It’s a familiar pattern by now: Tyler Perry releases a low-budget movie. Said movie shoots straight to the top of the box office charts. Mainstream media outlets and white
I have never seen a Tyler Perry movie. I probably never will, as the ad campaigns for films like Madea Goes to Jail and Daddy’s Little Girls give me heartburn. (I did catch a few minutes of the Perry-produced sitcom House of Payne once, and it made me yearn for the subtle nuances of Damon Wayans’ My Wife and Kids.) Regardless, I have no problem with Mr. Perry doing what he does, because he’s very good at doing something very few people have ever attempted to do.
There is an entire black cinematic world that goes unnoticed by the majority of media outlets and white audiences. A few years back, I worked as an assistant manager at a ghetto theater in
I think what Tyler Perry understands is that a lot of black moviegoers are sick of being written off as irrelevant by the major studios and are glad throw their support behind a film that acknowledges their existence. Up until now, most of the movies that did that were ‘hood flicks like Baby Boy, lowbrow comedies like the Friday series or adult-themed dramas like The Woods. Perry’s movies have had a bigger cultural impact than any of those because he’s one of the first filmmakers to make a specific appeal to black audiences with films that can be seen by the whole family.
It’s the same reason that so many mediocre kiddie flicks do huge business at the box office – a lot of moviegoers value safety over quality. I doubt many adults strolled out of Paul Blart: Mall Cop believing they’d just seen an hour-and-a-half of classic comedy, but that hasn’t stopped Kevin James and crew from racking up more than $100 million in box office grosses. Family-oriented viewers feel so neglected by
My personal tastes may cause me to question the artistic merits of Perry’s productions, but I have to give the man major props as a marketer. When it comes to finding a need and filling it, he comes pretty close to genius. Maybe someone will eventually do it with more style or depth, but until that day comes, Tyler Perry will remain the well-deserved king/queen of the box office.
- Ira Brooker
(This entry inspired by a comment thread at my favorite site, The A.V. Club)