I’m not sure if I’ve made this clear, but I really hate Tyler Perry. Really, really, really hate him. I mean, I’m all for diversity, but when someone has no more to contribute to the discussion than, “I’m black, how about that?” I start to wonder if there aren’t more deserving people to lavish our attention upon. So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover this video, in which one of my favorite living filmmakers calls Perry out for what he is. I think it’s time we added the phrase “coonery buffoonery” to the cultural Lexicon, don’t you?
It’s only natural, then, that somebody asked Tyler Perry what his response to that was. Suffice to say, he didn’t really address the underlying issue.
His central claim here is bullshit. First of all, he doesn’t respond to what Spike Lee actually says, offering no defense of the quality of his art. Second, he asserts that black people are the only group of people who snipe at each other like this. That is false. Gay people bicker like, well, a bunch of bitchy queens. At least one Italian did criticize The Sopranos for its stereotypical portrayal of an ethnic minority, and if Jews don’t complain about Seinfeld (which some of them very well might), it’s just because that show was awesome and Tyler Perry’s movies suck. I love the way that he implicitly compares himself to Zora Neale Hurston. She was a very talented writer. Tyler Perry isn’t. He’s out to glorify himself, first and foremost, and he does so by piggybacking off of the ignorance of the people he claims to speak for.
Chris Rock was dead-on when he said that black people are more racist than white people. It doesn’t mean that white people aren’t to blame for slavery and the disenfranchisement of black voters, just that whereas most well-meaning white people aim to be deferential, black people have no such inhibitions. The most obvious manifestation of that is in the way that black people frequently throw around a certain word that white people have to be very, very careful about saying. There are, by the same token, gay people who figure that since being gay prevents them from being a homophobe (which, paradoxical as it sounds, is not entirely true), they can talk shit about other gay people. I’ve heard the more masculine, “straight-acting” types talk shit about swishy guys because they think they’re presenting the wrong image. There might be feminine guys who hate straight-acting ones because they’re “not gay enough” as well, although I, personally, have not encountered any. The point is that whichever way you swing it, this kind of talk is bullshit. Let straight people tear us down. I’m not even a part of the gay “scene”, really, and I get sick of all this talk about what a gay man should and shouldn’t be. I have other things to think about. Besides, what’s wrong with dissent? I fucking hate Glee. If Ryan Murphy is TV’s voice of gay Americans, I’d rather he were silent.
I don’t think it is possible to say anything hateful unless you are a hateful person. There was a scandal about a year ago when Tracy Morgan said something borderline-homophobic at a stand-up comedy show and immediately set about apologizing. Over and over again. Some of his 30 Rock castmates stepped forward to attest that he was not a bigot. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s good enough for me. More than good enough, actually. I’ve been alive long enough to know the difference between real hate and a joke that went too far, and let me assure you that this incident was the latter. When I was in high school, I once jokingly threatened to burn my history teacher’s mother’s house to the ground. I don’t know why I did that. I have a sick sense of humor, but even by my standards, that was excessive. He forgave me, though, and went back to disliking me just because I’m an asshole (as opposed to, you know, an arsonist.)
It’s time for me to talk about feminism now. This photo has been circulating some blogs lately, largely because, if this story is to be believed, it was not the tender romantic moment so many thought it was, but totally non-consensual.
You’ll notice that I didn’t call it sexual assault. I don’t think it was. I have been sexually assaulted (basically stalking and groping that persisted for over a year), and I honestly don’t think I would feel violated in quite the same way if an overexcited sailor who had probably lost a few friends to the war that had gripped the world for the last five or six years kissed me in his enthusiasm upon learning that said war was over. The woman in this (for me, anyway) still-iconic picture appears fairly blase about the whole thing. Clearly, she didn’t want it, but she appears to have gotten over it fairly quickly. Well, that settles that. Or does it? As one blogger argues, we live in a rape culture, meaning that such violations as the sailor’s are seen as normal rather than a deviation. That may be true, but there comes a point at which we have to start taking people at their word. I’m sick of people arguing that, oh, I don’t know, A Song of Ice and Fire is misogynistic even if George R.R. Martin isn’t. I don’t see how that’s possible. If we’re all just victims of larger forces, then are we even in control of our own lives? What’s the point of fighting if nobody can even begin to understand the evil influences that are working through them? Maybe the feminists I’ve argued with over the years are right. Maybe I just don’t get it. But I do know that ASoIaF contains all manner of fucked-up shit, and while I’ve only read the first book so far and seen almost none of the TV series, I didn’t notice an inordinate amount of violence towards women. Maybe I’ve just internalized the gender politics of this rape culture and can’t see beyond my own prejudices. But I really don’t think that’s the case.
Feminism is not a religion, but an idea. It deserves skepticism and even dissent, just like any other movement. I accept nothing without question. Tyler Perry should do the same.