Though I’ve been ranting and raging for years about this guy, I’m going to try to keep this under 1,00o words. I swear.
One thing I can never despise — no matter the circumstance — is a Black man who came from nothing to make something of himself. Tyler Perry, a man whose childhood was riddled with poverty, sexual abuse and relentless beatings from his father, Survived unbearable tragedy and became one of the most successful Black men in Hollywood. It’s no surprise that his net worth is around $350 million, considering his vast body of work includes the award-winning “Precious,” TBS’s “House of Pain” and, most notably, a series of plays and movies starring himself as everyone’s favorite wise-yet-dangerous Black grandmother: “Madea.”
But there’s something very wrong with Tyler Perry’s work. Something very damaging — something, that’s just as dangerous and perpetuating to image culture as Sambo and Aunt Jemima were in the 20th century. Behind a glowing mask of Christian values and woman-empowerment, Tyler Perry’s work attacks with subtle, damning perspectives on Black men — but more specifically — dark-skinned Black men.
‘Dark-skinned Black men are abusive — just like my daddy’
Tyler Perry’s experience with an abusive father are well-documented. According to CNN, Perry’s father locked him in a room and whipped him with a vacuum cord until “the skin was coming off his back,” and constantly told him he was nothing. Perry’s father was the bane of his existence: destroying his household, terrorizing his mother, ruining everything. Though I was unable to find images of Emmit Perry sr., I wonder if his dad is dark-skinned, and if all of Perry’s bad male characters are based on him? If you look at any of his movies, it would make a hell-of-a-lot of sense.
But in the words of “Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton: “You don’t have to take my word for it.”
Film: “Diary of a Mad Black Woman“
Synopsis: A woman is married a wealthy lawyer who suddenly decides to leave her for his white mistress (the greatest sin in a Black marriage). She is eventually remarried to the U-Haul driver who helped her move out of her place.
Bad Black man’s color (her husband): Dark-skinned.
Man who saves her from the abusive relationship (her U-Haul-driver-turned-lover): Light-skinned.
Ok, ok. Maybe that’s just a coincidence. Let’s go to the next one.
Film: “Madea’s Family Reunion“
Synopsis: A tale about a woman who announces her engagement to a man, but tells her family that he is physically abusive to her. She’s rescued by a humble bus driver.
Bad Black man’s color (her abusive fiancee): Dark-skinned
Man who saves her from the abusive relationship (her bus-driver-turned-lover): Light-skinned
… Perhaps it’s just a small casting error? Next one:
Film: “Madea Goes to Jail“
Synopsis: A lawyer who is assigned to defend a prostitute in a case, falls in love with her after his wife sabotages her records to get her put in prison
Bad Black man (the lawyer): Dark-skinned
Sidenote: he’s technically the protagonist, but leaving your wife for a prostitute makes you bad, in my books
Cheated on wife: Light-skinned
It doesn’t stop there.
Film: “I Can Do Bad All By Myself”
Synopsis: An alcoholic woman who is involved with an abusive relationship with a married man, is given the responsibility of taking care of her niece and nephew. A Columbian immigrant from her church moves in and saves her from her abusive relationship
Bad Black man (her boyfriend): Not quite as dark-skinned
Man who saves her from her abusive relationship: Hispanic
The case is clear: Almost every relationship-killing, abusive male in his movies is a dark-skinned Black man. Every person who comes to save the damsel in distress is a light-skinned Black man (except for the one case where the antagonist wasn’t quite as dark, then they brought in a Columbian to save the day). If you think this is a coincidence, you’re being naive.
The dark men are slapping their wives, leaving them for white women and prostitutes, and even attempting to rape their nieces. They’re primitive — bestial, even — and don’t see how wonderful the women are that they’re with. Just like Tyler Perry’s father.
We’re supposed to hate them. Be disgusted with them. Cheer on as they get hit in the face with hot grits. Grin as they are shot and paralyzed. Feel relieved when their lighter-skinned counterparts sneak in and save the day. And we’re never given a great view of what a dark-skinned Black man is like. Only that we should run from them and seek a lighter man.
Because the lighter, The righter.
I can’t even begin to explain the damage this does to Black men. Don’t we have enough issues? According to “Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System: Five Years Later” “One in three Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 years old is under correctional supervision or control.” According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, ”Only 41% of Black men graduate from high school in the United States.” We are poorly educated, are targeted and oppressed by the justice system, and have no positive male figures in our lives (According to Reuters, 56 percent of Black children lived in single-parent households).
Do we really need Tyler Perry to portray dark-skinned Blacks as uncivilized beasts? Do we really need Tyler Perry to attack Black men as Black women’s problems, as opposed to people who, just like him, experienced a lot and needed help? When Black people choose to display black people like dirt, it validates the very stereotypes and prejudices we overcame to get to where we are. Which isn’t even that far.
Perry is a traumatized man, no question. But his trauma is negatively contributing to the racial trauma of the nation and giving respectable Black men, like myself, more barriers to breakdown and more reasons to not be trusted.
So for the sake of everything Black in the world, somebody get this man a counselor — or get him the hell away from screenwriting.