In this episode of Culture Connection, Malcolm finally breaks down and gives Tyler Perry a piece of his mind. This podcast was inspired by the article, “The Madea Minstrel Show“, published in The Daily Beast on December 13th. Listen up and enjoy!
Listen in as KC and the family discuss how size, money, worship practices and entertainment impact the influence a church has within its community. Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Toria Williams, Malcolm Darrell, John Wood, and special guest, Sean Hill.
For comments or questions about this or any other episode, call the hotline at (323) 455-4219!
Raw, uncut, and unfiltered! Listen in to this Mics Off episode where the family puts a spotlight on Spike Lee in light of all of the recent media commentary about his judgement of the film Django Unchained. One family member suggests that we all love Spike Lee because he’s been our primary Black filmmaker for the last 20 years, not because his films are actually good. Would you agree?
Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Toria Williams, Arian White, and Merc80! For comments or questions, feel free to call the hotline at (323) 455-4219!
So, I went to see Alex Cross a couple of weeks ago with one big question in my mind: can Tyler Perry play an action star? Is he a good enough actor to go beyond his roots as a comedic, cross-dressing cultural icon, beyond his expanded repertoire of competent (non-Madea) dramatic roles like he played in Good Deeds, to succeed in a role altogether different? Can he take his already ubiquitous brand to even greater heights, opening up a whole new world of Tyler Perry murder-mystery roles that could lead him to be more than Tyler Perry, to be an actor of the caliber of a Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington in the categories of thrillers and suspense? These things I wondered. And after seeing Alex Cross, I came away with the most disappointing answer possible: I don’t know. And I don’t think we’ll ever find out.
Alex Cross was a bad movie. I mean, if I had seen it on USA at one in the afternoon on a Monday when I was too sick to go to work and too bedridden to do anything but watch day time television, it would have been passable. But having spent twenty dollars on me and my wife’s tickets I left the theater struggling to think of some justification to ask for a refund. Alex Cross is supposed to be a detective known for piercing insight, an almost unfailing ability to perceive subtle details in mysteries and crimes that those around him miss, making him a formidable adversary and a compelling character. But there was little subtle or compelling about this film. Alex Cross is introduced as a uncannily gifted police detective (the film is a prequel to all the other stories where he works for the FBI). His partner even calls him “Gandalf” as they step onto the first crime scene of the film (and then explains to Alex that it means he’s a “wizard,” as if either he or the audience should need help figuring that one out). To this end one of the opening scenes of the film shows Cross in a cuddly moment with Mrs. Cross (played by the enchanting English actress Carmen Ejogo) where he deduces everything she had done that day by looking at her lipstick, observing the vague marks on her clothes, smelling her perfume, etc. It’s the old Sherlock Holmes routine of course, which would have been fine if it were not the most clever thing Alex Cross did in the entire film. The mystery itself is simple and boring, complete with a killer who leaves pictures at his crime scenes containing clues as to his next victims (they call him “Picasso“) and a wealthy (*spoiler alert*) potential victim of the killer who winds up having been his financier the whole time…(not surprising given that there are literally no other characters in the film who might possibly be the mastermind behind Picasso’s killings, making what was supposed to be a surprise a flat anti-climax).
Worse still however was so much of the dialogue. Most of it was forced. Cross’s monologue to his partner and chief of police (played by John C. McGinley of Scrubs fame; an odd choice for a film that was already at risk of not being taken seriously because of it’s lead actor) analyzing the psychology and the motives of their killer is awkwardly timed and riddled with cliches. His first conversation with the killer (which immediately precedes the most ridiculous sequence of events in the film, which I will leave unspoiled for those who still wish to see it) devolves into a boring and obnoxious exchange alternating between him trying lamely to psychoanalyze Picasso, bragging about his own skill as a detective and then throwing a tantrum, all of which leave the character looking unsophisticated and unimpressive (granted this is supposed to be Cross before he becomes the Alex Cross but his behavior is totally at odds with the way his character is introduced). Other parts of the dialogue just weren’t realistic, not because of the way they were acted, but because the dialogues themselves were nonsensical. Towards the beginning of the film Cross reveals to his partner that he’s been offered a job with the FBI, that comes with a 35% pay raise and a comfortable station behind a desk (hinting at his later station with the FBI). But he’s afraid to tell his wife about this because he knows she won’t like the idea (which a little later she doesn’t). What is the problem that arises when they have the conversation? Despite the fact that her husband would be making a lot more money and, more importantly, would no longer be getting shot at in the line of duty working dangerous city streets, she doesn’t want him to take the job because she doesn’t want to take their kids out of their school in, of all places, Detroit. Yeah, not a realistic conversation.
The film has one redeeming point however; small roles by Jean Reno and Cicely Tyson, great actors, don’t do much to make the film any better, but Matthew Fox actually plays a magnificent villain as Picasso. It doesn’t save the movie, but to the extent that it is watchable it is because the films antagonist actually does manage to be authentically creepy, sadistic and frightening.
But what about Tyler himself? I can’t say that he did poorly, because the film was so poorly written it is hard to know whether it was Perry’s acting or bad scripting that was the problem. He certainly isn’t able to lift this script up, but perhaps with better lines he might have been pushed into really discovering an authentic Alex Cross character. Maybe. But unless Perry is willing to gamble with his own resources to take another shot at it, I doubt anyone else will put up the money to give him another chance.
Finally folks, our 2012 podcast season is up and running! Thank you kindly for your patience. Listen in as KC and the family discuss the films Red Tails, The Help, and Good Deeds and the challenges that exist in the film industry for black filmmakers, black actors, and black moviegoers. Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Toria Williams, Tash Moseley, John and Triawna Wood, DJ A-ski, Porsche Taylor, and Craig Stewart. This episode also include a special guest segment with Mr. Player Hater. Enjoy!
When asked about some of Madea’s traits being perceived as negative, Perry responded, “Spike Lee can go straight to hell and all y’all can print that,”.
“I’m sick and tired of him talking about me … saying this [Madea] is a coon and a buffoon. Talking about Black people going to see movies … he says, ‘You vote by what you see,’ as if Black people don’t know what they want to see. I’m sick of him. He talks about Whoopi [Goldberg], Oprah, me, Clint Eastwood. He needs to shut the hell up.
“Let me make it perfectly clear to everyone, especially Black people: You never see Jewish people attack ‘Seinfeld’ and say this is a stereotype … you never see Italian people attack ‘The Sopranos.’ There was no complaining about ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ or Dustin Hoffman in ‘Tootsie.’
“You never saw it … it’s always Black people and it’s something I can’t undo. I’m sick of it … it comes from us. We don’t have to worry about everyone else trying to destroy us and take shots, because we do it to ourselves.”
I can’t front – the BI fam are harsh critics of the product Perry puts out – though we admire his entrepreneurship and self-directedness, many of his characters are caricatures of Black stereotypes. However, when we critique him, is that a sign of “crab in a barrel” syndrome? Should we just let the brother continue to do him and not express how it makes us feel? Should all of us, Spike Lee included, shut the hell up? Or is Perry in denial about the lasting effect his films will have on our community?
Listen in to a roundtable discussion as KC and the family discuss the emasculation of Black male comedians in film. Podcast guests include DJ A-ski, Toria Williams, Mike Eagle, Malcom Darrell, Jamila Farwell, and Darius Gray.
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.