Tyler Perry’s seventh iteration of his Madea franchise hits theaters today, this time featuring the ghetto granny as a safe house host in Madea’s Witness Protection. Unsurprisingly critics remain unimpressed by Perry’s work, but no matter — for Tyler Perry, any press is good press.
Though loved by fans, and widely popular with black female audiences, there remains a strong subset of Perry haters who dislike his work and the stereotypes they perpetuate in society. Madea is by far the most loathed of his characters, a drag version of the outrageously sassy Mamie that educated black folk have grown to detest. Critics most likely wouldn’t have anything nice to say, thus explaining why Perry didn’t screen “Madea’s Witness Protection” to anyone they felt would be unkind. Nor anyone who write reviews for that matter – as of last night, few reviews could be found online for the movie at all.
Perry has steeled himself from the critics not only physically, but monetarily – it’s hard to hear the haters past the piles of money that roll in every time another Perry feature hits the big screen. No, it seems the critics embolden him, Madea becoming more outrageous with each film. In Witness Protection, Madea plays safe house host to a white family in the witness protection program falsely accused of running a Ponzi scheme. Why a woman who has served time in jail is now viewed as a trusted friend to the FBI should be ignored – we all know Perry has only ever been after cheap laughs, so suspend any notion of logic here.
Perry knows, like all his films, critics will hate it. He implored fans via his website to turn out for this film, explaining “You would think that by now I wouldn’t have to fight to release a movie… but I do,” and encouraging them to take their “family, friends, social and church groups to see Madea’s Witness Protection this weekend.”
Bemoan the fight as he may, the reality is that Perry benefits from the negative press. It’s publicity, and as the saying goes, all press is good press. The controversy is good for ticket sales, prompting the curious to theater seats to see what’s the hype, and keeping his rabid fans active in their defense of his work. Tickets sell steadily and he gets to count the money, despite detractors’ vitriol.
Madea’s Witness Protection indicates that not only is Perry thriving, he’s angling to expand his audience. Why else would he for the first time cast white actors in starring roles of a Madea film if not to attract their white fans as well? Not that Eugene Levy and Denise Richards are exactly box office superstars, but having their smiling faces of the promo posters across America might catch the eye of a few moviegoers who previously never considered seeing a Madea film.
Not only that, but Witness Protection marks Perry’s first summer opening, a season which is usually reserved for the box office blockbusters that command big Hollywood names, budgets and profits. Perry is obviously angling for a bigger slice of the Hollywood pie, undaunted by the competitive summer season and the naysayers.
And so, on this eve of another projected $25 million box office weekend, no doubt Perry is thankful for his critics and detractors – they keep the press writing about him, enhancing his brand and energizing his fan base.