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.
What’s wonderful about this post is that it speaks so highly of the cross-culturalization of America. Not to be presumptuous but I would guess that most of “packs of teens” are white. And here they are trying to fall into a film geared for black folk. One of the things that I think African Americans have the hardest time accepting is that they’ve gone “mainstream”. It reminds me of a quote from Cedric the Entertainer in the film “Be Cool” where an absent minded Russian gangster refers to him by the N-word. Sin LaSalle as his character is known has the following retort: “I mean, how is it that you can disrespect a mans ethnicity when you know we’ve influenced nearly every facet of white America… from our music to our style of dress. Not to mention your basic imitation of our sense of cool; walk, talk, dress, mannerisms… we enrich your very existence, all the while contributing to the gross national product through our achievements in corporate America. It’s these conceits that comfort me when I am faced with the ignorant, cowardly, bitter and bigoted, who *have* no talent, no guts? people like you who desecrate things they don’t understand when the truth is – you should say thank-you, man? and go on about your way.”
I agree with Spike Lee that Tyler Perry’s films show stereotypes of African Americans. Most people would find these stereotypes to be negative and that is why Spike Lee expressed his mind on the distastefulness Perry’s films. In my opinion judging from the few works I have seen from both directors that Perry uses these stereotypes in comedy routines for the most part. However I believe that Spike uses similar negative stereotypes in more dramatic movies. While Perry’s movies stereotypes such as ignorance and other traits, Lee’s movies use demoralizing language and depictions about African Americans. The N word is thrown around in Lees movies practically in every scene. I understand Lee’s problem with Perry’s approach on film making but I think he himself implores the same sort of strategy in order to make a known point of African American culture, hey just do it in different ways.
I don’t know if just because Tyler Perry coming to town and making a movie has an affect on teenage girls or that any stereotyping is going on. If someone is coming to town to make a movie then this will obviously make everyone go nuts. Of course it will effect the town and obviously there will be girls trying to get into the movie because teenage girls love movies and I am sure that most of them dream of being in a movie.