who made Spike Lee the arbiter of African-American film and television? Can’t a black man make a shitty television show in peace without having some pompous asshole accuse him of dumbing down the black community? I suppose the people who enjoy “House of Payne” would instantly switch over to PBS if only Tyler Perry wasn’t around. And am I to believe that there are non-blacks out there who have turned into racists after watching Madea Goes to Jail? Actually, that doesn’t sound too far fetched now that I type it out, but you see my point.
And say what you want about Perry, but he has an inspirational story. Despite only having a G.E.D. (and, some would argue, a total lack of talent), he’s made hundreds of millions of dollars by creating shows that people can relate to. Why not be happy for him? And at least his message is positive. Why not attack “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” or any of the dozens of reality shows that perpetuate negative black stereotypes? You want to talk about “Coonery?” Turn on MTV for five minutes.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with hating Tyler Perry’s work. But acting like “Madea” is detrimental to blacks is ridiculous. It’s detrimental to everyone.