Photos: The Madea Debate
1. 1. The Madea Debate
<strong>She’s not even a real person, but Mabel Simmons, affectionately nicknamed Madea, gets otherwise calm, cool and collected men, all hot and bothered. From Steve Harvey to Chris Rock to Spike Lee, many celebrities have weighed in on the Madea debate. What do they think? Find out here and pick a side. Take a look.</strong><strong> </strong>
When comedian Steve Harvey invited Tyler on his morning radio show, the <em>Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man</em> author didn’t focus as much on Madea as he did Tyler’s philanthropy and benefit to the community. Steve said: "At the end of the day the thing that makes me most proud to be Tyler’s friend is this right here. You all do not really understand how many people are working because of this man. You don’t know how many people get opportunities that other people are sleeping on. The joy, the inspiration in the films, the laughter in the films… that’s what it’s about. Every film ain’t a documentary on Black life."
Many fans of Tyler’s were surprised by Idris Elba’s comments on Madea. He’s one of the few naysayers out there who’s actually starred in a Tyler movie. Idris said: “I don’t like all of Tyler Perry’s films. Yes, I did work with Tyler for <em>Daddy’s Little Girls</em> because it portrayed a positive image of a Black father. I am happy for Tyler’s success…we need Tyler Perry…by going to support his movies, we need to show economic strength. But we are also responsible for elevating film. I’m not with buffoonish characters like Madea or Big Momma."
The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network honored Tyler Perry in 2011. In defense of Tyler’s productions, Al described his Black detractors as “proper Negroes.” Al said: “The ultimate pride is where you don’t have to bend and adjust for others to accept you. … He didn’t go mainstream, he brought mainstream to us.”
Former CNN and BET news correspondent Toure expressed his opinion about Tyler and his films in 2011. Toure took issue with the messages Tyler’s films send to women. Toure said: “He’s celebrating a certain victimhood and telling Black women that it’s okay to feel like a victim and to wallow in the pain of your life,” he said before referring to Tyler’s movies as “cinematic malt liquor for the masses.”
Malcolm Lee, who brought <em>Best Man</em> to the masses, disagrees with his kin, Spike Lee, one of Tyler’s biggest critics, in this case. Malcolm said: “I have to admit, I enjoy some Madea. Madea’s funny to me. All the other stuff and the morality tales, I could do without. Just bring me more Madea!”
Arguably the most outspoken critic of Tyler’s Madea, Spike Lee has had little good to say about his fellow Hollywood filmmaker through the years. Spike said: “A lot of stuff that’s on today is coonery buffoonery, and I know it’s making a lot of money, breaking records, but we can do better,” Spike said back in 2009. “He started out with these plays and church buses would pull up packed, and he’s parlayed it.”
Scholar Cornel West hasn’t been harsh with his comments about Tyler, but he suggests that the Black community urge Tyler to do better. Cornel said: "Spike Lee is a brilliant filmmaker. Tyler Perry is a good filmmaker. Spike has more political conscious, but I don’t give up on Tyler. Tyler can grow. We need to put loving pressure on him. So, when we have these debates, Tyler must be put in a situation where he can see the grand achievements of Spike Lee."
While interviewing Tyler on her talk show, Mo’Nique didn’t share her thoughts on Madea, but she did have some words of encouragement for her guest. Mo’Nique said: "We still are in the land of divide and conquer. You both are geniuses at what you do. Imagine if Spike Lee and Tyler Perry got together, how powerful that would be."
The man behind <em>Boyz N the Hood, Higher Learning</em> and <em>Baby Boy</em> credits himself and Spike Lee for paving the way for Tyler, but that’s not to suggest he’s a hater. John said: "Tyler has done what he’s done off of the work [that] myself, Spike and other filmmakers have done. He’s industrialized it, which is great because he’s proven exactly what we have always said—that our audience is so huge and varied that you can make an industry of it."
Comedian Chris Rock hasn’t commented much on Madea specifically, but he’s offered his opinion about Black actors who end up in women’s clothes. Chris said: "Tyler Perry is great in a dress, but I don’t want to see Denzel or Will Smith in a dress, and I don’t think we’re in any danger of seeing that. (The Black community) doesn’t have that many movies, so if there’s only four Black movies in a year and two of them star Black men in dresses, I could see how that would upset some people, but that’s a job for some people."
<em>Think Like a Man</em> producer Will Packer is on his way to becoming a filmmaker of Tyler Perry proportions having produced two box office hits grossing over $100 million in one year. Will said: “It’s good that we can have the debate. It’s good that we can have a filmmaker like Spike Lee who has blazed so many trails… and it’s great that we can have somebody like Tyler Perry whose commercial success makes Hollywood stand up and take notice.”
13. 13. Tyler Perry
Obviously, Tyler Perry is a fan of his own work and by now, he’s used the criticism he’s received since Madea first walked onto the stage wearing her signature muumuu, but he doesn’t let that stop him. Tyler said: "For every time I get one of those blows, I get up much stronger …Because see, Jamie [Foster Brown], this is the thing about the elitsists among us: What we don’t understand is that there is a whole group of Black people that have been forgotten … So for me to do Madea and make them laugh, and at the same time give them some sort of therapeutic message–that helped me get through what I was going through." <strong>Get more from Tyler in the March 2012 issue of </strong><em><strong>Sister 2 Sister.</strong></em>