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Spike Lee is Right; Tyler Perry Makes Black People Look Ignorant

Updated on November 17, 2010

Do you think Tyler Perry's work is offensive?

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Spike Lee has stirred up a fresh batch of controversy for comparing the work of Tyler Perry to turn-of-the-century minstrel shows like Amos 'n Andy. His comments have divivded onlookers into those who support Lee, and those who support Perry.

However, Spike was dead-on accurate about Tyler Perry's productions.

People have been raving about Perry's accomplishments: the fact that he keeps Black actors employed, that he has his own studio and that he is the highest paid African-American director in Hollywood.

But let's be real: Tyler Perry isn't doing anything praiseworthy. He's just recycling the same, age-old stereotypes. The ones that make Blacks look so ignorant that people begin to believe that all of us act uncivilized, which isn't even remotely true.

Some people parade this man around like he's a positive role model for Black people. If he really cared about Black people, why did he fire 4 of his Black writers when they tried to unionize? Why is his only defense for the ignorant "characters" he portrays the fact that they exist in real life? And why do his movies and plays seemingly try to destroy the image of the male African-American?

Spike Lee's comparisons of Tyler Perry's work to minstrelry are biting, blunt...and 110% accurate.
Spike Lee's comparisons of Tyler Perry's work to minstrelry are biting, blunt...and 110% accurate.

My Experience With Tyler Perry's Work

I'll admit it right now; I haven't watched that much of Tyler Perry's catalogue. That's because it would take me an entire lifetime to digest that much ignorance.

When I was a freshman in college, I caught a few minutes of one of his plays recorded on DVD. I forget which one it was, but it doesn't matter anyway; they're all pretty much the same. I didn't take much notice of it then, it just struck me as kinda...meh...

A few years later I sat through Diary of a Mad Black Woman. That was a pretty good film except for one, glaring mistake: Madea. "Her" ignorant antics were just too much. I mean really, chainsawing a couch in half? Really?

But again, I didn't really pay that much attention to Tyler Perry because he wasn't doing anything I hadn't already seen. And then House of Payne came on. Oh wow, that is one of the most irresponsible and self-destructive shows about Black people I've ever seen. I only sat through one episode because it was so offensive. I'm surprised BET didn't pick it up.

Allen Payne (pictured left) has been apart of much more credible productions in the past, so why'd he settle?
Allen Payne (pictured left) has been apart of much more credible productions in the past, so why'd he settle?

My Experience With Tyler Perry's Work (cont'd)

I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was literly like watching Spike Lee's Bamboozled, but in real-life! It wasn't even funny for starters. could actually tell it wasn't filmed in front of a televised audience; that's how dry it was. And it wasn't just that, it was the way some of the characters were portrayed. Specifically the Black men.

I was shocked to see Allen Payne was apart of this foolishness. He went from performing in movies like New Jack City, Jason's Lyric, and The Tuskegee Airmen to this garbage. I couldn't believe it.

And Meet the Browns...Oh God. Just from watching that asinine commercial with Mr. Brown trying to practice "yoda", spewing out random, incoherent words and phrases is too much. That's what you call "A Happy Negro"; a Black man that is content with being ignorant.

Tyler Perry Fired Black Writers That Tried to Unionize

Another problem I have with Tyler Perry is the fact that he fired 4 of his writers for that God-awful show House of Payne when they tried to unionize. Really? This is the man people are championing around as a crusader for the Black man; America's underdog. And this is how he gets down?

I added a link to an interview at the bottom of this article with an interview where he addresses this; but it sounds like he's talking sideways, dancing around the Hollwood stunt he pulled.

Some of the benefits of being in a union are higher salaries, job security and mandatory insurance coverage, and from a worker's perspective, I was infuriated. According to sources, these people wrote nearly 100 episodes for that coonery-laced sitcom of his. And when they try to band together to better themselves, he hits the kill switch on their jobs? Come on now. No matter how you look at that, it's messed up.

From a Black man's perspective who's aware, I'm confused. He's supposed to be "one of us", so why the theatrics? He should know firsthand how hard it is for Black people to break into the industry. Oh wait. He wouldn't. He took the easy route.

