Tyler Perry perpetuating stereotypes?

19 03 2009

I recently rewatched “Madea Goes to Jail” with my family this past weekend. While it is great to see a mainstream movie with a predominantly black cast, I can’t help but think about the personalities that the women have in this movie. Every main female character in this movie is far from what I would consider a great role model. They all have perhaps, one great quality that pales in comparison to her faults and mistakes.

We have Madea, the main character.  Yes, she’s hilarious.   It is understood that she’s supposed to be an outrageous personality, but it’s a shame that this woman is crazy! Yes, she’s a strong, black woman, but first of all she’s played by a man and second of all, she has no respect for rules, laws, or people’s authority. This is supporting the idea of the “crazy” black woman that stands up for herself, but goes too far.   Example: A woman cuts her off in the parking lot and takes the spot Madea was going to take.   Madea then gets revenge by using heavy machinery to take the woman’s car and drop it a few stories, which results in its destruction.

Then there’s Candace aka “Candy.” She is a prostitute who has a difficult past. She is a survivor of rape and other issues that go unnamed in the movie.   She was a strong woman who is intelligent, but drops out of school after being gang-raped by schoolmates.  Is was difficult to see that the only survivor in a movie turns out to be a prostitute.  Can’t we have more examples of women who don’t become drug-addicted, homeless, prostitutes after being raped? The movie practically implied that the rape CAUSED her to be a hooker. It isn’t very empowering to see the survivor in this movie be viewed as the pathetic character who cannot help herself.

There was one beacon of hope: Linda.  Linda is gorgeous and a very successful Assistant District Attorney.  She was the leading prosecutor in the county.  But of course having a gorgeous, smart, successful woman in a movie would be too easy. She is deceitful, willing to break the law to get what she wants.  She constantly tries to control her fiance to do what she wants to do.   She treats Candy as less than human because she is a prostitute and is another woman who is threatening her relationship with her fiance. Ironically, her behavior CAUSES Candy to be a threat to their relationship.

There are some other smaller characters, such as Linda’s best friend who merely serves as a nag that tells Linda’s fiance to just merely listen to Linda no matter what. Instead of minding her own business, she butts into the relationship between Linda and her guy.  Madea’s daughter Cora is a kind, sweet girl who is basically a doormat and is easily coerced  to do things against her beliefs.

I’m not saying that one should not see or enjoy the movie, but as a black person I do have to say that it is getting frustrating to watch his movies. There have been critics stating that his movies carry too many racial stereotypes, and I must agree.  Black women have to deal with many stereotypes held about them and Tyler Perry has chosen to merely reinforce them. By becoming a well known figure, he has undertaken a responsibility. Perry’s race does not excuse his decisions.  Anyone should strive to provide a balance of positive and negative characters, especially for minorities and women.  It’s a shame that Perry has been gifted with a wide audience of all colours and peoples and has failed to optimize it, except in matters of filling his wallet.


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