Chris Wallace hits Tyler Perry with question about Madea promoting negative black stereotypes

As content creators continue to grapple with the outside pressures of cancel culture dictating not only what stories should be told, but how they should be told, consumers have flocked to authenticity.

To that end, the wildly successful Tyler Perry had a message for any who would dismiss the people that “made me who I am.”

(Video: CNN)

The acclaimed actor, writer and director joined CNN’s Chris Wallace for the latest episode of his formerly CNN+ program “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” ahead of the release of his latest film, “The Jazzman’s Blues.” During the discussion, Wallace drew attention to Perry’s portrayal of the character Madea and criticism of the film franchise that has raked in over half a billion dollars.

“When Madea…first came out,” Wallace began visibly uncomfortable with the question he was posing, “Spike Lee called it ‘coonery buffoonery’ and over the years there’ve been a number of people who say that you’re playing with negative stereotypes of black men and black women. How do you respond?”

For his part, Perry confronted the question that dredged up Lee’s remarks from a 2009 interview head-on as he offered no apology for the content of his productions when he began, “There’s a certain part of our society, especially black people in the culture that…they look down on certain things within the culture.”

“For me, I love the movies that I’ve done because they are the people that I grew up with, that I represent,” he stated.

Recounting his experiences with his mother and the people he was exposed to growing up, he recalled, “Most of them didn’t have a 12th-grade education. But their stories and how much they loved each other, and how when they get sad about something another would come in and make a joke–I’m five years old, I’m on the floor with my matchbox cars, I was in a masterclass for my life.”

“So when someone says: ‘You’re harkening back to a point of our life that we don’t want to talk about or we don’t want the world to see,'” Perry noted as he returned to the question at hand, “you’re dismissing the stories of millions and millions of black people.”

“What is important to me is that I’m honoring the people that came up and taught…and made me who I am,” he concluded on that point. “Their stories deserve to be told too.”

Perry’s latest take on the more than decade-old jab from Lee was far more nuanced than his original response which, according to Complex, was simply telling the fellow director “go to hell.”

Any animosity over the criticism had evidently dissolved no later than 2019 when Lee had accompanied Perry on a tour of the latter’s production facilities at his movie studio in Georgia.

While he spoke highly of many of the people in his life, Perry also cast light on the abuse he had suffered from his father. “My father often, he sent a message to me a few years ago through my brother saying, ‘if I beat your a** one more time, you would be Barack Obama,’ meaning that he thinks that his abuse brought me to success.”

That, the director reported, missed the greater influence from his mother on whom he partially based the character Madea. “Be he totally negates the love of my mother. And the love of my mother is what brought me here. It wasn’t the abuse. It wasn’t the rage and the anger,” he expressed. “It was her love that brought me to this place.”


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Kevin Haggerty


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