There's something else responsible behind Tyler Perry's "success" story, and it has a long and dark history, as well.
There's something else responsible behind Tyler Perry's "success" story, and it has a long and dark history, as well.

Madea & The Emasculation of the Black Man

The most disturbing reason I don't like Tyler Perry has to do with the subliminal message that keeps showing up in the majority of his work. It's about the emasculation of the Black man, or simply, making Black men more feminine, and thereby, less of a threat.

How can I see that? Just look at the character of Madea. You've got a grown Black man, in a dress, wig and makeup, acting like a woman. And this same man just so happens to be the highest grossing Black director in Hollywood? Do you see the subliminal message that sends out?

There's a very dark history of getting all men (not just Black) to "put on the dress". I won't go into it in this article. Rest assured it's there. However, when it comes to Black actors, its like a requirement that you have to put on the dress in order to be accepted in the industry. Chris Rock did it in CB4. Ving Rhames did it. Martin Lawrence did it in Big Momma's House. Chris Tucker did it in The Fifth Element. And they tried to get Dave Chapelle to do it in Blue Streak, but he wouldn't.

The Youtube Video below explains this in more detail.

Dressing in Drag in Hollywood Explained (Video)

Madea & The Emasculation of the Black Man (cont'd)

Anyone familiar with the history of this country and slavery will see similiarites between this theme of emasculating Black men and the practices / mentalities that used to plague this country. Some of which still do. (i.e. Planned Parenthood eugenics)

Male Black slaves were regularly castrated (mentally and even physically) to keep them from reproducing and under control. It was a systematic approach to keeping an entire culture of people in check. Nas spoke about this in the unreleased song "Fear of the Black Man's D*ck", and there are studies and entire college courses dedicated to this topic.

So it's really no surprise that a Black man who dresses in drag was so easily introduced into the industry and so heavily rewarded. They call Tyler Perry revolutionary and courageous, but only because his work makes Black men look weak and sub-human.

Tyler Perry may have found financial success, but you can only capitalize off of ignorance for so long.
Tyler Perry may have found financial success, but you can only capitalize off of ignorance for so long.


So there you have it. I wholeheartedly agree with Spike Lee's view on Tyler Perry. He makes us look ignorant. And it's crazy, because people are so used to seeing ignorant depictions of Black people, that they think its acceptable! What happened to good-natured comedies like The Steve Harvey Show, or The Bernie Mac ShowSanford & Son?  Does anyone even remember My Brother and Me? Shows that made you feel good about being Black, not guilty!

It's irresponisble to peddle stereotypes that bring Black people down, when it's very possible (and profitable) to show us how we are: a multi-dimensional group of people with flaws and strengths just like the rest of the world. You can show ignorance, but create some kind of balance, damnit. 

But then again, its always easier to stay fed when you sleep at the foot of the master's bed.

Nas - Fear of the Black Man's D*ck (Video)


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    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 2 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Melvin van Peebles famously stated that a writer/director should figure out what he wants to say, and then hide it. Tyler Perry could learn a lot from Melvin van Peebles.

    • profile image

      HITMAN 2 years ago

      Very well stated Misthaven. Spot on!

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 5 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Tyler Perry's stuff is uneven, but earnest, and he's trying to work out his own demons and make a difference in the process. All these supposed stereotypes are behaviors I've seen in my own very white, largely poor community in rural New England -- in my own extended family, actually -- maybe expressed differently, since it's a different culture. (Quite a few people I know might benefit from a skillet across the back of the head, come to think of it.) I'd guess he's writing from his own experience and that he knows a lot of these characters of his personally. It'll be interesting to see what he's producing in ten years.

      Speaking as one white person who is admittedly on the outside looking in, I don't take Tyler Perry's movies or his characters as representative of "black culture," just as one man's view of the people around him and himself. I'd kind of like to have Madea living next to me, skillet and all - I'd just hope I wouldn't tick her off.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

      I haven't ever seen any of his movies but from what I know about them, I would have to agree with you. I wouldn't even want to watch them. Has anyone other than Spike Lee ever called him out on this?

