Yes. I, the Queen of Side-Eyes and Giver of Seats to Occupy, am a Tyler Perry fan. And I don’t even have a good explanation for it.
When it boils down to it, I like him as a person because he seems like a really nice dude. He seems to have a good heart, and when I saw him on Oprah talking about his tough childhood, my heart strings were tugged even more. To see the position Perry’s in today when he came from nothing, and suffered from years of sexual abuse, is a bit inspiring.
I have a confession to make: I own all of Tyler Perry’s plays and can recite some of them verbatim, and I’ve seen all but one of his ‘Madea’ movies. I find TP’s work to be entertaining, and Madea tickles my funny bone (plus I got the word “funegro” from her).
Yes, I’m aware that Madea perpetuates stereotypes of Black women, and so do all of Perry’s works. I also fully recognize that Tyler can’t write worth a good gotdamb, and his stories are overly simplistic and filled with 2-dimensional caricatures of real people. I also get understand that his underlying resentment of black men is glaring in how they’re portrayed in his works. Plus, his issues with homosexuality aren’t exactly a secret. Yet, still and without explanation, I am a fan.
It is with this acknowledgement of Tyler’s extreme limitations as a person, director, writer, producer and filmmaker, that I never engage in debates with people who hate his work. They are perfectly right to criticize him, and I even AGREE with them a lot of the time. Even so, I’m still fond of Tyler. It makes no sense to me either, but this probably has a lot to do with how I was introduced to him.
Picture it, College, 2003.
It was move-in day of my sophomore year, and I was getting a roommate I had never met. I walked into my new room with my mom, and my roomie (TTKing) was already in there unpacking. We said “Hi!” and I liked her immediately. During our hellos, I didn’t notice someone else was in the room (I’m not sure how I didn’t. It wasn’t a huge place), but her cousin (Trussell) was sitting on her table. My mom goes, “Hey!” and she replied and gave me the side-eye. Apparently, she thought I was being funny acting but I get tunnel vision sometimes.
After my mom leaves, my roomie pops in a DVD and I started watching it while I unpacked. To my surprise, it was of one of those ‘chitlin circuit’ plays I’d typically turn my nose up at. But before I knew it, I was laughing. And then, straight cackling. This joint was HILARIOUS. Madea’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” was my introduction to Tyler Perry. And it was thanks to TTKing and her cuzzo (who is now one of my BFFs, and is quick to tell folks I was mean to her first time we met).
That year, Trussell basically became our third roommate because she was always in our room, and when I say we watched “I Can Do Bad…” almost EVERY DAY of that year, I’m not exaggerating. There are pictures of us with it playing in the background. It became sort of our ritual. Bored? Pop it in. Procrastinating on studying? Let’s watch Madea! We made new friends? We must induct them into our friendship by making them watch “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.”
We knew ALL the words to the play by mid-year and even acted out scenes for kicks and giggles when we were bored. I look back on my incredible sophomore year and Madea is one of my fondest memories.
So yes, this is how I got acquainted with Tyler Perry, and ever since, I’ve followed his “work.” But here’s the thing. I fully understand why a lot of people want to punch him in the chest.
Instead of seeming humble, Perry seems like an egomaniac because he has to be to not see his own limitations. He should understand that he isn’t a gifted writer. As he makes more movies, he ought to step aside and hire really good ones to make his work better. He needs to see that he can be a better filmmaker if he allowed input of more experienced ones and took critique. He should step outside of his need to have 100% control over everything to see that he has the power and resources to make magic.
And lawd knows. Every movie he makes now has Kimberly Elise and that struggle forehead vain, *wall sliding* about life. He needs to switch it up.
I am a Tyler Perry fan but I won’t debate anything in his honor. I’m entertained by Madea, but I see why some folks can’t stand him. But I like him. And I can barely explain why.
Feel free to judge me now.