Aaron McGruder Vs. Tyler Perry

If you missed it, this past Sunday’s episode of Boondocks took a major stab at media mogul Tyler Perry. The episode reminded me of a Facebook conversation I had with a friend a few months back when I asserted that Perry was a gay man. Her surprised reaction led me to add, “Of course, I don’t know this personally, but that’s what I’ve heard”. In that moment, I had validated a rumor about the man, though I don’t know him at all – but I’m not the first.

In spite of his massive success as a playwright, producer, filmmaker, etc (the list is extensive), Tyler Perry has been a controversial character in the community. He undoubtedly has a built-in audience for his artistic creations, based on the success of his religious-tinted Madea stage plays, a medium several Black men have found to be an avenue of success. (Y’all remember Shelly Garrett and Beauty Shop Parts I -VI?) But rumours of his alleged homosexuality, his formulaic and often predictable story lines, and his sometimes questionable characterization of Black people leaves many viewers on the fence about the man and his work. Even Spike Lee had to speak on it.

But I wonder – is this “crab in the barrel” syndrome that causes many of us to critique Tyler instead of just embracing his work, no matter what it is? Tyler seems to think so. After all, the man is the Black American dream – tall, handsome, articulate and successful. His business savvy has provided him with the sort of autonomy most folks in Hollywood can only dream of, and has allowed him to rub elbows with the elite of the industry (i.e chartering a jet to go check on his homegirl Oprah after she’s complained of having a hard day).

Let’s consider some of the points McGruder brings up in the episode: Perry’s use of cross-dressing in spite of his story lines having a Christian undertone; his grand presence in theatre, film, and television; and his alleged homosexuality. Dave Chappelle discussed the issue of cross-dressing and the black male comedian, and how too often black male comedians are asked to wear dresses in their performances, and how he flat out refused to do it because he saw the pattern. Perhaps, like many, Perry did not notice the pattern – and if he did, saw it as a successful method for storytelling since it has been repeated. Can’t fault him for that without criticizing Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, Robin Harris, and Eddie Murphy, amongst many others. It would seem that the bulk of his fan base is primarily comprised of members of Black churches; the irony here is that the Black church historically has been homophobic, but somehow Perry’s cross-dressing slips under the radar.

His dominance in the industry – well, who wouldn’t want that kind of power in that business? If anything, Perry is creating a template to be admired and followed, not frowned upon. And homosexuality? Unless you have slept with the man personally, there’s not much to be said about what happens behind closed doors. Maybe McGruder knows something the rest of us don’t.

If there is any issue this writer has with Perry, it would be the formulaic, simple storytelling, and his often silly, immature characterization of Black men. We are too complex a people for the stories to be so easily predictable, and furthermore, the immature Black man is a stereotype that we need not feed into. If anything, Perry should consider hiring new writers with a different perspective from his own to diversify his filmography. On that note, TP, you know where to find me.

8 Replies to “Aaron McGruder Vs. Tyler Perry”

  1. OOOHHHH SNAP!!! I laughed so hard at this episd. The thing is, I try to view comedy as comedy, but sometimes they do get carried away with the Uncle-Tom-foolery. His messages are simple, and redundant, AND can be seen as down grading us as blacks by only portraying how we must be down on our luck, beaten up, and at the end of our rope before we can rise up and be successful or find true love( & religion). My conspiracy theory about him and Hollywood is that the only mega power heads in Hollywood are either white, Jewish, or homosexual. So if you wanna say he sucked the right d**k, it wouldn’t suprise me! just sayin…

  2. from Robert Wesley via facebook:
    Fam. You can only write about what you know. Thats all Tyler Perry does.. he knows Madea, he is Madea, he cant stray away from that, how would that look. They have a point he may need other writers to diversify his movies but the shit is selling. If I was Tyler Perry I would be like fuck yall niggas get the kinda paper and fan base I got then tell me how to do me. But Im Rob so I say, dont like it dont buy it, not sure.. download it.

    I can go on and on about both A. McGruder and T. Perry… but Ill say this, White Hollywod’s version of this battle is like 300 and Meet the Spartans… and everybody is happy, everybody involved is getting paid, no controversy, no crabs in a barrel none of that shit… Blacks are too worried about who is realer than who. Lets all get this money, why all the stress about who is writing what? We should all be able to decide whats real and whats strictly entertainment.

  3. copied via Facebook:

    …Quite frankly, and notwithstanding, I can’t whole heartedly say that this season disappoints. I knew to set my sights low after the Obama episode.

    I’m not quite sure where my thoughts lie on this season as a whole, but after reading your editorial on [“Smokin’ With Cigarettes”] I was enlightened. I was completely unaware (no television and far too engaged in my own life) of the real life events that inspired said episode.

    Ultimately, I guess it breaks down to this; I don’t knock the man for exercising his First Amendment rights, but can we try to stick to what’s entertaining and shy away from the satirical plagiarisim?

    …unless satirical plagiarism is what people find entertaining these days.

  4. The underlying issues Aaron addressed were 1. Profiting from the pain of the black woman 2. Lying on Jesus and Christianity to validate our own personal desires & dreams 3. Individuals doing anything and everything to be in the entertainment industry .

    I love The Boondocks. Huey et al. say everything we want to say to the celebrities , politicians and OUR people that some of us are afraid to say.

    It was funny , but the episode with Lamilton was even funnier.

  5. Anyway, I agree that Tyler should be praised for creating such a mega empire and as well employing many blacks within that empire. Tyler has conquered many obstacles to become firmly planted in the entertainment industry; he was abused during his adolescence from a family member and was a former resident of his vehicle. He’s done what many with even deeper pockets in our community have NOT done! With that said whether he is gay or straight, he has given many of out brothas and sistas jobs and given to a voice to a group that is often ignored.

    On the flip side, I do find that his story lines are quite trivial and portray the interactions between black men and women in an extremely 2 dimensional way. Our interests, personality traits, social, religious and educational background vary and are as vast as our ray of beautiful colors. We cannot be boxed in!

    I agree that he should hire writers and create more complicated story lines for his film and television shows. I believe that is why has released and participated projects like “Precious” and others without the dress to expand his horizon.

    Time will only tell but I believe that he is open for growth.

  6. Ya know, you’ve brought up an excellent point! I saw the interview with Dave Chapelle and Oprah and I agree that there is some sort of agenda in Hollywood to emasculate Black Men. Not to offend anyone’s sexual preference but there appears to be a subliminal message pushed by the entertainment industry to encourage buffoonery, emotionally and intellectually retarded black males/fathers and effeminate male role modals or images on the large and small screen. These images have increased over a decade. It is as if the media is slowly trying to break down the strength we posses, power, social and strong family oriented foundation we once had. Although we as a community have done a great deal of damage on our own but the media at the same time seems to encourage certain false or overly exploited negative images that neither we nor our next generation should be exposed to. What do you think?

    1. I would agree with you. It’s all done in the name of entertainment, but it also comes at our expense, especially since there is shortage of balanced representation of us in the media.

      We can’t control what the media chooses to show, but we can control what we watch, and what we let our children watch.

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