Commentary By Yasmeen Muqtasid, Founder & President of Black Women Matter, Inc.
ATLANTA -- At first I thought Spike Lee was just hatin' but after going to see the latest installment of the Madea franchise by Tyler Perry - I've got to shout it loud and proud that "I'm with Spike." Don't get me wrong - Tyler Perry is EXTREMELY gifted. He also seems to be a very nice person, generous and kind-hearted. Don't know him - but from what we all see of his every day character there's no doubt he has many admirable qualities and an impressive work ethic.
With that said, I must also say - that up until Saturday, April 23, 2011, I was a huge Madea fan. I first fell in love with the Tyler Perry Madea phenomenon after seeing the Madea Goes to Jail play at the Kodak Theater. I thought the characters were funny, yet respectable and the message was rich with spiritual undertones on the importance of faith and family. So I was more than excited to see the latest Madea's Big Happy Family flick. I planned for weeks to see the film, purchasing advance tickets and even arrived an hour prior to show time to beat any crowds. I had eagerly awaited this much-needed cinematic break from reality.
However, reality is what gave me a classic Madea slap in the face as I sat through an excruciating storyline full of back-to-back black female characters that were the epitome of the most popular "angry, annoying, nagging, loud, unattractive, beat-down-your-man," stereotypes of black women. The movie depicts all of our worst stereotypes on Barry Bonds steroids. I found these stereotypes to be extremely dreadful and frankly I was surprised that they were coming from Tyler Perry - who I had previously thought did a nice job of creating positive roles for black women.
Unfortunately, any earlier positive female roles Perry did create - now seem like they were just a figment of my imagination after seeing the first hour of Madea's Big Happy Family.
Let me explain. There was the obese, weed-smoking auntie Bam who just couldn't get enough of a high to satiate her appetite - to the overweight, cold-cream wearing daughter Tammy, who is so down on her man even after he brings her beautiful flowers for their anniversary, to this same couple's Robin Harris Bébé's kids that continuously refer to their dad as "punk ass." Then there's the pretty Kimberly, who plays the cold-hearted, career-hungry sister that treats her handsome husband (Mr. Old Spice) with spiteful disdain for no reason. And if that wasn't enough, Kimberly is also depicted as an unfit and unloving mother who is cruel to her sweet-faced 18-month old son.
Really, Tyler Perry? Are black women that bad? Apparently so - because it doesn't let up here.
Byron's character, a.k.a. Bow-Wow, has some extreme baby-mama drama with his fast talkin', burger pimpin', ghetto ex-girlfriend known as Sabrina. She demands child support but spends it on Baby Phat instead of formula. Not to mention Bow Wow's current girlfriend in the film played by Lauren London - who encourages him to hit the streets again and to start sellin' because his $10 an hour job ain't cutting it for her gold-digging ventures.
Did I also mention the over-used "1.800.choke-that-ho" joke - which was not even funny. Thanks to this Perry script - kids all across America will be chanting, "dial 1.800.Choke-a-ho."
If it takes all of these negative images and foul dialogue to tell the eventual moral of the story about the importance of faith and family, I am not willing to travel the road anymore to see whatever light might possibly be at the end of the Tyler Perry-Madea tunnel. For now, we are with Spike on this Tyler Perry movie - this was straight buffoonery on par with Eddie Murphy's Norbit and Martin Lawrence's Big Mama's House.
It's no wonder why so many black women are single and not getting any proposals from the same men that they have birthed and raised when we are characterized in such a negative light. It is these hateful and demeaning images that stain the minds of many men and young boys (black or not) to see black women as undesirable mates and less valuable than other women.
Black women better wake up and smell the proverbial coffee - because they are not profiting from these types of hurtful images broadcasted to the entire world. This is especially true for the 42 percent of black women that have never been married and never will get married. It is an even more pressing issue for our black daughters who are next in line to be single and lonely if we as black women continue to stand in silence and support our own demise.
And why is it that Black women are the only women who have a negative stereotype about themselves that translates into undesirability? The common Asian female stereotype is that they are submissive - but in the eyes of most men - this is seen as a good quality for a wife. White women have the stereotype of the dumb blonde - but this is viewed as comedic first and foremost, and then there is the assumption that if she's blonde - then she is automatically considered beautiful. Lastly, Latina women have the stereotype that they are "sexually spicy" and cater to their man's every need - and while I am sure that most Latinas find this extremely degrading - it doesn't hurt them in the context of desirability among men. After all, being desired by a man who loves you is what most women ultimately want.
Black women are the only women who suffer from stereotypes that say they are unattractive across every dimension. This is why these negative stereotypes perpetuated in Tyler Perry's latest film have to be identified and confronted. As long as we continue to allow negative images of what it supposedly means to be a black woman to go on the air unchallenged - we will continue to see such painful reminders of our silence. I am reminded of the recent State Farm commercial with the black smart-talking girl on the corner popping her neck to her boyfriend. Better yet, if we stand by and say nothing, we will surely get a sequel to the infamous 2011 Super Bowl Pepsi Max commercial of the black overweight, bug-eyed, unattractive wife whose husband fantasizes about the fit cute white blonde on the park bench.
Every single unpleasant and spiteful media image of black women contributes to what now is an ever-growing trend and intentional separation of black men with black women throughout mainstream advertisements and television programs. Perhaps if the majority of the images of black women were positive then this all would not be as much of an issue - but that is not the case. There are too many images on the big screen that still portray black women as despicable and difficult. Please Tyler, stop tellin-this-vision. Black women have suffered enough from media mockery.