Madness, Messages and Madea

This past Easter weekend, I revisited my Southern African-American family roots and joined the masses for a religious experience… I went to see “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family”.

When it comes to Tyler Perry, my emotions are occasionally conflicted.  His personal story is touching, inspiring, and emboldens me as a survivor of abuse.  His contributions to the Black community are indisputably generous.  

His movies…?  This is where my love/hate emerges. 

While MBHF genuinely had entertaining and some laugh-out-loud moments, one could get the sense that Perry was giving you “everything and the kitchen sink” in the course of an hour and forty-five minutes.  The movie covered health issues in the Black community such as Diabetes, Cancer and the importance of a colonoscopy, angry Black women, rape and incest amongst many other topics.  Of course, most of his movies are like that.  In fact, my head is still spinning from “Why Did I Get Married Too?”.  I’m officially a little afraid of Janet Jackson now after that meltdown scene where she smashes up her house.  Somewhere, Jermaine Dupri is breathing a little easier.  

The movies are often based on the plays that made Perry a household name, and have become almost mandatory annual pilgrimages for church groups.  In both movie and play, the writer/actor/producer/director — who stands six-feet-five — dresses up in drag as Madea, a gun-toting, hell raising old lady who’s also a straight shooter from the mouth.  Madea is the glue that binds families on the verge of falling apart from secrets and lies; she reveals and then counsels in one fell swoop, wrapping her message in spirituality… even while maintaining that her own relationship with God is sketchy.  It’s the kind of entertainment cleverly packaged as a comedy, but figures while they have your attention, they might as well throw in some church and therapy (which, when you think of it, is really quite economical).

What irritated me about the movie were the moments that had comedic potential but came up short: Madea’s encounter with the “Ghetto Girl” character played by Teyanna Taylor — who’s intentionally irritating voice was just a bit extra — was missing something.  There also tends to be a penchant for overacting from the cast, almost as if they are performing on stage and want to make sure the audience is alert and gets the jokes or the big dramatic climax.  And as funny as the Madea character can be, I tend to have difficulty retaining pertinent messages about relationships and the decline of the youth when the message is coming from someone with grapefruits swinging under a bad floral dress that my own grandmother would have lit on fire. 

In addition to being funny, thought-provoking, and uplifting (I’m not telling you anything specific because I want you to get off your butt and go see it and support this man, dammit!), the film provides a little eye candy for the ladies and gentlemen… although we fare better since the females are either gold-diggers or harpies.  Which begs the question: Why are the only sensible, calm, female characters elders?  Are younger women really that high-strung and wayward? 

Oh, right… yes we are.

Whatever.  At least we get to see the Old Spice guy be all sensitive for more than the usual thirty second commercial spot. 

Thank you, TP.  All is forgiven after “For Colored Girls”.  Side note: Can we ease up on the casting of Janet in bitch roles?  She really does scare me now.

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