It took a brief but blunt conversation with a female colleague and friend to reinforce my already strong opinions about director/actor Tyler Perry and his newest film For Colored Girls.
Although I was predisposed to expressing mock shock that Perry has produced another film that makes African American men look like a collection of morally bankrupt, emotionally empty, self-absorbed, hedonistic, conniving nut jobs who are hell bent on abusing black women, my progressive friend made me realize to an even greater degree that Perry doesn't want or need my sympathy or money.
For starters, as of this writing, the film has grossed more than $34 million. That's good for Perry. Good for the studio and distribution company. And good for the actors and actresses.
However, as an African-American man who once expected to have far more of a mental, emotional, spiritual and philosophical connection to Perry, my generational contemporary, I generally feel no more of a connection to him than I do to a Russian teenager or an octogenarian Hungarian.
An over-the-top comparison and characterization, of course, but you get the point.
Yes, I saw Oprah a few weeks ago when Perry courageously recounted his horrific childhood that was filled with physical, sexual and mental abuse. I can't imagine such an existence and also can't expect a man or woman with such a background to not emerge as a scarred teenager, grow into a conflicted young adult and mature into an adult who is burdened with emotional turmoil, anger and confusion.
Prior to his appearance, while I and millions of others had heard the rumors about Perry's background unfortunately being full of trauma and drama, to hear and see him tearfully offer details of what he endured prompted me to sympathize with this mega-successful man who has succeeded against unbelievable odds.
As a black man, I'm proud of Perry and wish him nothing but the best -- he surely can afford the best of the material things, at least.
But back to that talk with my colleague of a friend. On the strength of our exchange, it became clearer to me that the moment I went on the record with my disgust and frustration at another black male bashing film from Perry made in the name of uplifting black women -- and black women likely responding that I don't understand that the movie is about them overcoming and not black men underperforming -- the steel rod in my back morphed into titanium.
I haven't seen -- and won't see -- For Colored Girls. Perry didn't make the movie with me in mind. Come to think of it, I'd bet a dollar that he expects a certain small percentage of those who see the film to be men.
Few movies enjoy a universal appeal. Most movies are directed to and attract a niche market to a certain degree. But as long as they're profitable, the studio and producers, in particular, can live with that box office performance. Every movie isn't for everybody.
While I did find a way to see Waiting to Exhale and The Color Purple, both of which reached new lows in depicting the hell that allegedly is black men, I've heard enough about Girls to know that I can find another way and another topic to be pissed off about.
And to my limited surprise, my friend has no intention of seeing it either, as she's not happy, to put mildly, that another film marginalizes and minimizes black men. To paraphrase one of her questions about the legacy of these "strong black women" films, she rhetorically asked if anyone is seriously considering the indelible, eternal and global messages these films are sending about black men.
And it's not just me and my friend who are struggling with black men being committed to cinematic purgatory by way of films that dog the hell out of us.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy titled his essay "For Black Men Who Have Considered Homicide After Watching Another Tyler Perry Film." He wrote: "Can anyone name a movie that came out recently starring a black man who wasn't a sociopath? And he portrayed a character who was complex and fully drawn? Did he respect black women, too? Anybody see that movie? I didn't."
And writing on AOL Black Voices, Dr. Boyce Watkins rued: "My own voice became amplified after seeing For Colored Girls, primarily because the film made me damn near embarrassed to be a black male."
That said, I plan to co-write a screenplay with my friend, Milloy and Dr. Watkins. The title? For Colored Actresses and Black Male Directors Who Finally Understand That Empowering Women While Demonizing Black Men Is A Global Lose-Lose Proposition When Box Office Proceeds Don't Matter.
If it's ever made, and released, please support our ambitious field-leveling movie.