Tyler Perry: Bad for Black America?

Entertainment Weekly has posted a compelling article about Tyler Perry and the Madea franchise.

Perry’s seven movies have grossed more than $350 million; he is on track to become one of the most successful black filmmakers of all-time. But not every one appreciates the image of African-American life that his films purport.

As Viola Davis, who starred in Madea Goes to Jail; explained: ”People feel the images [in his movies] are very stereotypical, and black people are frustrated because they feel we should be more evolved. But there are very few black images in Hollywood, so black people are going to his movies. That’s the dichotomy. Tyler Perry is making money.”

Perry’s films present a dilemma about race and the presence of African-Americans in the entertainment industry that is more relevant than ever. This excerpt from the article stands out to me as to why Perry is a important filmmaker and why he is not just presenting a stereotypical image of black America:

”Tyler Perry understands that much of his audience is African-American women — the most ignored group in Hollywood — so he’s doing movies that speak to them,” Bogle says. ”You could see these films as parables or fables. There’s a black prince figure who shows up for black women who’ve been frustrated, unhappy, or abused.” That’s the real reason critics don’t like Perry’s movies, says Nelson George: They’re made for churchgoing, working-class black women, not urban hipsters (or tenured professors). ”Tyler Perry speaks to a constituency that is not cool,” George says. ”There’s nothing cutting-edge about the people who like Tyler Perry. So, for a lot of other people, it’s like, ‘What is this thing that’s representing black people all over the world? I don’t like it. It doesn’t represent me.”’

I happen to find the Madea franchise, the public perceptions and the often misconceptions of it to be completely fascinating. The franchise has carved a unique place in African-American cinema.  I want to know your thoughts on Tyler Perry and this article. Sound off below.

Stamps Honor Early Black Cinema

This past Wednesday (July 16) the US Postal Service issued a stamp set that honors five early films in early Black Cinema.


Black and Tan – a 19-minute film released in 1929 featuring Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

Caldonia – a 18 minute short films, which was released in 1945. It showcased singer, saxophonist and bandleader Louis Jordan.

Hallelujah – a 1929 movie released by MGM. It was one of the first films from a major studio to feature an all-black cast. Producer-director King Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for his attempt to portray rural African-American life, especially religious experience.

Princess Tam-Tam – a 1935 film starring Josephine Baker as a simple African woman presented to Paris society as royalty.

The Sport of the Gods – a 1921 film based on the book by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Of the five, I’ve only seen Hallelujah. It is a bit difficult to watch as it is unlike any other early musical. It far more complex than the typical backstage musical of the twenties and thirties. Nevertheless, it is really worth seeing.

The history surrounding not only these films but all of early black cinema is simply fascinating, It one of the most rich, frustrating, and brilliant aspects of early American cinema and I encourage anyone to read about the subject.

In fact, you can begin with these two books:

Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker

Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film