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      6 years ago

      It takes intelligence to comprehend a Tyler Perry film? rofl

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 6 years ago from New Jersey


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      Azure 6 years ago

      Oh and here's some food for thought. Who makes black people look the worst right now? That would be Flava Flave. Not only is he an embarrassment to black people, he's an embarrassment to humanity period. If you people are so easily offended by something that is teaching you something than surely you should be embarrassed by Flave.

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      Azure 6 years ago

      LMFAO!!! Thanks for a good laugh I needed that. This article is garbage. You obviously don't have the intelligence to understand a Tyler Perry film. Oh wait that's right you haven't watched any of his films but I still doubt that you would be able to grasp the concept of any of them. Yes Madea is crass but that is only comic relief for the real issues in each film. You talk about him stereotyping the black male and making all black people look bad but that's a crock. The movies about all the drug dealers and gang bangers make black people look a hell of a lot worse. You wonder why black people get harassed by the cops? Well it isn't because of Tyler Perry movies that's for sure. It's because of stereotypes perpetuated by all those other movies out there. At the end of the day Tyler Perry is telling you to love yourself and that family is the most important thing. He also preaches about god. I don't see those other movies teaching anybody a damn thing except how to act foolish and get your ass either killed or thrown in jail. Maybe if there were more women like Madea in this world there wouldn't be so many badass kids.

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      Just in case you didnt know the person above wasnt black... 6 years ago

      ^This is the type of ignorant person that Tyler Perry caters to.

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      kelsey barboza 6 years ago

      Hey. First thing first let me telll you alil something u have no clue about ok... the madia movies. Are all about black peo yes and its a damn comedy relating to real life famz cuz if u didn't no black peo are ignorant don't u no that not alll black peo but there are some the don't give a fuck time ready o black out and fight u anywea the loud ass mouth type and the scyo baby mama type just like them old hill billy white movies is life dum ass its a movie but meber your hatin is all gravy cuz tylor makes milllions and more to come aprah adores him he's the best why don't u do suttin good instead talkin crap. Fuckin loser. And he was raped and abused when he was young so he lived all that u should be happy 4 some 1 like him. And them movies are funny best 1 ever by far was the lastest 1 madias big happy family funny beggging to end. It was sad too. It shows real life stories that truly really happen just cuz your perfect doesn't mea every 1 else is. BuckO so stop talkin shit and shut the fuckkkkk up.

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      BlackPride 6 years ago

      I dont get it. I support Tyle Perry's movies. Would people rather watch "Boys In the Hood" or "Menace to Society" where Black people are killing other Black people. I think Not! And I cannot believe that you thought New Jack City and compare to Allen Payne's roll in House of Payne. Come ON!! He is a single father taking care of his children. How is that not positive. New Jack city..get out of here. Its reality people some people are really chracteristics of the stereotypes in these movies. But Tyler ALWAYS has a positive figure (male and female) in his movies and plays.

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      Soldier_Medic 6 years ago

      Mr. Perry movies and every other movie on the big screen and on tv targets a particular audience (Duh). I watch TV to laugh and to support my favorite Actors/Actresses. As a black man I have never seen myself in any of his movies - I see myself in the mirror when I wake up each morning - I see myself in my children as I raise and teach them to become great American Citizens. But I have seen a relative or two in a couple of his movies. ;-)

      (I don't wont to use big words so I'm going to be very blunt)

      I read a lot of comments (actually all) and I don't understand why people are so quick to point the middle finger at "ish" they dont like or agree with. If i was to point the middle finger it would be at those who don't or never believed in me. I would point the middle finger at the ones who caused my ANCESTORS pain for the past three hundred years. I would point the middle finger at every racist piece of "ish" who's only purpose in life is to "ish" on people of color. I would point the middle finger at you for just sitting there pointing your middle finger. Lol!!! I'm just kidding about the middle finger part, but I am so damn serious about the rest. Stay Blessed

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 7 years ago from Indiana

      "Don't be hypocritical ... I have seen some of his work ..."

      Mist, in order to make a well rounded argument, you have to study the subject. While I can only take "Madea" and "Brown" in small doses, Tyler's work is much more than what you're saying. And I'm sorry, but were this critical of Martin's "Shenaynay"? Just curious.

