Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am not Defending Tyler Perry But.....


The Blackospehre is all a buzz about "The Boodocks" Tyler Perry episode.  We know that names were changed, supposedly to protect the innocent (Ma Dukes = Madea), but they weren't fooling anyone. I originally saw the episode on Sunday, and hesitated about putting it up on the blog for various reasons, but now that MediaTakeOut, is reporting that Tyler Perry allegedly fired his staff for revealing "inside secrets," I really think we need to have a conversation about this.

SynopsisGrandpa wants to be a celebrity and so he auditions for the new "Winston Jerome" play.  Apparently, he has always dreamed of becoming as star. When he talks about this dream to his grand kids, they tell him he has to pause and say, "no homo because what he said sounded gay". When he arrives, he is told to take off his shirt and is offered a variety of lotions to oil up with.  Jerome lives on a big compound, on which all the actors are forced to stay during production.  He calls his grandchildren and tells them where to find some change to tide them over until he can return home. When his grandsons attempt to save their uncle, they are met by a woman who says she needs to get some kool aid.  The compound is described as a cult by the grandsons.

Winston Jerome says that Jesus is his writing partner, and that God called him to write plays.  In one scene, he claims that God has instructed him that MaDukes needs to kiss the grandfather because it is time for her to have a love scene.  When the grandfather balks at this, he is told that he is not really kissing Jerome, but the character MaDukes.  They perform the play and the grandfather does kiss MaDukes on stage.  At the end of the play, he is greeted by two less than attractive women outside of his dressing room and is upset that he did not garner more attractive fans -- so he decides to confront Jerome.  Jerome admits that the plays are all a ruse so that he can get some man on man love.

There is no doubt, after watching the entire show, that "The Boondocks" is clearly parodying Tyler Perry.  It has long been speculated in the Black community that he is gay.  In fact, when he announced a few months ago, that the reason he was not in a relationship was because he could not stay faithful to one woman, the common response was we all know why.   Many view his work as hypocritical because of its heavy Christian slant and his perceived homosexuality; however, it is more than possible to be gay and Christian.  Simply because there are many denominations of the Christian faith that attack the GLBT community, does not mean that there are not gay people sitting in the pews and directing the choir.  I think we all know, that in many cases the choir director is gay, and it is a surprise to find out he is straight.  His alleged homosexuality, does not make him a hypocrite, anymore than Chris Browns heterosexuality makes him a woman beating new age Ike Turner.

 I am no fan of Tyler Perry, but I think that the way in which this episode was constructed specifically attacks him for his alleged homosexuality, and this is indeed a problem.  Sexuality should never be used as a weapon to attack someone, no matter how vile we think he is.

There are multiple problems with Tyler Perry's Work: shaming of women, using Christianity as a weapon to enforce conformity, physical violence against children, sexism, colorism, buffoonery, the treatment of his employees and coonery.  Any one of these issues alone could provide endless fodder for a critique of Perry and his work -- and so the fixation on his sexuality reads more like a homophobic attack, in which the aim is to shame him.

The truth is, any commentary on Perry's sexuality is just speculation.  He has not declared that he is gay, nor has there been a rent boy scandal.   It further seems to enforce the idea that gay men must publicly confess their sexuality because of the assumed heterosexuality that we culturally practice. Please correct me if I am wrong, because I have not made a habit of watching much of his work, but other than the erasure of the GLBT community (which is common in most media), he has not used his work to actively actively promote homophobia like Ted Haggard or Tom Brock.  I fail to see what his outing would accomplish. The very fact that open speculation has not killed his career, makes me seriously doubt that his legions of mindless fans would suddenly revolt en masse where it to be discovered that he is indeed gay, because he presents negative social ideals that we have internalized.

For his continuous attack on Black women alone, Tyler Perry needs to be seriously critiqued.  I personally think that he should take of the dress, and stop the genderized minstrel show that has made him a millionaire, because it is extremely damaging to Black women -- but none of this has anything to do with the fact that he may or not be gay.  It has everything to do with his insistence on affirming harmful tropes in the community -- and I am personally offended by his assertion that Madea is a reflection of his respect and love for Black women.  Lord give me an enemy if this is how you show love.

I don't think by now that anyone expects anything nuanced from "The Boondocks," but I must say that I am shocked by those that are endorsing this. If you can approve of sexuality being used as a weapon, then you better be prepared to shut your mouth when race is used as a weapon against you. No one is elevated by the promotion of an ism, and this infighting only serves to draw us away from our real target -- the end of any and all social isms that serve to mark people as other.