One of my biggest problems with Perry’s films is the reliance on faith as the great problem-solver and the salve for all that ails you, from drug abuse to domestic violence to not having a man. Unreserved forgiveness for heinous acts without requiring accountability is not even advocated by Jesus, so the depiction of a daughter forgiving her mother for pimping her out to her step-father in Madea’s Family Reunion was both disgusting and in no way adequately addressed the long-term trauma and neglected mental health needs of abuse victims, a problem which has particular resonance in the “black community”. As a mental health provider, as a woman, and as a human being, I have no problem with the idea of forgiveness, but acting as if “giving it over to God” is all that is required to heal from abuse and trauma is disingenous and dangerous, and dismisses the real emotional and physical effects of abuse and neglect. For this alone, Perry’s films deserve serious criticism. But, unfortunately, this is only one layer of seriously troubling messages and imagery in his work.
In fact, seen through an explicitly racial lens, there is a definitive connection between old “happy faithful darkies whose love of God sees them through all trials and tribulations” films like “The Green Pastures” and “Hallelujah” and Perry’s contemporary work. An emphasis on faith, community, and a certain version of “family values” is not bad in and of itself, but without counterbalancing visions of black imagery and narrative, Perry’s conceptualization of blackness becomes the prevailing one, and that is most definitely a problem.
Tyler Perry assumes there is some crisis with human moral behavior, when there is really no empirical evidence for it.
That is, it isn’t like a greater number of black people see stealing as OK or devalue education. (Though Tyler Perry seems to do the latter, evidently he thinks WEB DuBois magically acquired his knowledge or that all those people fighting for black women to get educations were trying to destroy the family).
But TP et. al see problems in moral terms. You are rewarded for being faithful. God will take care of it. It’s all on you if you lose your job or fail. there’s no sense of societal responsibility. That’s why even though TP would say “family values” helped people survive segregation, he misses completely the rest of the thought: values help you survive, but they were no help at all in changing a thing.
Bull Connor did not care one whit how often black people went to church. Tyler Perry doesn’t seem to get that.
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