Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Catch A Vibe with Tyler Perry & VOTE in the 2010 Weblog Awards ...

Tyler Perry Introduces His Brand to UK Audiences ...

At first I didn’t believe it!
“You what?”
“Tyler Perry and Janet Jackson… in Brixton?”

In May, Tyler Perry and Ms Jackson (If You’re Nasty), attended a special screening of Tyler Perry’s latest film Why Did I Get Married Too? at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. It appears that Tyler Perry is gearing himself up to become an international household name, as UK cinema audiences will experience their first ever Tyler Perry production on the big screen, when the film receives its UK theatrical release on 3rd September.  To mark this event, Lionsgate will release three of Perry’s most successful films on 23rd August and each DVD will feature a Buy One Get One Free cinema ticket offer.  The films scheduled for DVD release include Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion and of course Why Did I Get Married?

Within the last five years Tyler Perry has emerged as a key Hollywood player.  In 2009 Forbes magazine ranked him as the sixth highest-paid man in Hollywood, which is not surprising as he is currently working on his tenth film project For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, due to be released in 2011.  Do the maths: ten commercially successful films in five years, equals one multi-millionaire film-maker.  Perry’s multi-media empire also includes a novel, two television shows and twelve plays.
Theatre was the birth place of Perry’s creativity and it is his hugely successful career as a playwright that launched his rise to super stardom.  The Tyler Perry brand is a cash cow and the man is almost single-handedly keeping black actors in Hollywood gainfully employed. Tyler Perry made history in 2008 when he opened Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta GA, the first major African-American owned television and film studio in the USA. In short, Tyler Perry is re-writing the rules in Hollywood and mystifying his critics.

Tyler Perry has managed to secure a sizeable fan base within the African American demographic by echoing Christian values through his work and using larger than life characters (namely Mabel Simmons, affectionately known as Madea played by Tyler Perry himself) to provide comic relief for serious issues such as domestic violence, drug addiction and infidelity.

Tyler Perry as Madea
Perry has received harsh criticism for his work with some citing that his material reinforces negative stereotypes of African Americans; his characters are one dimensional and the story lines predictable. Variety Magazine described the Madea character in the film Madea Goes to Jail as “almost impossibly grating. Maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but Madea crosses over to full-scale obnoxiousness too often here. On at least two occasions, her self-indulgent tantrums suggest the screechings of a sociopath”.  In 2009 Spike Lee described Tyler Perry’s work as “coonery and buffoonery” in a recorded interview with Ed Gordon at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference.

However these criticisms cannot take away from the fact that all of Tyler Perry’s films (bar one) have opened at either number one or two at the US box office, generating revenues of over $400 million. Tyler Perry’s success is rooted in the fact that he understands his audience. Those that gravitate towards his films tend to be African-American adults, a demographic which equates to approximately 30 million potential box office ticket sales. Compared with 1 million Black Britons living in the UK it is clear to see why the Tyler Perry dream could not be realised in the UK. Say what you want about his films, the laws of supply and demand are clear and Tyler Perry is giving his audience exactly what they want and he shows no signs of stopping with two more films due to be released in 2011.

Tyler Perry with Janet Jackson and Jill Scott, stars of Why Did I Get Married/Too

When criticizing Tyler Perry this adage rings true: “You can’t please all the people, all the time”.  While many respect his business acumen and are inspired by his rags to riches tale, it is impossible to ignore the fact that his films lack depth and creativity.  This writer was curious to know what the general public had to say about Tyler Perry and his films, so posed a simple question: “What are your thoughts on Tyler Perry?”

