Not So Good Deeds

Tyler Perry has a new movie coming out. It's advertised as "Tyler Perry's Good Deeds." From the trailer and the pre-advertising, it is another movie with the same narrative...poor black men bad, rich black men good.

Now Perry's movies are usually peppered with contrasts to this myopic narrative, but the overall pattern and practice of his movies are based upon stereotypes that continue to harm the people that he seems to, at first blush, praise.

His character of Mr. Brown in his T.V. show "Meet the Browns" is an embarrassing caricature of the uneducated black man in funny clothes, dancing around the room even when he's simply walking from the kitchen to the ever present couch.

The many stereotypes of black people in Perry's movies and T.V. shows often coexist and sometimes tend to challenge themselves. Take the overwhelming stereotype of poor black men being mean and dangerous. In "Diary of a Mad Black Woman", Steve Harris' character is rich and successful; and in one of the most horrific scenes of screen violence against a woman that I ever saw, he drags his dark-skinned wife by her hair, out of their home and replaces her with a fair-skinned "trophy" wife.

We later find out that he is only rich because he is a corrupt attorney working with drug dealers. Then the discarded black woman is rescued by a poor black man. Great? No. Although he is poor, he nevertheless is played by Shamar Moore, the bi-racial and very light-skinned, actor with Caucasian features.

Now, I am not saying that Tyler Perry shouldn't make his money anyway he wants to, but we need positive role models of color. Yea, its funny to see Perry dressed as Maedea running around shooting up the place and acting a fool, but it shouldn't have taken the very white George Lucas, who is dating a black woman, to fight for the film "Red Tails", an action movie about the Tuskegee Airman, when we have black people in Hollywood with the resources that could be and should be making the films.

Almost every black super actor has to have a fair-skinned female lead; or Hollywood says they can't sell the film. Will Smith almost always is paired with a white or light-skinned Latino woman.

Oprah said she ate 30 pounds of macaroni and cheese when she found out that her movie "Beloved" got beaten its opening weekend by "Bride of Chucky." What Oprah doesn't understand is black people cannot be constantly taken back to our slave history; and run with delight to plop down cash at the ticket booth. We are not just 2 dimensional characters. After the "Color Purple" we got it. Show us something else.

I once asked a white friend of mine, "Where are the black love stories like "Sleepless in Seattle" or "You Got Mail?" He said "Jason's Lyric!" No...drug dealer brother shoots Jada in that one. He thought for awhile and couldn't come up with one romantic comedy with dark-skinned male and female leads that was based upon love, not sex, with no violence as an undercurrent and no black stereotypical slapstick.

This weekend "The Help" will go up for the Oscar and if the actresses win it will be a great achievement. Most likely they won't use the Hattie McDaniel line " to my race..." I guess?...that's progress?


Provocative commentary

I was surprised by this ... surprised to discover it's one of the many things I've never thought through before.

I don't know what role movies play in the perpetuation of cultural dysfunction, but I'm sure they play a lot. Much to think about here.