There is a rift in the Black Hollywood director community, but the real rift is the same as in the liberal-conservative, redstate-bluestate, Southern/anti-southern divides.
Tyler Perry of House of Payne and movie character Madea fame appeared on 60 Minutes this week to respond to criticism from Spike Lee:
“We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made Boyz in the Hood], people came out to see it. But when he did ‘Rosewood,’ nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us! You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African-Americans, we’re not one monolithic group, so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it hearkens back to ‘Amos n’ Andy.’”
I only vaguely remember "Amos and Andy" as a child. Many people I know and respect that were never racist loved the show. I have never seen a whole episode of House of Payne, but I have seen Tyler Perry portray "Madea" in a video of the play "Madea Goes to Jail", staged in here in Atlanta, and was blown away by how real it was and how conservative were the values it transmitted.
So, it was with great anticipation that I watched Perry's response on CBS this past Sunday:
“I would love to read that [criticism] to my fan base. All these characters of mine are bait, bait to get people talking about God, love, family, and faith. You know, that pisses me off. It really does. Because it’s so insulting. It’s attitudes like that that make Hollywood think that these people do not exist and that’s why there’s no material speaking to them, speaking to us.”
"All these characters are bait, disarming, charming, make-you-laugh bait, so I can slap them into situations where they can talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness, family, any of those things," says Perry.
And it is in the resentment of Lee and others concerning the "characters" that really reveals what underlies the spite. It reminds me of liberal criticism of some supposed caricatures of black folks that the critics lambasted as racist due to the big lips and other features of the drawings.
Turns out the drawings were accurate depictions of the black subjects, and it made me suppose that maybe many liberal blacks and whites harbour personal disgust (racism?) with respect to certain blacks. And this Lee/Perry episode makes me think that much of the spite directed at Perry's characters is based on anti-Southern bigotry.
As Perry essentially says in his interview (see it all here), these folks exist, whether NY, Boston or Hollywood likes it or not. Most are in the South, but many are up north and out west as well.
And for conservatives, they are ripe for the picking to turn blue states red, much as my earlier column on Jason Whitlock's apology to Rush Limbaugh shows as well.
Madea totes a gun to protect herself, her home and and her loved ones. Even in a perfect world the police usually arrive after the innocent are victims. Perry's Atlanta while too busy too hate, ain't a perfect world. But many in Atlanta and elsewhere are about building a more perfect union from the same Judeo-Christian principles that the Founders relied upon.
Spike Lee resents that fact almost as much as he resents non-politically correct un-reconstructed Southerners and Blacks.
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson