Earlier this year, the legendary Spike Lee made some comments about Tyler Perry
, referencing some of the playwright's work as a minstrel show. Sunday night on 60 Minutes
, Tyler Perry took on Lee's criticism. Perry said:
"I would love to read that [criticism] to my fan base. All these characters of mine are bait, bait to get people talking about God, love, family, and faith. You know, that pisses me off. It really does. Because it's so insulting. It's attitudes like that that make Hollywood think that these people do not exist and that's why there's no material speaking to them, speaking to us.
Just to be fair, Spike Lee's quote also read:
"We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made Boyz in the Hood], people came out to see it. But when he did
Rosewood, nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us! You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African Americans, we’re not one monolithic group so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it harkens back to
Amos n’ Andy
I think when reading in context Lee is giving social commentary on what African Americans support and why, hence, the Rosewood
versus Boyz 'N The Hood
analogy. His comments weren't directly about Tyler Perry, and Lee has certainly paid his dues in the fickle world of Hollywood. I do think Spike has a well-earned voice at the table of African Americans and film.
I don't think it's unfair and, I actually think it's healthy, to critique art. We as African Americans should be allowed to be critical of our work and shouldn't be forced to love it just because someone is Black and is making money. Hip-hop is constantly analyzed and while Perry says, "I would love to read that [criticism] to my fan base,"
, or Lil' Kim
could make the same comment -- it doesn't mean they are immune to social critique.
In addition, is a character being a stereotype always socially irresponsible? Sheneneh was a stereotype
, but she was brilliant. Back in April, Alfre Woodard
told me, " When people say stereotype, a stereotype to me takes on a negative connotation, but it's built from a particular characteristic. It doesn’t have to be negative. I think of Tyler in that tradition of comedy and farce when it comes to the Madea stories. I don’t think he is bringing down the culture by any means. But, I do understand it's the job of social observers to comment."
Do you think Spike Lee's comments were unfair?
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