Idris Elba recently did something not a lot of Black actors would have the guts to do: He disparaged the name of the African-American director who’s kept paychecks in the pockets of actors such as Tasha Smith, Kimberly Elise and Malik Yoba for the last five or so years.
When asked about his feelings toward Tyler Perry’s movies, Idris said: “Can I be candid? I don’t like all of Tyler Perry’s films. Yes, I did work with Tyler for Daddy’s Little Girls 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.”
Idris gets props for living up to the “honesty is the best policy” mantra, even though he may have possibly blacklisted himself if Lionsgate ever decided to do a Daddy’s Little Girls sequel.
Although many movie critics have gone to task on Tyler’s films, while some others hail them, the Hollywood community hasn’t had much to say, except for Spike Lee, of course.
The Oscar-nominated director has repeatedly voiced his dislike for Tyler’s Madea franchise that features Tyler in a wig, dress and breasts that flop around whenever “she” decides to physically threaten someone.
In 2009, Spike Lee said, “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.”
No matter how you feel about Tyler or Madea, the truth is that his movies do make money. He has a loyal following of fans who will turn out to support anything he’s involved in, whether it’sThe Family That Preys, For Colored Girls, Madea Goes to Jail, a number of stage plays or a line of Madea-style muumuus for K-Mart.
One Twitter follower put it this way: “Idris is right but in the Black community, disagreeing w/Tyler Perry’s artistic vision is like questioning Jesus or even worse…OPRAH!”
Another suggested that Idris’ comments toward Tyler might have a negative effect on his career: “I wonder how many fans Idris Elba lost because he called Tyler Perry movies buffoonery?”
That might explain why other actors and directors haven’t said much at all about the stereotypes Tyler reinforces with some of his characters. The fear of backlash from Tyler’s influential fans might be why most of the criticism for Tyler comes from the Black intelligentsia, who likely feel it’s their responsibility to put Tyler on blast.
Of course, there’s also the fact that Tyler is indeed keeping a lot of Black Hollywood employed. Even those who can’t stand Tyler’s movies don’t want to see brothers and sisters out of work.
So from those who aren’t part of Tyler’s fan base, there’s mostly silence.
They’re there to cosign whenever someone challenges Tyler’s films, and while they likely don’t go to the theater to financially support him, they do recognize that he is serving an enthusiastic and somewhat large part of the community, and that has to count for something.
— Tracy L. Scott
Tracy L. Scott is a freelance writer and editor, based in the Washington, D.C. area. She is the author of the Single Independent Sistah blog.