Tyler Perry has had enough of taking flak from his fellow director Spike Lee. On 60 Minutes, Perry fired a few salvos back at Mr. Lee.
Lee had laid the smack down on Perry at the 14th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference last May.
“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!” Lee said. “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 harkens back to ‘Amos n’ Andy.’ ”
Oh snap. But wait. It gets better.
“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and House of Payne), and I am scratching my head. We got a Black President, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”
In a interview with Byron Pitts, Perry finally slapped back at Lee.
“I would love to read that to my fan base,” Perry said. “Let me tell you what Madea, Brown, all these characters are are bait. Disarming, charming, make-you-laugh bait, so I can slap Madea in something and talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness, family, any of those things, you know. So yes, I think, you know, that pisses me off. It really does.”
“It’s so insulting,” Perry added. “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.”
I like Spike and I wouldn’t watch a Tyler Perry flick if I were dying of a disease and watching it was the cure. However, Spike really ought to focus on making his own pictures better (She Hate Me anyone?) instead of ripping on another Black man trying to get over. I can’t understand why the director of Do the Right Thing, 4 Little Girls, Malcolm X, When the Levees Broke and Clockers feels he has to talk trash about someone’s who’s greatest accomplishment so far is to dress up in drag and wave a gun around? Maybe Spike’s got a bad case of Little Man Syndrome or something but he really needs to dial it down a notch.
I have no use for Madea, but I do respect the fact that Perry is employing African-Americans both in front and behind the camera. At least he was. The roots of Lee’s beef with Perry may be tied to a letter he sent Perry in October 2008 blasting him for firing writers in who attempted to form a union. Lee wrote:
Come on, man. Being a writer yourself you should know how important it is to be a union member and support union wages and benefits for those who you employ on your writing staff.
Look at the temperature of the country now with corporate greed and with the very few profiting off of the very many. Don’t fall into that trap.
“Do the Right Thing.”
Who gets to decide which movies uplift the race and which ones drag it though the mud? Is there going to be a board that meets to review Spike’s next joint?
Go back and look at She’s Gotta Have It. There are parts of that movie where the acting, direction and the whole nine are so amateurish and bad it hurts. If Madea puts Black people in a bad light, what’s Mars Blackmon? The second coming of Malcolm X?
Spike thrives on controversy. When Miracle at St. Anna dropped, Spike ginned up some headlines by picking a pointless fight with Clint Eastwood. Spike complained Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers was historically inaccurate for not including Black Marines. Eastwood slapped back saying the film depicted the Marines who raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima and added Spike should “shut his mouth.” Spike shot back that Eastwood was acting like “an angry old man.”
The result was Lee’s $45 million dollar epic grossed a measly $9 million and Miracle At St. Anna died a quick death at the box office. Meanwhile, Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself cost $13 million to make and grossed $45 million. Advantage: Mr. Perry!
Is the answer for Spike Lee to dog out Tyler Perry because he doesn’t like his films? I don’t like ‘Lil Wayne, but rather than call him a “coon” I just don’t buy his music. Spike needs to clean up his own backyard first. He’s made some brilliant movies that are classics and he’s made absolute garbage. Perry is still a work in progress. I HOPE he will make something I decide worth watching. But I don’t need Spike telling me to watch Miracle At St. Anna but not I Can Do Bad All By Myself. I’ll make my own calls.
Spike has every right to say Perry makes crappy movies. I agree and prefer Lee’s films to Perry’s. But John Singleton’s brilliant Boyz n’ the Hood was made almost 20 years ago. Since then Singleton has hacked up hairballs such as the cruddy Shaft remake and 2 Fast 2 Furious, a movie so lousy even Vin Diesel had enough sense to stay out of. Why hasn’t Spike called The Wayans Brothers on the carpet for crimes against cinema such as White Chicks or Little Man?
It comes down to who gets to decide what’s good for Black folks and what’s bad? That’s a job way above Lee’s pay grade and I never got a ballot to vote on who should get to choose.
I like Spike and I wouldn’t watch a Tyler Perry flick if I were dying of a disease and watching it was the cure. But Spike really ought to focus on making his own pictures better Anyone with She Hate Me on their resume should think twice before ripping into another director’s films.
What Spike seems to have forgotten until Ron Howard dropped out and he stepped in to direct Inside Man, he had started the new century with a losing streak of films that had flopped including, The 25th Hour, She Hate Me, Bamboozled before Howard’s producing partner Brian Gratzer threw him a lifeline. By contrast Perry has directed eight films, all of which have made money and grossed over $400 million worldwide.
Next up Perry is directing the first film he didn’t write, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow Is Enuf). Perry has said he plans to stay behind the camera which means there will be no Madea appearances here. The film begins shooting in November but already some have begun sniping at Perry wondering aloud how the guy who brought us Madea Goes to Jail can do justice to Shange’s fiercely proud feminist play.
That’s a complaint Spike should well understand. He faced the same scrutiny when he was making Malcom X. Who decided it was a good idea to let Mars Blackmon/Mookie direct a biography of a Black icon?
Let’s see what Perry does with “For Colored Girls…” before damning him as a hopeless hack. If snap judgments had been made about Lee after the amateur night that even Lee admits was She’s Gotta Have It he never would have stepped up his game to Do the Right Thing.
There’s no reason for Spike and Tyler to be knocking each other in public. First, it’s unseemly for two Black men to be ripping each other this way. It only makes Lee look petty and jealous and Perry appear as if he can’t take negative appraisal of his work. Perry never screens his movies for film critics so apparently he thinks he doesn’t need them, but as long as he’s charging for his movies, they are subject to be judged.
I’ve not convinced the audience for a Miracle at St. Anna is the same as I Can Do Bad All by Myself. What I am sure is in a nation of 30 million Black folks there’s enough of them to go around and appreciate both Lee and Perry’s films. Move over, Spike. There’s plenty of room for another Black filmmaker even if it’s one you don’t like.
Now that we’ve settled that, where’s Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas? These brothers need to kiss and make up. Oh wait, they already did that…