Exploitation of Blacks in Terry Perry’s Films

Tyler Perry has become an international phenomenon admired by many, who view his films all over the world. His extensive use of black people characters, for instance, he depicted black angry women and oppressed black men. His talent resulted in significant sales of his films globally (Heartley 2011). Many people, however, greatly criticized Tyler Perry’s films because of his extensive use of various stereotypes, especially of the black people.

In this essay, the prevalence of stereotypes in Tyler Perry’s film will be critically analyzed. In specific, films such as “Madea Goes to Jail”, “Why did I get married”, “House of Payne” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” will be closely examined. In these films, Tyler Perry has portrayed annoyed, grumpy black women (Diary of a Mad Black Man and Why did I get Married). They were in need of a real man to save them as well as being down compressed (Madea Goes to Jail) (Viera 2011). These movies will be analyzed and specific areas where stereotype of the black women is evident will be pointed out and discussed.

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According to Dupri (2011), Tyler Perry is one of the most successful men in the field of entertainment in Hollywood, earning about $130 million dollars. He has played a huge role in the revolution of the black entertainment industry. Characters depicted in his films such as granny Madea played by Perry himself, and the ever-laughing Mr. Brown played by David Mann significantly contributed to the comic industry apart from earning them great fortunes (Regal Magazine 2009). Tyler Perry is the first black man to own a very large movie and television studio, which is in Atlanta, where most of his films are shot and produced. His success in Atlanta positions him in role model to many blacks. He is a good example to anyone willing to rise to such a level being a black man in the film industry.

Despite his major achievements in the movie industry, Perry’s stereotyping of black people is evident in the roles played by different black characters. “Daddy’s little Girls” and “Family that Preys” are the only movies not criticized for using stereotypes. However, the way the black people are portrayed in his movies is mind bogging and of major concern throughout this essay. “Daddy’s Little Girl” challenges the use of stereotypes in the society and the need for people to come together and collaborate in times of adversity (Cinema Blend.com 2012). In The “Family that Preys”, the characters are seen portraying a message about a family, love issues, greed, loyalty and marriage, it completely deviates from stereotypes. Characters such as Sanaa Lathans in the play are depicted as a complete opposite to black stereotypes of mothers and wives (Bene 2010).

In the “House of Payne” and “Madea Goes to Jail” stereotypes of the African Americans are evident throughout the films. Characters such as Curtis the Coon, Ella the Mammy and Janine, who acts as a selfish mother and is also drug addicted in the “House of Payne’, portray an assumption of the character of the black people as ignorant and overweight. Such stereotype aims to emphasize weak points of the black people in order to create a comic scenario for the whites (Brown 2009). It is sad to note, that the film negatively portrays a black woman, who perseveres despite being mistreated by her husband, the film is accepted by most audiences despite pushing resistance from critics all over the world. It is ironical that the films have become comic relief for the blacks while they used to entertain the whites.

Most of Terry Perry’s supporters are the black people, who go to church as they tend to ascribe to his Biblical teachings at the end of his movies. They are also pleased with the fact that Perry always keeps black actors on the screen. The white characters especially in “Why did I get married” only appear to antagonize the blacks (Bedhead 2007). Majority of Perry’s films are the modern day’s minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were the shows mostly acted by the white people and characterized by dance, music, skits, which were comic in nature as well as a range of acts. The white people acted them in black faces and acted what they perceived to be the blackness.

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They often wore black masks during the acting sessions to impersonate the blacks. In doing so, they sought for providing true meaning of black being to the Americans, who had no idea of the black people by virtue of their geographical positions and little contact with them (Douglas and Twain 1951). The black people were depicted in those plays as lazy and superstitious. However, the fight against racism led to an end of the minstrel shows. The shows had strong aspects of the degree of racisms as it provided the white Americans with a scenario of what really the Black American culture was (Minstrel Show 2012). Minstrel companies mostly hired the black people, that is why, the African-Americans thereby emphasizing the fact that they are the only people, who found delight in the black song and dance due to their ethnicity (Mahar 1999 pg 192).

Television and films greatly contributed to the stereotyping of the African-Americans. This is because they are powerful channels of information which have a great impact on how people view the world and how they understand the differences in the world.

An Interactive History of Blacks and the Americans Films by Donald Bogle gives an analysis of how the black people were portrayed in the various films as good blacks, who does everything expected in a submissive manner. He is, however, degrading, but he will never at any point turn to the white people. The Coons are depicted as being lazy, crazy and good for nothing as they spend most of their time eating, stealing, shooting and killing the American- English language. Malattos are fair skinny women, who are tragic and live as white people though they have an element of black blood which flows in their veins. Mammies are independent in their affairs while Bucks is a representative of the harsh black man, who is out there to cause violence (Continum New York 1992).

In the first episode of ‘House of Payne’, Bully and the Beast, Curtis main bother is the number of visitors coming to his house including his son, who is in college called Calvin, his nephew CJ and the rest of his entire family. CJ’s son always complains about a bully in their school, who steals his lunch, and therefore, he is afraid to go to school. Curtis decides to go to the school only to find that the bully of his nephew’s son is in fact a girl, Nikki. Curtis later meets Nikki’s foster mother Madea and the principal of the school suggests that the two, Nikki and CJ study together but Curtis and Madea are not happy about this decision by the principle.

In the entire film however, the main characters are married couple, who are Curtis and Ella Payne. Ella is a complete opposite of the mummy in Donald Bogle analogue, as she is depicted as a very dark, overweight great cook. She also creates a bond that holds the family religion together. Ella’s character attracts admiration from everyone and she is seen as putting Curtis in his place whenever he gets irritated.

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Terry Perry assets that his films are normally acted by people who depict characters based on real-life people. Most of Perry’s work is based on the experiences he went through as he grew up. However critics like Spike Lee and Idris Elba point out that a time has come for Terry Perry’s film to alleviate from using characters that are satirical in nature.

In the “Madea Goes to Jail’ film, Madea is portrayed as going to town wearing housecoats, socks that are up to his knees and silver wig which is quite entertaining to the viewers. Madea is not portrayed as dealing with threats calmly. The way Madea is portrayed in the film depicts the stereotype of the black men being masculine and therefore affects the perception of the people watching the film about black people.

This has a profound effect on how the black people are treated by the media and in our everyday culture. In the film, Madea is portrayed as a senseless grandmother, who will not at any time put up with anyone, who challenges her. She is described as a violent and aggressive personality. She can even point out a gun at anyone, who threatens her family. He portrays the character of mammy having masculine qualities. He depicts a stereotype that continues to damage the muscularity of the black man perception. It is good to note that the movie was followed by coming “to throne’ of the first Black-American president for the U.S though is not a justification of the stereotyping by Perry.

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