Journalist Chris Wallace put Tyler Perry in a rather awkward position on CNN/HBO Max’s “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” when he pointed out that Perry’s Madea character has been accused of fostering negative stereotypes about men and black women. Wallace even mentioned how fellow filmmaker Spike Lee in 2009 called Madea “coonery antics” — a term the Urban Dictionary defines as “the antics and behavior displayed by certain underclass individuals in black culture, the end result being the embarrassment of the rest of the honest black community.”
Perry, the creator and performer behind the tough, aged woman in a dozen films since 2005, admitted he faced a lot of criticism for his most popular creation. “Emasculate black men, I’ve heard it all. Yeah,” he told Wallace in an interview that began airing Saturday.
“There’s a certain part of our society, especially black people in the culture, that look down on certain things within the culture,” he said, defending his work and explaining who and what inspired the character.
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“For me, I love the movies that I’ve done because it’s the people that I grew up with that I represent and they, like, my mom used to take me on the projects with her on the weekends, she was playing cards with these women,” he said. “Most of them have a 12th grade education, but their stories and how much they loved each other and how when they were sad about something and other people would come in and make a joke. I’m 5 years old on the floor with my Matchbox cards.
“I was in a master class for my life, so when someone says that’s it, you go back to a point in our lives that we don’t want to talk about, we don’t want the world to see. , you’re dismissing the stories of millions and millions of black people. And that’s why I think it’s been so successful because it resonates with a lot of us who know these women in these experiences and Uncle Joe and so on.
Perry’s first Madea movie came out in 2005 with “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” based on the 2001 play of the same name that he wrote, directed and starred in. He raised $5 million to fund the film, which was the only Madea film he did not also direct and which grossed over $50 million domestically. Adjusted for inflation, as of May 2019, Madea films have grossed over $614 million domestically, according to Forbes.
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During a 2009 appearance on ’60 Minutes’, when first briefed on Lee’s criticism, Perry said, “I’d love to read that. [criticism] to my fan base. … It pisses me off. It’s so insulting. It’s attitudes like that that make Hollywood think these people don’t exist, and that’s why there’s no material that speaks to them, that speaks to us. Two years later, in an interview with Hip Hollywood, Perry suggested Lee “go to hell.”
“It is what it is,” Perry told Wallace. “But what’s important to me is that I honor the people who came and taught me and made me who I am.”
“Who Talks to Chris Wallace” is currently streaming on HBO Max.
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