Thursday, September 22, 2011


NEW YORK - After reaching the top of Forbes "Highest-Paid Men in Entertainment," film producer and director Tyler Perry is back in the headlines as the war in Urban America continues to build momentum.

My boy Dr. Boyce Watkins, who I can't thank enough for allowing yours truly to contribute to, and social news commentator Touré both appeared on CNN the other day to debate the socioeconomic impact of Perry's films.

Touré, who loathes the Madea character, compared Perry's films to "cinematic malt liquor."

Touré also knocked the quality of Perry's movies and questioned his overall talents as a director.

Touré says: “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.”

Although he's not exactly thrilled about a black man making millions for donning a dress, Dr. Boyce defended Perry by lauding his accomplishments in hiring black workers.

Touré countered that drug dealers create jobs too but it doesn’t make them “good jobs.”

As I previously mentioned, there's a war going in Black America. And with all the social media that's available today, it's being exposed for the entire world to see.

Dr. Boyce and Touré do battle on CNN

 If you've followed Mass Appeal the past year or so, you already know my stance on Perry. I like him as a person. I love his onstage productions. Although entertaining, I do lamen the quality of his films. But, I also understand we have to laugh. So buffoonery is necessary sometimes.

That said, aside from the repetitive abuse of the English language, Perry's flicks tend to follow the same, tired, redundant theme. The omission typically includes a weed-smoking elder (like Aunt Bam in the film Madea's Big Happy Family) accompanied by:

1) Big Mama melodramatics. 2) Madea’s sass & opprobrious attacks on disenchanted youth. 3) Mr. Brown’s hideous attire. 4) A black man fresh out of jail. 5) Contumacious, profanity-spewing children. 6) Inadequate acting. And 7) a rustic, predictable storyline which usually concludes with a Madea counseling session coupled with a reconciliation between bitter, rivaling parties. 

All of these items, according to Perry, are endorsed through the heavenly name of Jesus.
“It’s crazy the things people print without any facts. What is also interesting is how hard they work to try and discourage (people) from going to see my films…,” said an irritated Perry in response to his critics.

“They don’t get the spiritual side of this… They don’t get that it’s about uplifting and encouraging the soul.”

Yep. Nothing uplifts the soul like a $20 bag of marijuana.

Look, I'm actually in agreement with Dr. Boyce and Touré.

Like Dr. Boyce, I applaud Perry's efforts when it comes to hiring black employees; especially during a time when African-American unemployment has fluctuated to a Depression-like 16.1 percent.

From where I'm standing, Perry has already done more to alleviate the black unemployment crisis than the Obama Administration and Congress put together.

However, like Touré, I do believe certain genres in films and music have done irreparable damage to the universal black image. And some of Perry's films and characters certainly fit this mold. 

Trust me, from both a business and international perspective, nonsensical characters Madea and Mr. Brown are doing the black community absolutely no favors.

I guess what I'm trying to say is when it comes to Perry's heart, I'm a big fan. Conversely, when it comes down to the quality of his theatrics, I'll go to my grave believing there's much to be desired.
Check out this quote from Dr. Boyce:

Dr. Boyce says: "The point is that black people have every right to be as silly and ridiculous as any white man we might see on the MTV show, 'Jackass.'  The problem with predominantly white media is that these are typically the only images provided to us, which puts us into a discriminatory box.

"Films like 'The Help,' and shows like 'Basketball Wives' might provide popular and profitable entertainment, but the broader concern is that Hollywood has a troubling history of casting African Americans in subservient and humiliating ways."

Everything Dr. Boyce said is 100 percent true.

Just keep in mind, most people don't travel to the hood to get an accurate depiction of black culture. Therefore, what they see on film is typically what they believe.

Most Tyler Perry supporters I talk to are quick to defend him by claiming "it doesn't matter what other people think about us" when in fact it truly does.

How so? Because legions of blacks, at this very moment, are busy filling out job applications at predominantly white-owned businesses.

What people think does indeed matter.

In giving reasons for non-hire, a Chicago-based employer let the cat out the bag recently by citing a plethora of racial stereotypes in describing blacks as “uneducated,” “unskilled,” “unstable,” “illiterate,” “dishonest,” “lack initiative,” “unmotivated,” “involved with gangs and drugs,” “don’t understand work,” “lack charm,” “have no family values,” and are “poor role models.”

And believe me, if this employer feels this way – the majority of them probably do too.

Whether fair, perception is usually construed as reality. Like I said, buffoonery is necessary sometimes. But, it's imperative we put enough positive images out there to help offset the bad ones.

See, I encourage every black person to travel overseas at least once. Because, after you do, you'll return to the United States peeved at Perry and all other comparable filmmakers.

Dr. Boyce mentioned that blacks have as much right to act an ass on TV as white folks. The difference, nevertheless, has much to do with balance.

Think about it. For every show like "Jackass" there's a 'Criminal Minds,' 'The Mentalist,' 'Castle,' 'CSI,' 'NCIS' and 'Cold Case.' Shows that feature whites in tactical, intelligent and valiant roles.

Basketball Wives portrays bad images
Conversely, shows like 'Basketball Wives,' 'Meet the Browns' and 'Tiny & Toya' disseminate repulsive images of black people; giving the world a very distorted view of what truly constitutes Black America.    
Folks, worldwide, we're being laughed at. And our suffering has escalated as a byproduct.

For years we were taught the 'white man' is solely responsible for our socioeconomic decline. Decades later, we're forced to swallow the despicable fact our impasse is tied mostly to black-on-black hate, commercial greed and self-destruction.

As a race, we have to get back to making sense and holding each other accountable. Somehow we've gotten strange. Now we're battling to regain a measure of normalcy in an era of anti-shrewdness and uncertainty.

For example, with a median household income of $34,445, blacks are officially the poorest people in the United States; trailing the Hispanics, who are equipped with an median household income of $40,946.
Yet, too many of our songs, too many of our television shows, and too many of our movies deliver contumacious messages about "getting paid" and "making paper."

There's an arrogance in our entertainers, our actors and our athletes that illuminates our socioeconomic plight even that much more.

Black people it pains me to say this, but "we're not getting paper." Instead, we are poor and destitute. We lack ownership, yet we embrace being owned. There's nothing glamorous about finishing last in median income.

And it's certainly nothing to be proud of.

Come on man... let's get over ourselves and start re-examining our goals and expectations.
70 percent of black women are single. And most black films focus on relationships. But given the high number of single parent homes and lonely souls in Black America, one has to wonder how credible these films are.

The intent here is not to come off as pompous or condescending. I just don't see the point in sugarcoating our inevitable genocide any longer.
Wayne HodgesWayne Hodges, an MBA from St. Mary University, is the Editor-in-Chief of “Mass Appeal News.” He's also a business columnist for the Atlanta Post, he’s a Democrat reporter for the Examiner, and he’s a film critic with

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