Any hope for a sense of unity among African-Americans has likely been dashed today with the revelation that Tyler Perry and Spike Lee still hate each other, a bitter feud that’s been burning since Lee commented in 2009 that he believed Perry’s sitcoms Meet The Browns and House Of Payne were examples of “coonery and buffoonery.” Perry had already responded to that criticism in a 60 Minutes interview, saying, “That pisses me off,” but he further elaborated on his objection to being accused of coonery and buffoonery during a recent press conference for Madea’s Big Happy Family, a film that features Perry as a large, sassy, gun-toting black woman who hits people with frying pans. Said Perry:
"I'm so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee. Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, 'This is a coon, this is a buffoon.' I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: 'You vote by what you see,' as if black people don't know what they want to see. I am sick of him — he talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!"
I've never seen Jewish people attack Seinfeld and say 'this is a stereotype,' I've never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos, I've never seen Jewish people complaining about Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. I never saw it. It's always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a new version of the 'darkie' because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone. And I'm sick of it from us; we don't have to worry about anybody else trying to destroy us and take shots because we do it to ourselves."
Of course, Perry seems to be unfamiliar with the many, many attacks of The Sopranos by Italians, including a lawsuit filed by the American Italian Defense Association, as well as articles like those written by Tom Shales for the Washington Post or various rabbis that condemned Seinfeld for being “self-hatingly Jewish.” But to be fair he’s certainly right about the Jewish embracing Tootsie and especially Mrs. Doubtfire, a film that served as an allegory for European Jews seeking refuge in Palestine during World War II by having an ousted Robin Williams sneak back into his home dressed as a woman.
In fact, that may have something to do with Perry’s confidence that his films appeal to people of all ethnicities: “They go on to say that people of other ethnic groups or white people don’t go see my movies, and that’s all a lie,” Perry added. “I’m standing on stage looking at thousands of people, thousands of faces, with every race represented, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of just laying down, tired of just being nice and letting them say whatever they want to say however they want to say it without people knowing what the intent really is.” So in a sense, Madea’s Big Happy Family is about all of us, the big happy family of America—a family who should just shut the hell up about our problems with Tyler Perry’s movies unless we want a good smack. [Movieline, BoxOffice]
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