Tyler Perry’s Madea character is a gun-toting, crude caricature of a “strong” (or maniacal) black woman. While we denounce films where black males settle their differences with guns, the media embraces this negativity wholeheartedly. What is the difference between the image presented by O-Dog in “Menace To Society” (played by Larenz tate) and Madea? How much positivity can be drawn from a black man dressed as a loud talking, gun-toting, short-tempered woman?
The common thread among “Perryites” is that they find a message in his works, but most people who watch his movie–young folks in particular–aren’t seeking a message. Like most filmgoers they seek two hours of something that draws them away from reality; amusement. The imagery is particularly bad if it portrays black men as weak and subservient, contradicting the traditional male model.
Non-threatening black images have been a
Blacks who confront racism head, even in a comedic vein like Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, wind up beat down by the same system that first propped them up. When is the last time you saw a Hughes Brother film getting major play in the media? Why is Spike Lee now making “safe” films? One of Mr. Lee’s films, “Bamboozled” was less product than prophecy, and all it takes is a look at the dearth of quality black films coming out of
Recently black thespians Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx and Halle Berry have won Oscars. Furthermore, in recent years we have seen a spate of fine afrocentric films–“Ray”, “Antwone Fisher”, “Rwanda,” Lackawanna Blues” and “Drumline” to name a few. But for every one of those films there is a “Soul Plane”, “Pootie Tang”, “White Chicks” or a Tyler Perry creation–multiplied by three.
Why is there such a dearth of innovative black filmmaking? Where is the political satire (as in “Undercover brother”)? The believable love stories (as in the surprisingly good “Deliver Us From Eva”)? Where are the relevant bio-pics–such as The Jackie Robinson story, or a film detailing the lives of Frederick Douglas and Robert F. Williams?
Spike Lee attempts to answer that question, stating “The one way to change everything is to get Black people into those gate keeper positions (where they have the power to green light films). That’s how you change things, not with Academy Awards.”
The losers in this game are young black people, who are spoon-fed negative images of self under the guise of “comedy.” Meanwhile, films that attempt to elevate the level of consciousness (“Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored”, “Rwanda”, “Bamboozled” et al.) are poorly promoted, shown outside of the black community and largely ignored. This, in my view, is no coincidence. As long as the producers of these films don’t look, think or live like us, all we can expect to see from them is their twisted take of black life.
The sad and simple reality is that the black cinematic works being greenlighted for wide release usually portray blacks as clowns, drug dealers or gangsters. Blacks are a significant portion of the movie audience, and this is supported by the fact that three black films released in 2006 have finished number one at the box office during their first week of release. (“Inside Man,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Big Momma’s House 2.”
Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com believes, “There is a six-week period where there is a lot of attention on African-American stories. The studios have figured out that this is a nice time of year to serve what is often times an underserved audience.” (Greg Hernandez, Los Angeles Daily News, April 14, 2006).
Recently I viewed the 1999 flick, “Whiteboyz” on HBO. It is a satirical, yet all-too real film about a white kid from Iowa who goes by the moniker Flip Dogg, and who glamorizes everything “black,” or at least his perception thereof. (Flip is played by the co-writer of the film, Danny Hoch). When Flip’s black friend Khalid tells him he isn’t black, Flip replies “I’m black on the inside…black is the dope s–t.” It takes a brutal reality check and the death of an innocent man before this kid is jarred back to his vanilla reality. Later that evening I caught Robert Benton’s, “The Human Stain.” Both films dealt with racial denial and the shame and self-hatred felt by many light-skinned blacks, But such introspective and informative perspectives on race are sore lacking in
Films today fail to let the camera tell the story, but rely too heavily on special F/X and gratuitous nudity.
As filmgoers, black and white patrons need to send a message. We are weary of
Source by Timothy Stelly Sr