      If you bother to watch more than some of his work, you might be able to make at least a few praiseworthy comments. Do you think film critics want to watch every single film that comes across their desk? Of course not, especially if they don't expect much from the director or actor involved. But they take the time to analyze the work in order to give what they feel is a well rounded opinion. Yes, sometimes the review may still be biased, but I believe that each piece should be taken on a case by case basis. What you're doing is profiling; like when a corrupt cop decides that all African American people are bad, just because of several bad apples they've come across.

      Now, I'm not going to try to persuade you to give Madea or Brown another try. What I will suggest is that you try his Tyler's best work. And if you still don't like anything that you see, it's all good.

      Try: "Family That Preys" starring Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, Sanaa Lathan, Robin Givens and Rockmund Dunbar. A family drama that harkens back to old night time soaps like, "Dallas", "Dynasty" and "Falcoln Crest"

      Try: "Daddy's Little Girls" starring Idris Elba, Gabrielle Union and Louis Gossett Jr. The story of a man trying to take care of his 3 daughters with so much opposition -- lack of money, ex's drug dealer boyfriend making trouble for him.

      Much love Mist, and keep writing

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey

      Don't be hypocritical. If you really read through this article, you would know that I have seen some of his work.

      I didn't like what I saw, so why would I watch everything he's put out? Especially since he recycles most of his work anyway, you basically watch one and you're done.

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      Drew 7 years ago

      It was about as difficult for me getting through your article as it must have been for you to get through a Tyler Perry movie. The problem I have is your introduction. How can you write an 'educated' article about a man's work you have never even seen????? WTH? And that's what millions of Perry opposers are doing. Watching clips and previews and thinking they've seen his entire catalog. Then they want to call HIM the ignorant one.

      When writing a story, especially one of this nature, it's best to at least watch the movies. At the very least, you can make informed statements versus assumptions of what you think the rest of the movie(s) may be like. The man actually has a diverse collection of movies but opposers wouldn't know that because the continue to assume.

      I appreciate brothers like Kevin Powell who were anti-Perry but actually took the time to watch a movie and THEN make an informed decision.

    • pointblank009 profile image

      pointblank009 7 years ago from Buffalo

    • profile image

      MsPeace 7 years ago

      Take a deep breath guys. Tyler addresses issues in his movies and plays that do not just pertain to black men and women; he just happen to use black actors and actresses. What would you be saying if he had an all white cast playing these roles, would that be acceptable to you? I am not a big fan of Tyler, and there are not a lot of redeeming values in his shows, but I have tor recognize that he is using his talents and not mine. Why should I expect him to write specifically for my approval, well then he would not be Tyler. If you want to direct and produce then go for it. I like Spike, but he is different than Tyler and he has not always walked on water. There are some very ignorant shows that have an all white cast that have made big bucks for years, such as "Sinefield", "I love Lucy", "Ms. Doubt Fire", "Toussy", etc. forgive my spelling, it is not the best. Anyway these shows won all kinds of awards, I wonder if the whites got together and that they only do serious role and abandon comedy for acceptance? We as black people want to censor any black movie or play that has humor. I have read a ot of the back and forth at this site, and some of you have some good points, but still, you do not know it all. I would love to see the black man or woman use the same level of energy directed toward changing and improving as a people. Get angry at the black children dropout rate, get angry and do something about the absentee father in the black home, get upset at the fact that there are 10 black females to every one black male in college. Get angry if you abandoned your child, this is where our energy will be best spent, strengthening the black family and getting out and doing things to improve it. If you see yourself in any of Tyler's movies or plays in a negative way, change do something about it. If you see yourself as a strong individual; good for you. Don't be so quick to take offense and compare. the bigger question is, if too much of his depictions are true; what are you going to do to change it?. Let's spend our energy on helping the black family? There is a lot of work to be done and it start with each of us.

      Ms. Peace!

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey

      Find me one person who has never been critical of someone of their own ethnicity. Just one.

      You would expect somebody not of your culture to be ignorant, but not somebody who shares your ethnicity and should know better. That's why I'm critical.

