Friday, November 5, 2010

Critique and Creation

I am rarely immersed in a conversation that forces me to use the left side of my brain. I'm a right-brained chick. But a good friend of mine consistently pulls me into exciting dialogue that challenges my opinions and beliefs.

Tonight's conversation? Tyler Perry and his films.

My perspective: We have far more people who feel fit to critique, and far less who focus their energy on being creative. If we had as many people creating what they feel is missing in politics, entertainment, business we'd have the solutions in the world. Imagine that every time someone opened their mouth to speak on what they didn't like, they stopped and began actively working on creating what they would like! What an amazing society we'd live in.

But back to Tyler Perry. I simply started sharing what I do know about the man.
  • He started on the Chitlin' circuit in 1992 with I Know I've Been Changed, after investing his life savings, didn't see success with the drama until 1998.
  • Madea (character played by Tyler Perry) is introduced in Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 1999. By appealing to largely Christian audiences, he hits "the jackpot," catering to a community for whom entertainment (outside of gospel music) generally leaves out.
  • In 2005, Forbes reported that Perry had sold "more than $100 million in tickets, $30 million in videos of his shows and an estimated $20 million in merchandise" and that "the 300 live shows he produces each year are attended by an average of 35,000 people a week."
  • Perry bypassed the entire standard sitcom route in 2006 - selling a show to a network, running a new episode every week, and hoping to stay on the air long enough to enter syndication, where the real money is - and did it his way. He put up $5 million to do the test episodes, maintained creative control, and, when TBS and others showed interest, made an incredibly lucrative deal that would allow him to have his show on up to five nights a week from the start. In the sitcom world, that's unheard of.
  • Tyler Perry Studios was opened in 2008, with Sidney Poitier, Will Smith, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey and Hank Aaron among others in attendance. It is the first major Black television and film studio.
Perry doesn't have to ask anyone to greenlight anything. He has a distributor - Lionsgate. He employs hundreds of people at a time. He caters to the African-American, Christian, middle-class woman (i.e. my mom).

So many people criticize his portrayal of Black men, his comedy, his writing. And for people who enjoy reading that (i.e. Spike's perpective, or even my girl Jamilah Lemieux's), more power to them. Meanwhile, I'm going to jump in the shower to catch the 10:10PM of For Colored Girls in its box office debut. It will inspire me to get back to work on We Still Colored and Considering Homicide 'Cuz Soap Operas Ain't Enuf: a poem in the pot and a chicken in the dance - a writing workshop for girls to artistically articulate 21st Century dramas around being black and female.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: "If you don't have anything good to say, make your own damn movies."