I've always had great admiration for Tyler Perry. I mean, here's a playwright who was pretty much ignored by mainstream theaters, but managed to successfully tour his own plays on the "chitlin' circuit" (now referred to as the "urban theater circuit")—amassing tens of millions of dollars in ticket sales and DVD sales (the plays were videotaped).
Then, he tried to crossover into film. And despite the fact that he has proven time and again that he can churn out box-office hits on a relatively small budget, he continually gets ignored by Hollywood. Case in point? After Perry's latest, Why Did I Get Married?, pummelled higher-profile flicks on the weekend it was released with an unexpected $21.4 million opening, he was offered three film projects—but only after Perry's company initiated talks. You see? Hollywood still ain't callin' him.
Oh, well, screw the theater industry and screw Hollywood 'cuz, at 38, Perry is a multimillionaire sitting on top of a multimedia empire.
Despite having deep respect for Perry, I'd never seen any of his work. Honestly, none of it looked like anything I would enjoy. But just like the way I sat through the High School Musicals so that I could properly understand the Disney phenomenon (and simultaneously deride them and delight in them), I decided to watch Perry's first movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. In it, the writer/producer also plays three parts—including his signature character, Madea, the big black neighborhood matriarch.
What the movie may lack in storytelling craft, subtly, and subtext, it makes up for in humor (Madea is a pretty damn funny creation) and an old-fashioned sense of populism. The film is meant to be a crowd-pleaser (particularly for black churchgoers), so it pushes all the right emotional buttons to get what it wants. And though it's just dripping in Christian values excess, you can't help but feel that it's also slyly subversive—cross-dressing, revenge fantasies, strong women, naughty humor, barely any white people in sight. You just want to like this movie, even though it at times works very hard against your desire.
I have to admit that I really love Madea. And I've been reciting some of the character's lines out loud all night long. Just imagine this coming out of my mouth:
* "I ain't scared o' no po-po! Call the po-po, ho! Call the po-po, ho!"
* "Listen! You take your daughter on down there and let her sang in that church choir! That is construction what she doing! She need to do something construction!"
That is some funny-ass shit. Amen.