VIA THE GRIOT:
Tyler Perry is easily the most successful black filmmaker and producer of a generation with seven theatrical releases and two syndicated television shows. Perry has rode the house-dress of his most popular character, Aunt Madea – a chain-smoking, gun-toting, cussing doppelganger of everybody’s favorite auntie – to become a phenomenon. All eyes are once again on Tyler Perry with this weekend’s release of “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.”
Perry’s last film, “Madea Goes to Jail,” grossed $41 million it is opening weekend and ultimately grossed more than $90 million. His films have grossed $400 million in total. “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” – which features Mary J Blige, Gladys Knight and Taraji P Henson – is expected to do as well.
Perry’s success coincides with the increased fortunes of black televangelists like Bishop T.D. Jakes, Pastor Creflo Dollar and Bishop Eddie L. Long. Perry got his start producing plays that hark back to the days of the chitlin’ circuit and that are popular with black church audiences. It was not unusual to attend one of Perry’s early plays and find dozens of buses filled with folk who’d just left morning services.
With his plays, Perry tapped into the black church demographic that had been largely forgotten and ignored by major advertisers. He has delivered the same audience to Hollywood, an audience advertisers have not been able to reach for decades. By the summer of 2007, when he rolled out his first syndicated television series, “House of Payne,” the Tyler Perry brand was born. However, the core message of that brand has raised eyebrows.
The most obvious criticism comes from those uncomfortable with Perry’s drag performance of Madea, arguing that the boisterous and decidedly “ghetto” Madea was little more than a contemporary riff on the blackface minstrelsy of the early 20th-century, where black performers “blackened up” – literally and figuratively – for the delight of white audiences.