Tyler Perry Criticized for Selling Out Black Women in His Movies
It is no doubt that Tyler Perry, whose real name is Emmitt Perry Jr. is talented. He has proved it over and over again by the number of plays, television shows and movies he has written, directed and produced. To date, there are close to 50 of them.
Critics have noticed a theme that is in many of Perry's works, and it is most obvious in his recent movie A Fall from Grace. The 50-year-old entertainment mogul has been accused of having built an empire by selling out black women. To add proof to what they are criticizing him about, they have given a list of some of the movies where he has portrayed a black woman as weak, passive, gullible and struggling for significance.
Critics point out that Perry offers jobs to talented black females. They acknowledge that is a good thing. However, he uses them and actually does them a disservice by portraying them as helpless and hopeless until they learn a lesson. Until then, they are punished for what he thinks they should have known all along.
Is it true what some critics are saying? Let's sort out the evidence.
"A Fall from Grace"
A Fall from Grace is a thriller film created, written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry who also has a starring role. The movie was shot in only five days in December before Christmas. It became the first of Tyler Perry's films to be released by Netflix on Friday, January 17, 2020.
The story is centered around a divorced and lonely woman named Grace Waters, played by Crystal Fox. She is encouraged by her best friend Sarah, played by Phylicia Rashad, to find love again. Grace falls in love with and marries Shannon Delong, played by Mehcad Brooks, who is 17 years her junior. After that, Grace's life goes from better to worse and then from worse to worst.
Bresha Webb plays Jasmine Bryant, a 26-year-old attorney who struggles to win her first case. It is a tough case, especially for the naive, inexperienced, and rookie attorney. Her boss, played by Tyler Perry, criticizes her and constantly threatens her that she will lose her job if she doesn't win the case.
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman"
Diary of a Mad Black Woman was Tyler Perry's first film released on February 25, 2005. The romantic comedy-drama was inspired by Perry's play which bears the same name. It is the only Tyler Perry scripted film not directed by Perry.
Perry's mad black woman is Helen McCarter, played by Kimberly Elise. Her husband Charles is a successful attorney who is verbally abusive. He has multiple affairs that Helen knows about, but she still tries to make their marriage work. When Helen arrived home on their 18th wedding anniversary, she finds all her possessions packed in a U-Haul. Her husband is kicking her out of the house so he can move in his mistress and mother of his two sons.
Deborah Simmons is another black woman, played by Tamara Taylor, who is kicked out of her home by her husband Brian because she is a drug addict.
Cicely Tyson plays the part of Myrtle, Helen's feeble old mother who Charles forces to live in a nursing home.
"Madea's Family Reunion"
Madea's Family Reunion is the sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman that was released one year later on February 23, 2006. The comedy-drama was inspired by Tyler Perry's play of the same name. It was written, directed and produced by him. The movie mogul also played three parts, including his iconic character Madea.
Keke Palmer in Madea’s Family Reunion is a rebellious foster child named Nikki. A judge orders Madea to take Nikki in. Because of Nikki's bad attitude and Madea's personality, the two clash. Nikki had an absentee father, a mother in jail and lived in many foster homes that didn't work out for her. By the end of the movie, Nikki had been rehabilitated, but not before Perry had portrayed her negatively.
"Meet the Browns"
Meet the Browns is a romantic comedy based on the play with the same name. This is the 2008 film and should not be confused with the television series. Perry portrays Angela Bassett as Brenda, a single mother without a job who struggles to care for herself and her three children. Life for Brenda was not easy.
"I Can Do Bad All By Myself"
I Can Do Bad All By Myself is a romantic musical comedy-drama that was released on September 11, 2009. Like many others, the movie was written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry who also makes an appearance as Madea.
Do not confuse this film with Perry's play that has the same name because the stories are entirely different.
Perry uses another black woman with troubles. April, played by Taraji P. Henson, is a selfish party-girl and alcoholic singer in a nightclub. She sleeps around with men while sharing her house with her shady boyfriend who is married and has children. She explained she behaves the way she does because her step-father sexually abused her.
April's sister dies after being assaulted by her abusive boyfriend. Aunt April is forced to become a guardian of her sister's three children against her wishes. That means she has to change her lifestyle.
Acrimony is a psychological thriller film created, written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry. Acrimony was released in theaters on March 30, 2018. Even though it received negative reviews from critics, it grossed $46 million worldwide.
The story follows Melinda Moore, played by Taraji P. Henson, who is a loyal wife who supports her husband, Robert Gayle, played by Lyriq Bent. She uses her inheritance received from her mother's death to fund his invention. The couple divorced after Melinda finds out Robert had been cheating on her.
Robert received multimillion dollars for his intervention but offers Melinda only $10 million. Besides, he is now engaged to Diana who works for the company that funded Robert's project. Melinda becomes angry and hurt. She vows to take revenge on her ex-husband and Diana.
When Robert and his wife leave on their honeymoon cruise, Melinda sneaks onto the boat and shoots Robert. She makes the entire crew jump overboard. She attempts to shoot Diana, but Robert tells her to jump overboard along with the crew. Robert overpowered Melinda and threw her in the water. Melinda returns and attempts to kill Robert with an ax but is trapped by the anchor that pulls her off the boat and into the ocean where she dies. Diana returns with the crew to the boat and finds Robert still alive.
The film received an average rating of only 3 out of 10. Fourteen critics gave it an unfavorable score of 32 out of 100. One critic said, "Taraji P. Henson deserves better."
The Oval is a nighttime soap opera created, written, directed by and executive produced by Tyler Perry. It premiered on BET on October 23, 2019, the same date as Sistas, another soap opera.
The story centers around a dysfunctional interracial first family in the White House. Hunter Franklin, played by Ed Quinn, is the Caucasian president and a womanizer. His black wife, Victoria Franklin, played by Kron Moore, knows about her husband's infidelity because it happens right under her nose. She retaliates against the women her husband is involved with.
The first lady is not portrayed as a weak black woman, but she attacks the weak women in the series that need to be taught a lesson.
Sistas is a television comedy-drama series created, written and executive produced by Tyler Perry that premiered on BET on October 23, 2019, the same day as The Oval.
The series follows a group of black females from different walks of life with one thing in common they are not satisfied with. They are all single, and they think it is a bad thing. Those single women have successful careers but are unfulfilled because they are not married.
Perry admits he wrote the series based on what he had seen and heard from single women in his office.
Tyler Perry Responds to Critics
As one would expect, Tyler Perry has responded to critics and denies that he is selling out black women in his films. He emphasized that he is definitely not exploiting women’s suffering and their pain.
According to Page Six, Perry said his portrayal of women’s pain comes from witnessing his mother being abused by his father. Therefore, his films send the message that women don't have to live like that.
He said, “It’s not about making money off of a woman’s pain. It is about telling a story. And I wish that people, especially black women, would get off the fact of saying, ‘Oh, he’s making money off of black women.’”
Perry also responded to critics who complained after he posted on Instagram and Twitter that he doesn't have a writer's room. Many viewers say if he had a writer's room his movies would not be based on only just one person's views. The successful writer said he doesn't need 10-12 people to give him suggestions about what to write. He concludes loud and clear, "Nobody writes any of my work. I write it all."