In Tyler We Trust?
Over the weekend, after watching I Can Do Bad All by Myself, my sister-in-law remarked that “Tyler Perry is always one step away from making a really good movie” to which I countered that it is more like two or three steps…and that is being generous. Still I could see what she was trying to get at. Every one of his films has the potential to be great, yet Perry’s knack for over stating the obvious does him in every single time. Truth be told, I have yet to see a Tyler Perry directed movie that I have liked. Despite this I think Hollywood needs more directors like Perry.
Now you may be wondering why would I want more Tyler Perry’s in the film industry when I cannot stand the one we current have? This is a question I have struggled with myself on several occasions. Unfortunately the answer is not that simple. On one hand I am constantly annoyed by the same formula that occurs in the majority of his films. There is always a woman who is in relationship with a man that the entire world can see is bad. How bad is he? Well Perry usually makes him an adulterer, wife beater, rapist, drunk, or some combination of these traits. The woman is often the victim until she realizes her self-worth and fights back. Usually this realization is achieved through the aide of a good looking blue collar guy who the woman cannot stand at first but eventually falls in love with. Also, let’s not forget there is always the influence of a few spiritual gurus.
As overdone as this formula is, Tyler Perry’s films consistently make a huge profit at the box-office. Perry continues to taps into a market that Hollywood routinely, and foolishly, neglects…the African-American female demographic. Tyler Perry is one of the few, I would even argue, the only, commercial male director working today who places African-American women at the forefront of his film. If you look at the current crop of actors and actresses headlining movies nowadays, how many lead black actresses can you name besides Halle Berry? Angela Bassett? She has not headlined a major film in years. How about Kerry Washington? Zoe Saldana? Taraji P. Henson? Thandie Newton? All of whom are talented actresses but can you name a major non-animated film that they were the lead in? It is far easier to list off the numerous films that featured the likes of Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, and even newcomers like Carey Mulligan in the lead. Most of, if not all of, there films play to large audiences worldwide.
African-American actresses, heck actresses in general, have gotten the short end of the stick for years in the film industry. This is why we need more guys like Tyler Perry in Hollywood. Directors who are interested in telling stories that not only feature African-American actresses in prominent roles; but are accessible to all demographics. Preferably ones who are far better filmmakers than Perry, but you get the point. This is by no means a plea for affirmative action in film, it is merely an observation as to why Tyler Perry is able to turn out films faster than Woody Allen these days.
When watching a Tyler Perry film, I am constantly reminded about how the first Sex and the City movie was underestimated by the Hollywood pundits. Once that film made a huge splash at the box-office, Hollywood was more than happy to fast track films and television shows that appealed to the modern single woman. The same can be said for the whole Twilight phenomenon. Now studios are itching to find the next big thing that teenage girls will go crazy for. Yet the large number of women who are pouring billions into Tyler Perry’s pockets are still being underserved by Hollywood. Why is this? Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry is the only one who has tapped into a lucrative market that few directors have even considered to touch.