Friday, September 27, 2013

Tyler Perry or nah?

I haven't written a piece like this in a long while. You know, the kind of post where I casually interject "or nah?" into the headline. 

But the spirit of #BlackTwitter has moved me and so here we are.

Not too long ago, I was idling about. Literally vegetating. And it was awesome. 

Then I got productive and started flipping through my Feedly timeline. After satisfying my literati-approved world and industry news quota for the day, I landed on "The Point And Purpose of Tyler Perry" by The Champ over at Very Smart Brothas

Now, if you're of the black diaspora and even perfunctorily plugged into the "black representation in media and Hollywood" discourse, then you've formed an opinion or have been subjected to some other upwardly mobile black person's protestations regarding the blessèd Tyler Perry

Either you've rolled your eyes at their overzealous disdain or you too prepared Ted Cruz filibuster on the subject of his movies and sizable bank account and how it personally affects your everything. 

Admittedly, he's a divisive conversation piece. And like the debate on the Affordable Care Act, or Team Natural ("Is that or ain't that your natural curl pattern?" "Do you bantu knot your way to validation?" "Oh, so you don't get relaxers ...but you apply heat? Oh.") vs. Team Weave ("I only use Indique's Virgin Remy and Malaysian." "Ain't nobody got the time or money for alla that. Get me the synthetic hair girl."), or whether or not Miley Cyrus is... serious, then you know that it's improper to ride the fence. One must choose a stance. It's just how it is.  

Or at the very least, ambivalence should be expressed in essay format.

After reading the Tyler Perry op-ed at Very Smart Brothas, I opted for the latter. 


Can I consider Shame a black movie? Steve McQueen, a black man, wrote and directed it and it featured Nicole Beharie?

If Shame had showcased a largely black cast, one where Michael Fassbender's character was played by Don Cheadle and Carey Mulligan's character was played by Carmen Ejogo or Kerry Washington, that's the type of black movie I would enjoy viewing every so often.

Somber everyday minutiae. Non-cultural angst. 

Day-to-day existence not conflated with black suffering, the societal ills we collectively face, or Big Mama. I'm not naive. I understand that's our bleak reality at times. Fruitvale Station was a well-crafted film that highlighted many of those realities. But it is most certainly not the only reality. Far too many Consortium buppies bopping around Foggy Bottom, far too many black Fine Arts grads eating quinoa in Brooklyn and West Philadelphia, far too many Ooh La La's and the like discussing the state of the 'talented tenth' at urban socials for that to be the case. Only facts.

So much of a black cinema, when it's not perfecting the feel-good comedy, focuses almost exclusively on 'blackness,' it neglects other, equally pertinent aspects of the human condition. That said, Soul Food will always have a special place in my heart for what the family did to Teri's husband. Classic

The trend of Tyler Perry films and his contemporaries is to be "extra," to use a supremely effective colloquialism. In his films, plot and character development forego subtlety and nuance in exchange for a on-the-nose testimony. His most recent production, "Temptation," is a great example. 

[SPOILER ALERT] Woman cheats on 'traditional values' husband and contracts AIDS for being unholy and ambitious. Aside from the ridiculously good-looking cast, Kim Kardashian, who was pleasantly not-terrible, was the subtlest part of the movie and that's probably because her personality is flatter than Kansas. 

Even Lee Daniel's The Butler, which starred a refreshingly sexy and relatable Oprah and was overall enjoyable and well-paced, had moments when I thought "Really? Really? This august butler escaped the evil clutches of I Am Number Foursingle-handedly converted JFK into a crusader for civil rights, debunked the KKK, and still makes to the chapter meetings of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman on time?" 

They don't make 'em like they used to

Tyler Perry has purpose, as does Steve Harvey and Roland Martin. Yes, I personally would rather watch Melissa Harris-Perry, stalk Miroslava Duma's Instagram, and jam to J*Davey, but at the end of the day I know that there are plenty black people, myself included, who just wanna chill, play Spades, and watch a film that speaks directly to their sensibilities. So I appreciate Tyler Perry. His drive. His ability to keep black SAG cardholders dutifully employed. All of it. Everyone enjoys seeing "them" represented on screen, and Perry provides that outlet and does so prolifically. 

That said, I'm ready for the new crop of screenwriters and directors. I'm ready for different, more representative stories. Because Tyler Perry's story, while familiar and tangible, isn't necessarily my story.

It's time to support art that speaks to you. It's time to support that independent webseries your friend is in[Shout out to Alysha English!] and donate $5 to Kickstart a project you support in to existence. It worked for Veronica Mars

You relate to Marnie, Jessa, Hannah, and Sho's whimsy and post-grad journey on GIRLS, but wished Lena Dunham's experience included more persons of color? Well it didn't. And that's okay. Stop subtweeting her and invoke Girlfriends. Put pen to paper.  

You love Issa Rae, but Awkward Black Girl isn't necessarily your brand of satire. Get inspired and be 'bout it, 'bout it. She is. HBO can dig it

Us black folk, we're not a monolith. Because no group of people ever is and because that would be lame. We need to create our truth on screen. All of our fresh perspectives. 

As for Tyler Perry? Let that man be Great.

Post inspired by...

...hopes of looking this good post-40, and... 
The fact that I will still go see Baggage Claim and be thoroughly entertained.
Medicine For Melancholy 
Kanye West and his "'Woe is me,'I almost want to question my devotion to his talent, but then I remember I actually empathize with his angst," ALL CAPS rants about nothing in particular. Just kidding. He has a point.
Chloë Moretz because she's better than us
James Blake
Chianti + Viognier
Rand Paul's otherness. 
Definitely NOT Terio

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