‘Temptation’ Outrage: White Critics Can Finally Be Honest About Tyler Perry
Mention the name Tyler Perry in a room full of Black people and let the battle begin!
The discussion immediately becomes a debate over the reality of Black America versus its depiction in media, particularly by Black filmmakers, artists, and executives.
It’s a world so far from mainstream America, that White film critics have found themselves unable to be honest about Perry’s movies.
However, while these critics may not be able to fend off Perry’s fan base or speak on the films from any corner of the Black American experience, Temptation‘s harmful messages about HIV and women’s bodies have created an opportunity for White participation.
Warning – Spoiler Alert
As AV Club‘s Joshua Alston states:
“Perry’s films have been scrutinized plenty, but the white writers who dominate film criticism have offered analyses that, while largely negative, skip across the surface and ignore the depth…
Never before Temptation have this many white critics taken care to blast the troublesome, underlying message of a Perry film, completely independent of its artistic or technical shortcomings.”
…at a time when rape and the politics of women’s bodies were commanding the zeitgeist, Temptation’s implication that women are complicit in their victimization by men couldn’t have been a more unwelcome message.
It was so unwelcome, it was enough to encourage white critics, who are generally all too happy to stay out of the knottier conversations about Perry’s work, to attack once the dialogue moved to a topic they felt more comfortable engaging.”
Here’s a tidbit of what’s being said by White critics around the web:
“Either Perry believes that if you cheat on your partner, you deserve a terrible disease or he believes that the people he hopes will pay money to see Tyler Perry’s Temptation believe that if you cheat on your spouse, you deserve a terrible disease. I can’t decide which is worse.”
— Mike Ryan, The Huffington Post
“By offering a version of reality in which people are either Good or Evil, Tyler Perry’s soapbox may do more harm than good.”
— Louis Peitzman, BuzzFeed
“I’m starting to believe that Tyler Perry isn’t just artless—he’s reprehensible.”
— Lindy West of Jezebel
Lindy has since replied to Alston’s article with “Diary of a White Lady Trying to Write About Tyler Perry,” where she defends the apprehensiveness of White critics who just simple don’t want to come off as privileged assholes slamming Black cinema:
“Perry constructs his own moral code and then punishes women (black women), violently, for violating it.
He exploits rape and HIV as cheap rhetorical tools to further his regressive agenda. He populates his films with goofy stereotypes and menacing caricatures of black Americans and then invites white audiences to internalize and mock them…
History is not lacking in privileged white voices like mine paternalistically shutting down artists of color.
So, sure, I’ve been cautious in my approach to Perry over the years, because white people stepping in and telling black artists how to tell their stories the “right” way is an act laden with cultural baggage that actively hurts people. I don’t want to hurt people. Caution is not the same as fear, and I don’t regret caution…
But then Temptation came along. And it reached a critical mass of awfulness that I just couldn’t ignore…”
With that said, have you seen Temptation? Did you hate it as well?