Tyler Perry and I are breaking up. It’s true. Don’t worry, it’s not a mean or angry thing, we’re still friends – he’s doing his thing and I need to do mine – that’s all.
You need to know how it all started. He caught my eye with his box office revenue numbers and that turned into a pretty serious business crush when I heard that he sold 100 episodes of House of Payne at one time. Then he built his own studios in Atlanta? I was smitten. Who wouldn’t be?
Things got serious pretty quickly when a coworker gave me tickets to the Madison Square Garden performance of Madea’s Big Happy Family. Admittedly, this was the first of Tyler’s productions for me to see. I enjoyed the show – the singing, the hilarious breaking of the fourth wall, and above all- Madea. But during the play, an uncomfortable feeling started to slip into my mind that grew and grew until it was undeniable. I didn’t get a lot of the references – didn’t know many of the songs and found myself wondering why people were laughing. This play was not made for me. I realized then that it wasn’t going to work out for us.
He didn’t make Why Did I Get Married, Too for me either – and that’s fine. I am not a middle-aged black woman driving to or from church. If you are, and you don’t have very high standards for movies, you may really enjoy this film, so by all means go buy a ticket. See what I care. After all, there are plenty of things I don’t enjoy but other people do: soap operas, dance recitals, cigars, baby showers, the dentist, and now Tyler’s movies.
Why Did I Get Married, Too is not a good movie but that’s not the point with Tyler. His movies and plays are consumables tailor-made to his audience. You already know if you’re lucky enough to be part of this audience (and you’re not going to hold a grudge if you’re not) and if you are, you’re going to see this movie.
Tyler’s audience is such a focused and loyal sweet spot that he makes the same movie over and over again and that audience turns every one into a box office hit. My hat is off to him for his success, but going to his movies is not how I will spend my time and money.
A pleasurable movie-going experience for me leaves me with a particular overwhelming emotion. It could be the proud happiness of an underdog story, a sensory bowling-over of the latest special effects flick, or even the residual shutterings from a horror movie. But one might say Tyler’s movies are incapable of expressing these emotions. But then again, they don’t need to. Tyler’s movies are Tyler’s plays on a screen in front of an audience in a theater and those theaters will be packed this Sunday after church across the nation.
I admit that I may not be over Tyler (and may never be) but I feel the need to defend him and his work in one particular area where he catches a lot of hell. There is too much emphasis in the press on Tyler “representing” or “standing for” black America. I realize that he, the rest of the cast and almost all of the production team are black, but I see no need for him to be forced into the responsibility of singularly displaying multifaceted black America through his work. Just leave him alone.
I’ve dealt with the fact that as a 34-year-old white atheist, I’m not part of Tyler’s audience , and I’m OK with that – I really am. But if you are, and you liked his other movies, you’ll like this one too. So when you take your seat in that theater this Sunday and the lights go down, say hi to Tyler for me.