Thursday, August 11, 2011


Tyler Perry is getting his own television station. WHO THINKS THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?! WHO?!?! I would like to know so I can go personally slap them, on behalf of advocates of social change everywhere. Because tell me, please, I beg you, tell me one good thing Tyler Perry has done for a Black person anywhere (his-worth-$350-million-self not included)?

Some of you are going to say he's funny. Some of you are going to say he's funny because he exaggerates the truth. Some of you are going to say he's funny because he tells the truth. I say he tells stories that he wants y'all to think are funny because y'all think they're true. Because okay, sure, I'm sure people like pistol-in-one-hand-Bible-in-the-other Madea exist out there in the world somewhere. I know that there are cracked out mothers and histories of abuse and family members who will tell you to sit there and take it. I have experienced black churches like the ones he depicts. Scenes that have taken place in the living room on House of Payne have taken place in real people's living rooms, I know. I KNOW.

But what I know more than any of those things is that there are MILLIONS of Black peoples who are nothing like this, and I am SICK AND FUCKING TIRED of this same monolithic image of the Black community being shoved down our throats and the community responding by placing the shover on a pedestal! He's like the new millenium's version of shucking and jiving, and I'll be damned if I sit back while we let him portray this slice of Blackness as THE truth rather than A truth. I'm going to try to list all the vicious stereotypes that I think he's perpetrating and, even worse, getting Black folks to identify with and internalize.
  1. The class war between African-Americans is real, and middle/upper-class Blacks should be demonized. 
  2. Relatedly, all middle/upper-class Black women should realize that men of their own social/educational status aren't "real men", and should fall in love with/marry blue-collar men.
  3. A Black woman cannot be strong without being angry/violent. 
  4. Relatedly, Black women are consistently in trouble with the law. 
  5. Light-skinned Black women represent all that is good and right with the world, and dark-skinned Black women are inherently problematic. 
  6. Dark-skinned Black women are inherently unattractive and sexually undesirable.
  7. Thin, White, blonde womanhood is the ideal standard of beauty/femininity/desirability that all women must imagine themselves as exemplifying to have any sort of self-respect.
  8. Womanhood is a role that can be appropriated, belittled, and dramatically over-emphasized by men for the enjoyment of the masses.
  9. There is no such thing as a traditional family amongst Black peoples.
  10. African-Americans who are not practicing Christians should be ostracized.
  11. Known history of a criminal past or past dependence on drug abuse should have zero effect on whether you choose to let someone [back] into your or your children's lives.
  12. Dark-skinned Black men are liars, while light-skinned Black men are saviors. 
  13. Gay Black men are "on the down low," having unprotected sex, and spreading HIV to Black females.
  14. Physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse are normal, standard elements of life as a Black woman. 
  15. Black men are the greatest threat to Black women's health/lives, but also our only possible saviors.
  16. Black peoples should leave all their problems to divine intervention.
That's what I came up with off the top of my head. I could probably keep going, but I have more posts to write. 

I will admit that there is most likely a grain of truth to each of these statements, but only in so far as you add "some" to every mention of Black peoples or any subset of Black peoples, and that you recognize that those same such "some _____" statements can be filled in by members of ANY SOCIAL GROUP IMAGINABLE. But no. We are presented with these ideas solely in terms of Blackness, and very specific "types" of Blackness at that, types which are marketed as being the end-all-be-alls of Blackness. There is no counter-narrative here. Awkward Black Girl ain't got a TV show. 

So let's go back to the question, what good has come out of this for Black peoples? Maybe a few more Black women got tested for HIV. Maybe someone somewhere got the courage to leave her abusive relationship. Those are good things, yes, but do they have to come at the expense of demonizing and even-further-marginalizing subsets of an already marginalized people, widening gaps and strengthening tensions that already existed within the Black community, and silencing the voices of other sections of Blackness? I think not. Are any of the SIXTEEN DAMAGING IDEAS I just listed doing any good for anybody? I think not. IS. HE. FUNNY? I think not. I think he one of the most problematic Black men in the country, and at a time when I was just bemoaning the death of the Black sitcom/Black family show...this is THE OPPOSITE of what we need. I am thoroughly unconvinced any good will come from this endeavor. Someone stop the madness, please! 

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