Sunday, November 7, 2010
Madea Goes To College
The preface to my "for colored girls" review should highlight that I was always rooting for Tyler Perry. This is your typical rags-to-riches story, but this time it was a Black man succeeding in the public eye. Tyler Perry's plays were hilarious, with his own agenda/messages underlying the play's foundations. When he converted his plays to the big screen, he had done a successful job (with "Diary of a Mad Black Woman", "Family Reunion", and "Why Did I Get Married?") in my opinion.
Common Tyler Perry quotes in my circle of friends include(d): "You got the wrong one honey", "I need a drink", "You need to play gritball", etc. Tyler Perry's forte was in comedy. He did/does an incredible job at making folks laugh. However, with his most recent set of films, Mr. Perry has tried to drive down the lane of drama in exchange for his comedic talents.
There are a host of positive things that Tyler Perry was doing for media presence. He was portraying positive, financially-successful Black heterosexual men and women (albeit problematic, but it was a presence). He also attempted to relay a spiritual, Christian component that some see as crucial to Black experiences. Furthermore, Mr. Perry's identity alone was relaying a Washington-ian (Booker T.) message of "hope" to everyone that no matter where you came from, it is possible to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and achieve success (problematic).
However, Mr. Perry's definition of success seems to be rooted solely in terms of economics--much like Booker T's. For God's sake, the man owns a private island. Although I'm sure his ardent fans would love to discuss Perry's humility, money hunger is not a new theme in a capitalistic society. (Shout out to all the Black Marxists! LOL)
Perry's latest stint of melodramatic films including, "Why Did I Get Married Too?" and "for colored girls" (to only name a few), have been so cheaply done and poorly developed that it would be a discredit to Mr. Perry's name to call these films "good." Sure, all of his fans can say I'm a hater (and Perry himself can make such claims). But I have supported Mr. Perry since a close friend brought him to my attention five and a half years ago. I've been there on opening night pouring out my thirteen (13) dollars--sometimes twice in one weekend. So for anyone who tells me that my criticism is unwarranted, save it.
Mr. Perry needs to learn the art of dramatic interpretation. He needs to learn the history of media representations (especially as it relates to Black folks) throughout American society. In short, Madea (Mr. Perry in drag) needs to go take a Media/Film Studies course (hopefully a few). (And for those who would distinguish between Madea films and his most recent projects, my question to you is: how do you decipher between either realm [Madea or Tyler Perry "the man"] when both are representations of Mr. Perry's imagination, regardless of gender expression?).
I want to see Mr. Perry do better...because I know he can. This is not about being a hater, this is about love. I want to see him do so good, he can blow all of his critics out of the water. That way, we'll be able to separate the haters from the critics who are actually saying something.
Now, I can't get away from this review without actually discussing "for colored girls".
I am very disheartened that a national discussion about Black womanhood has now turned into a discussion of Tyler Perry, a Black man. This seems to be the Black woman's burden, she cannot be discussed without discussing her relationship to manhood. Furthermore, my Black lesbian sisters are almost completely forgotten about. What's the deal?
"for colored girls" was the opportunity to take Nzotake Shange's beautifully written, artistic choreopoem and develop something magical. This film did address some beautiful themes (unfortunately they were buried so deep in the under-developed characters and plot that you had to search). Thank God for the incredible list of actresses who made this film enjoyable. Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, and hell...even Janet. I will even go so far as to say, I did see some minute development in terms of Mr. Perry's direction. So for that, I commend him. But it is not enough. I understand not everyone is going to be as conscious as Spike Lee of John Singleton, but what the hell is this? If you need more time to develop the film...take the time. We will wait!
As Ms. Shange says, "my love is too sensitive to have thrown back on my face." Mr. Perry, please take notes from Ntozake and all of your fans. Please do not take us for mindless zombies who will support you regardless of the half-assed work you put out. We want to see you do better while still holding you accountable. We want to see you succeed outside of a financial realm. I want to see Tyler Perry become a great story-teller.
This is my story for you to consider producing, "For All Folks Who've Considered Spike Lee When Tyler Perry Wasn't Enuf".
Please do better.