Tyler Perry is making a movie called in my hometown. It’s called We the Peeples.
We haven’t see this much excitement for some time. Small packs of teen girls can be seen rocketing around town, hoping they might fall into frame and rise to stardom.
The book on Tyler Perry is that he discovered no one was making films for the rising African American middle class, so he started making them himself. This proved the path to power and riches. Mr. Perry is now a force in the film biz.
Not without criticism. Spike Lee has accused him of trading in African American stereotypes. I haven’t done a study of this issue, but I can’t help feeling that Mr. Lee might have offered us a more culturally nuanced reading on this one. (And if there is a guy who is good at nuanced cultural readings, it’s Spike Lee.)
Every community that undergoes rapid transformation begins to treat the old regime, once so hated and so hateful, into something fond and bath-like. I can’t say what We the Peeples is about but my guess is that it has a certain nostalgic quality. It may play out stereotypes but it does now that, and because, this stereotypes have lost their force. (As someone once said, nostalgia is history with the pain removed.) So it’s okay to turn them into nostalgia. Okay? It’s necessary. It is a way to secure the world now that so many changes are taking places.
I haven’t done a study here but I got a glimpse of this when sitting in a bar at the Marriott (I think it was) in Kansas City. There was a convention in progress. African American women had assembled explicitly to address this question: how to you raise kids in a middle class suburbs. As every winner of the American lottery learns, prosperity is not without its challenges. I got the 411 from a husband, who was nursing a drink in the bar as his wife and many wives set to solving the problem.
Welcome, Mr. Perry. We are grateful for your filmmaking.