There is no doubt about Tyler Perry’s amazing deeds toward black Americans both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. In his movies, there is potential for his craft to be great, but for whatever reason, his ego or lack of time, his movies and shows fall short to mediocre at best.
His most recent movie, “A Fall from Grace,” was laughably bad, and it is unfathomable that such poor quality film was given a wide release. The cinematography in his movies is always generic with flat lighting, static or uninteresting camera movements, bad sitcom level sets and terrible dialogue.
On top of the technicalities, his representation of black people, especially black women, is problematic. The storylines in his films are mostly the same. Strong, religious black women are betrayed and tormented by their darker-skinned husbands and must find a way to cope or escape. In the end, they are saved by a lighter-skinned male love interest, religion or both.
As mentioned before, Perry has made many colorist casting choices that make his films worse. Black female characters with darker skin are usually the protagonist but are always suffering and victims of all types of abuse. These characters must have everything taken from them to learn some arbitrary lesson.
These dark-skinned women are the angriest and are portrayed as being incomplete without a man. Lighter skin or biracial women are the jezebels, sexually loose women, homewreckers and those to be despised. Darker skin black men are the antagonists, abusive and aggressive. Older black women and men are non-desirable and the butt of jokes.
These perceptions of people of color have been prevalent since slavery. It is disheartening and irresponsible of Perry to enforce these stereotypes because this is how division, insecurities and hostility in black communities start. What people see on screens is reflected back on how they treat each other and themselves.
One old argument in defense of his movies and shows is that he knows his audience religiously watch his work. Children grow up with his content. Black girls should not grow up with these messages that they are broken by themselves and that they should be seen differently depending on skin tone. Black boys should not have to see these images of black men being abusive and cold-hearted or superior if they are lighter skin.
Perry is coming from a place that wants to help his community and what he has accomplished is beyond admirable. However, he needs to either take a step back and reflect on his past work or step down to allow other voices to take his mantle.
Writing a ton of scripts in a short period of time is a skill that most writers wish they had. Owning a large film studio is any filmmaker’s dream. However, if the end products are unpolished and riddled with problematic messages, then is it really success?