After seeing several of Tyler Perry’s earlier films I began to read more about the man and his life. I signed up for his emails at his Web site and have followed his career with some interest. I soon came to see that Perry was a man under attack from many quarters. There are people who hate this man. This made me more than interested in finding out why.

To underscore how much some people hate Tyler Perry I did a good bit of Internet reading after seeing his most recent movie, The Family That Preys Together. I came across so much hated and rumor that it was utterly amazing. One critic wrote: “Perry is a cross dressing Black man hating clown.” And whole Web sites exist that suggest Perry is a Gay man.

Erik Lundegaard, a critic on MSNBC, wrote in March of  this year the following story:

In June 2006, when the bulk of papers belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were about to be auctioned at Sotheby’s and possibly into private hands, Mayor Shirley Franklin and the city of Atlanta preempted the bidding with a $32 million offer—ensuring that the papers stayed both in the city and for the public. According to the New York Times, Ms. Franklin accomplished this by calling in favors from Atlanta bigwigs. Three were mentioned up front: Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola and Tyler Perry. Two international corporations and a playwright who was homeless a decade ago.

Lundegaard further says:

I’d characterize

[Perry’s movies] this way: opulent soap operas with overt Christian messages and comic relief along the edges. Perry was physically abused by his father, and he spent his early adult life coming to terms with that abuse until he was able to forgive the man—and by extension himself—and this is the arc of his films: abuse, revenge, forgiveness through the grace of God. The heroine is then able to live her life fully while the impossibly bad man sinks into repentance. It’s an Oprah wish-fulfillment moment. It’s “The Color Purple.” And it’s the secret to his success.

Tyler Perry was born in New Orleans on September 14, 1969. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia (and is a huge Atlanta Braves fan which is just fine by me), where he has his own independent studio. Perry is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, producer and all-around American success story. In reality he should be an inspiration to the Black community but sadly he is seen by some in the same way that Bill Cosby was/is seen by his critics. Perry openly calls himself a Christian. (His critics, as I noted above, suggest that he is Gay and the Internet is filled with discussions about this, including a site where you can vote your opinion.)

The story is rather inspiring actually. In 1992 Perry was watching Oprah and decided to put his feelings down on paper, which inspired him to write about his childhood in a journal. These letters led to plays and then later to films. This is part of what makes his films so intriguing since they are often raw expressions of his real life experiences seen through a large collection of characters. In 1992 Perry moved to Atlanta where he worked in a restaurant and sold used cars. He saved $12,000 in order to stage his first play. He learned, if he discovered nothing else, to become an entrepreneur. He owns 100% of all his films and as a result is now a very wealthy man.

His first movie, Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, was produced on a budget of $5.5 million and became an unexpected hit. Its final gross box office receipts were $50.6 million, although it was a critical flop, scoring only 16% overall on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tyler Perry has a beautiful Web site at I signed up for his emails last year and read them with some interest. In writing about the opening of The Family That Preys Together Perry wrote his fans the following account this week:

It is my prayer that not only did the movie make you laugh and move you to want to enjoy every day on this earth but it is also my prayer that every dime you’ve spent to invest in me that it comes back to you one million fold. Thank you.

I wrote this movie because I was going through some things, I had family members preying on me. I had been betrayed. People that I have done more for then than they have done to help themselves broke my heart and I was so hurt by how ugly people could be. I was at a place where I didn’t trust anybody, I thought everybody was after something, and I thought nobody was sincere. I was becoming cynical and very unhappy. Lots of people look at the outside and think all is well, but sometimes it isn’t.  So, I started writing this movie after I heard a song called I HOPE YOU DANCE. I had Gladys Knight re-record it for the end of the movie. You should hear it. It talks about no matter what happens, just dance. Just dance.

All of this to say to you, life is a gift and a blessing. Don’t let people
change you. No matter what happens be wiser the next time. But, don’t let it change you. There may be people in your life that have hurt you, but don’t make the next person who has the best intentions come along and you run them away because you think they’re going to do what the last person did to you. Don’t be afraid. In life you can’t live in fear of what people will say or do.  If you lose love or a friend, then maybe you never had it.

I do not think Tyler Perry’s films are great art. And they are not films that will ever win him Academy Awards. But this does not mean Tyler Perry is not making a huge contribution to entertainment, culture and even faith in Black America and beyond. I hope you will see this new film and decide for yourself. You will not “agree” with every message given in the film but this is not a “church” movie. The closing song itself should stir something in your soul that moves you deeply regardless of what you thought about every character and the outcome. I was moved by this newest Tyler Perry film and applaud the man for his hard work and genuine expressions of culture and art.

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  1. John Frame September 21, 2008 at 6:04 am

    John, thanks for this. Tyler Perry has been one of my “guilty pleasures” for years. I’ve seen all his films. Usually I’m the only white guy in the theater. Great to learn more about him.

  2. Cree September 21, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Im happy that you have signed up for Tyler’s email mesasges they are very encouraging. I came to the conclusion that with everything going on in this world, hurricans, gas prices, stock, war, unemployment rate high, homelessness, HOW CAN ANYONE SEE A 2 HOUR MOVIE and say * its too preachy*? I dont get that. But what it does tell me that some will be with the Lord for ever and some wont. I guess picking up a bible is wassssssssssy toooooo much for that person who doesnt like to be preached too.
    Tyler Perry and all of us are here for a short time, go see this movie, LEARN something, of you see yourself on the screen rather good or bad, WORK ON YOU!
    I have seen the movie 3 times, and I love and admire Tyler greatly.
    John is okay if youre the only white person in the movie. Its sooooo not about color, its about learning lessons. Seeing yourself, your family, your friends on the screen.
    Have a nice day.

  3. Niki October 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I love Tyler Perry’s movies. Unlike what’s out there at the moment, his movies inspire people to better themselves.I do not think think he is doing it to win emmys or oscars( which in time he will eventually win), he is doing because he believe in having a positive influence in people’s live.I highly command him for his art, and I hope he keeps doing it because people are starting to take notice, and get his message

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