“I’m happy to see a successful black film-maker, but it’s hard to be proud of an artist whose output is so unspeakably lacklustre.” – Natalie (London, UK)
“Tyler Perry is a black man who has picked up the gauntlet from Spike Lee and put black film back on the Hollywood map. He’s the dude who’s got white film execs sitting around, scratching their heads wondering how they missed a trick because the returns on Perry’s positive black stories are so much more on than the takings on the shoot-em-up Boyz In The Hoods.” – Shade (London, UK)

“Same movie different title.” – Ian (Georgia, USA)

“I don’t know who Tyler Perry is.” – Rachel (London, UK)

“I doubt there’s anyone more powerful in Black American popular culture right now than Oprah and Tyler Perry. You don’t have to love him but he’s opening doors, getting people paid work and building freaking studios. It doesn’t get bigger than that.” – Fola (London, UK)

“Great personal story of rags to riches. Great role model, visionary and entrepreneur. His story lines are about real life situations happening in the black community. There is someone we can familiarise with in most of his scripts. The live shows have awesome talent and I can’t wait until there is a production over here in the UK because I will be the first to buy a ticket” – Rachel (Middlesex, UK)

“Tyler Perry is a great man who is doing his thing. He’s a great [screenwriter] and is very humble. I love his work.” – Daten (Virginia, USA)

“Tyler Perry is another black man in drag that caters to black, Christian, church-going women. I give the man props for creating movies showing middle class black families and situations but shame on him for perpetuating coonish stereotypes (a la Meet the Browns and House of Payne) while also pushing the black effeminate male stereotype.” – Marshall (Washington DC, USA)

It is evident that Tyler Perry generates mixed emotions from audiences here and in the USA, in closing Richard from Virgina responded with thoughts inspired by Hollywood actors Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson:

“Last Thursday, I listened to an interview of Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar Award winner from the film Officer and a Gentleman, who also played Fiddler in Roots. He talked about the fact that he won the top achievement in Hollywood, while the very next year, he could not get a job in Tinsel town. Despite busting his a*s, he watched as other white actors with less acclaim moved on to prized roles. He also discussed the lack of opportunity in recent years and his comment was very simple, “Thank God for Tyler Perry”. These were the same words I heard from Cicely Tyson. Perry has destroyed the Hollywood notion regarding Blockbuster potential for Black films and positive Black films at that. The unspoken reality is that he has also directly challenged white Jewish total control and profit from Black talent in Hollywood, though distribution still remains – for now. He has syndicated shows in record time, helped Katrina survivors, employed Black actors, as well as behind-the-scenes talent. The brother bought his own studio from Delta Airlines! Beyond the pontificating about the ‘Chitlin Circuit’, alleged buffoonery, and gender based inquisition, those distractions pale next to a glaring simple truth: Tyler Perry is Black Empowerment. He represents independence as well as genius. My response is that I echo Gossett, Tyson and young breakthrough actors in the refrain, “Thank God for Tyler Perry”. Now, if we are not afraid to succeed, can we follow his example?”

“Diary of a Mad Black Woman”,

“Madea’s Family Reunion”and 

“Why Did I Get Married?” 

are available on DVD from 23rd August.

CATCH A VIBE have 2 sets of the 3 DVDS up for grabs! Click here for a chance to win! (Ends Monday 30 August, 6pm)

Tyler Perry Studios

Tyler Perry Filmography

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) – Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $5.5 million
Gross revenue $50.6 million
Opened at #1 at the US box office

Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $6 million
Gross revenue $63.3 million
Opened at #1 at the US box office

Daddy’s Little Girls (2007) – Director, Writer, Producer
Budget $10 million
Gross revenue $31.1 million
Opened at #5 at the US box office

Why Did I Get Married? (2007) – Director,Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $15 million
Gross revenue $55.9 million
Opened at #1 at the US box office

Meet the Browns (2008) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $20 million
Gross revenue $42.0 million
Opened at #2 at the US box office
The Family That Preys (2008) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget (unknown)
Gross revenue $37.1 million
Opened at #2 at the US box office

Madea Goes to Jail (2009) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $17.5 million
Gross revenue $90.5 million
Opened at #1 at the US box office

I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $19 million
Gross revenue $51.7 million
Opened at #1 at the US box office

Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Budget $20 million
Gross revenue $60.1 million
Opened a #2 at the US box office

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (2010) – Director, Actor, Writer, Producer
Scheduled for release a US in January 2011, the film’s cast includes Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson and Thandie Newton.

Madea’s Big Happy Family (2011) – In Pre-Production
Scheduled for release in April 2011, the film is adapted from Tyler Perry’s new stage play, “Madea’s Happy Family” which is currently on tour in the United States.

Article by: Simone Brown

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