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      lynn lynn 7 years ago

      it's so sad that all blacks do is bash each other. We are and will always be our own worse critcs. What about how blacks are portrayed on the big screne by white producers, oh that's ok right. Blacks are so sad towards their own......

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey


      I never said he didn't wear a dress in Robin Hood. I never even mentioned the movie.

      You get your facts straight.

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey


      So by your logic, irresponsibility (in not taking care of children) is the same thing as being feminine? So are all women irresponsible for being feminine?

      Are you disappointed in every Black man that ever walked the planet, or just in the handful of Black men that you’ve interacted with in your life? Don’t make blanket statements condemning every Black man on the planet to the stereotype you entertain in your mind and on your television, because that’s not even true and you know it.

      Tyler Perry emasculates the image of the Black man in so many ways it isn’t funny. Dressing in drag, making damn near every dark-skinned Black man in his work into the enemy and by just reinforcing the stereotypes that light automatically = right.

      All those instances of Black men emasculating themselves that you brought up are the result of concentrated efforts to keep Black people blind, dumb and ignorant. Research how black communities got to be the impoverished slums that they are, and you’ll see that this was a conscious effort being down by our own government.

      Tyler Perry’s work isn’t helping do anything but reinforce those same stereotypes and ignorant behaviors that you claim all Black men are perpetuating themselves. I’ve never heard of ANYONE attributing making them want to clean up their life because they’ve seen a Tyler Perry film.

      His movies depict strong Black women to cater to his audience. He’s showing Black women what they want to see, cause they’re the ones who make him money. I can name just as many examples of Black women failing to step up in real life as I can men. The Black family is the one that is suffering.

      And S/N one movie that may or may not break his typical depictions of Black men doesn’t hold a candle to all the smut he puts out the regular. Were you consciously “empowered” when the one movie clip that was selected to air from “Precious” during that award show revolved around a piece of fried chicken?

    • profile image

      thereal  7 years ago

      for the person above me i can tell you haven't dealt with alot of black people in your life otherwise you would have not made those comments. does your father fit into tyler perry's sterotypes. there are plenty of different shades to black people and its time for people like tyler perry to stop showing one shade

    • profile image

      thereal 7 years ago

      dave chappelle wore a dress in robin hood men in tights get your facts straight. There is more problems with tyler perry than him just wearing a dress

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      darkswordjedi 7 years ago

      I disagree on many points in this article. How the HELL is Tyler Perry emasculating the Black Man? I think the problem is that someone is showing black men for what they really are now.....feminine. The Black Man has emasculated himself by becoming a kind of man that does not handle his responsibilities. How many black men growing up today can say that they know their fathers? How many can say that they were not witness to abuse by their fathers?

      As a young black woman in my 20's, I can say that I am disappointed in the black man today. Black men do not only LOOK weak and less threatening, THEY ARE! Many do not take care of their children, hold legitimate jobs, treat women with respect, or even respect their own parents. It leaves me to wonder, "where did our previous generation drop the ball?" Tyler Perry has not emasculated black men, they have done it for themselves.

      As far as the stereotypes, more and more black people are acting just like the stereotypes. Tyler Perry is only showing the world what we are turning back into, how we look from the outside. Yes, it's disturbing. Yes, it's insulting. and yes, it's ugly; but it is becoming more and more realistic everyday. His humor may be dry, but it is not wrong. This is how we are starting to behave. The strength is turning to us black women, as his movies seem to depict strong women who rise to the challenge.

      S/N: Obviously, none of you have seen his movie, 'Daddy's Little Girls', starring Idris Elba. That was a movie where he depicted a black man taking care of his responsibilities like he should. And no one, obviously, has seen 'The Family That Preys',starring Alfre Woodard and Sanaa Lathan.

    • bsscorpio8 profile image

      bsscorpio8 7 years ago

      That part about destroying the African American male is "SPOT ON"!!!!

    • bsscorpio8 profile image

      bsscorpio8 7 years ago

      I must agree,there is an ongoing effort to make black people look like buffoons.Have you been to Michael Baisden's web site, It is pretty scary.

