Why This Christian Doesn’t Watch Tyler Perry Films

Tyler Perry got Shemar Moore messed up.
Those CORNROWS! Jesus didn’t die for this.

When I found out that my church’s women’s group was going to see The Single Mom’s Club, I groaned. Every time a Tyler Perry movie comes out, my church takes it as an opportunity for fellowship and discussion. As much as I like socializing, I never “make it” to those outings. I always felt too cowed by their unadulterated love for his work to speak up, but newfound keyboard courage compels me to admit: I avoid watching Tyler Perry films. All of them. 

When asked by church members about how I liked this or that Tyler Perry film, I stammer, unwilling to lie. But the truth has always been more complicated than “I hated it.”

My first introduction to Tyler Perry was all love.  His stage plays presented some of the classic elements of Black comedy: absurdity laced with truth and a hearkening to the commonality of the Black experience in America. That Perry buttressed his plays with Gospel music and a thread of Christian morality only served to endear him to my folk, church folk.  The Madea brand bore all the hallmarks of “acceptable entertainment”: no cussin’, no violence, no sex, and the unredeemed singing salvation in a neat bow at the end. I devoured every bootleg copy I saw, shooting up a prayer of forgiveness to God when Perry started tagging his DVDs with “don’t bootleg me, bro” pleas to the masses.

About a year later, I heard Tyler Perry was coming out with a Madea movie. Churches announced viewing fellowships. Friends pledged to go once, twice, triple-checking tickets to ensure no theater okie-doke got past them.  I couldn’t wait.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman was both celebration and swan song for my support of Perry’s work.  Crestfallen, I struggled to admit that I hated the movie. The very elements that made Tyler Perry a good writer of stage plays made him an awful first-time film writer and director. My Black church folk loved it, though, and rallied from all corners of the Cross to praise Jesus for Tyler Perry’s ministry.  With such commercial success, another film was sure to follow.  I reasoned he must have had first-time kinks to work out; I held my breath and hoped for a brighter day.

Nine years and thrice as many films later, I have long since given up hope.

Read the rest at Truly Tafakari!


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