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Tyler Perry's 'For Colored Girls' defies criticism, wins NAACP Image Award

Anissa Ford's picture

Many in the African American community resented Tyler Perry's remake of the Ntzoke Shange 1975 theatre piece, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf and watchdog groups are calling for the NAACP to defend its choices of Image Award nominees.

Washington Post editorial writer, Courtland Milloy led the voice of opposition in his November column "For black men who have considered homicide after watching another Tyler Perry movie."

Many African American film goers have an alternative take on Perry's portrayals of black America. Like Milloy, they objected to Perry's ultra-negative depiction of black men in the film. The movie has scenes of child murder, rape, domestic abuse and an illegal abortion. Milloy objected to white and black media praise of the film whether the lauded reviews came from Essence Magazine or the Hollywood Reporter.

Despite huge criticism of Perry's film from the conservative black right, the NAACP awarded the screenwriter's "For Colored Girls" as best film of 2010.
Actress Kimberly Elise, who's done another film with Perry, won best supporting actress for her role in the film.

Perry's "For Colored Girls" highlights the chasm in the community of African American thought. The New York Times, in its review of Perry's "For Colored Girls" points out that Perry writes and creates for black audiences without concern for white viewers--an audience that does not understand Perry's work anyway. The review also notes the question of taste that has come to characterize, define and separate good and bad film in the minds of moviegoers everywhere.

There is, perhaps mostly within certain white collar, elitist, and intellectual African American circles, a strong objection to Tyler Perry's films and its reiteration of stereotypes that black filmmakers like Spike Lee and black actors like Denzel Washington have worked so hard to suppress. However, this group opposed to Tyler's portrayals of black men and women tends to be less vocal, less demanding and a little older than groups that fully support Perry's work.

The NAACP was created during the Harlem Renaissance era, an era that sought to redefine the colonial and negative images of black people on film. Images that swept the world in films like "Birth of a Nation," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and even "Gone with the Wind."

That the NAACP has awarded "For Colored Girls," in the same way that the Motion Picture Academy awarded comedian and actress's Monique's performance in "Precious" beleaguers the bourgeoisie caste of African Americans who consider work such as "Precious" and "For Colored Girls" blaxploitation cinema.

The backlash against the commercialization of negative and derogatory images of black women in the entertainment industry has taken shape with the organization of the group Enough is Enough.

Enough is a Enough has embarked on a campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment and is one of only several watchdog organizations standing up to the film and music industry against the glorification of misogynist lyrics in rap music as well as the glorification of violence, drug use and criminal activity on film and in music.

Enough is Enough has called out the NAACP on its hypocrisy after it officially buried the "N" word in a ceremony, yet continues to nominate artists for Image Awards who use the "N" word and derogatory and offensive language in music.

The NAACP nominated Kanye West and Nicki Minaj this year. Noticeably missing from the NAACP Image Awards for television is Oprah Winfrey.

The NAACP defends its nominees and its award ceremony as a multi-cultural awards show that celebrates the outstanding achievements and awards of those individuals and groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.

Yet, the promotional images of black men in Tyler Perry's films is exactly why a sector of African Americans have rejected much of Perry's works.

Tyler Perry's audience of black viewers is widespread and strong. The voices of dissent are small and privileged circles and needn't tolerate Perry's works now or in the longterm, but the financial impact of their boycott would likely not affect Perry.

The hope is however, that as Perry develops as a filmmaker, his characters and films will evolve so that his work does not assault in one sitting, the elitist black movie goer--- a group Tyler Perry himself is perhaps much more accustomed to and comfortable with considering his rise from homelessness to stardom.

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