    • WordNLipsAffair profile image

      WordNLipsAffair 7 years ago

      T. Perry vs Spike Lee some good points listed!

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      robert C.B 7 years ago

      Im so glad that I stumbled on this site it realy opened my eyes to this topic.

    • mr. daydream profile image

      mr. daydream 7 years ago

      By me having studied theater and being an actual writer (a budding novelist outside of hubpages that is) I have a pretty fair opinion about most movies and TV shows and not as easily offended. Overall, I still think Tyler Perry still has a way to go before he touches Spike Lee's throne. Spike Lee is a more experienced and well-rounded director as he has directed not only "Spike Lee Joint" projects, but has graduated to other entertainment genres such as thrillers like "Son Of Sam", "Inside Man", "The 25th Hour" and "Miracle at St. Anna".

      If there's a Tyler Perry project that don't feature his Madea alter-ego, there's still guaranteed to be a female antagonist as all his work tends to be mostly female-oriented, which is why I'm not as easily drawn-in by his movies. The only one I've seen so far was "Meet The Browns" (3/4 stars), and that's cuz my girl Angela Bassett was in it, and "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" which was OK. He'll play out eventually, or someone else'll come in and still his brainchild thunder, that's usually how it happens. Spike Lee, John Singelton, F.Gary Gray, The Hughes Brothers and other black directors were able to make better transitions into other genres as studios are more likely to hire them to direct a variety of movies.

      That's good he comes highly recommended from "The Oprah Publicity Machine", but Tyler Perry's style of film-making, on the other hand, I don't think has that type of range as he seems to be mostly grounded to the black female/church-going audience. But I must confess that "House Of Payne" is actually much funnier than I've expected, and I know it was a little racy, but I loved "Bamboozled". Some people were offended by the blackface thing. I just saw it as some sell-out jerk that'll go to desperate, unorthodox measures to keep his job. It's just good ol' entertainment that had an underlying message.


    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks, Tim.

    • profile image

      Tim 7 years ago

      Well said, Mist.

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 8 years ago from New Jersey

      I disagree with the notion that Spike Lee is only criticizing Tyler Perry only because Perry is "hot" right now. When John Singleton was up and coming, I don't remember Spike criticizing him nor any other rising Black directors. Spike always speaks out about ignorance, so if he didn't say something, then I'd have to second guess him.

      Animal-ism? Really? The overly animated Frat Guys were like that to prove a point. Most of the characters like that are put in place to prove a point. And if by Boom Box Guy you're referring to Radio Raheem from "Do The Right Thing", then you calling him a stereotype couldn't be any more wrong.

      What about "When the Levees Broke" or "Malcolm X" or "Bamboozled"? These are all critically acclaimed films that show a three dimensional view of Black people, not just the ignorance. I think if anybody has any clout to criticize buffoonery, it's Spike.

      You can match up any character that Spike has played against Madea, and NONE of them can ever compare to the level of ignorance depicted by that character.

    • SOBF profile image

      SOBF 8 years ago from New York, NY

      I'm a little confused with your choice of comparisons. While Tyler Perry leaves a great deal to be desired, I must say that Spike Lee's motivation for being critical of his work may be more about Perry knocking him from the throne. Lee has done good work when directing screenplays by others but "She's Gotta Have It" "Do the Right Thing" and his other projects go beyond stereotypes, taking blacks (especially women) into an entirely new realm of animal-ism. Nola, The Phone Sex Girl, Boom Box Guy, The Retard, The overly animated Frat Guys, the list goes on and on. Spike himself normally plays an ignorant, loafing, redundant character that is as damaging to the black image as Medea.

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 8 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so. I think its pitiful that Tyler Perry's only defense for exploiting Black stereotypes is because "these characters exists in real life." Rapists, child molestors and satanists exist in real life; should they get sitcoms, too?

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 8 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thanks for the informative hub. It looks like you're onto something. Comparing the work of these two directors should be enough. I mean, Spike Lee has been pretty unflinching and nuanced in his films and how racial identity is portrayed in America, whereas my experience with Tyler Perry's work has always left me feeling as though he's relying too much on stereotypes.