Tyler Perry: Why Cry Over Criticism?

With yet another lucrative opening weekend under his belt, Tyler Perry should celebrate the positive and learn that criticism from fellow blacks and fellow directors -- namely, Spike Lee -- is just a part of the game.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Tyler Perry sounded like he was channeling Madea herself last week when the usually reserved filmmaker told reporters that his fellow director — and critic — Spike Lee “can go right to hell, and all y’all can print that!” He got his wish — the quote has been printed worldwide. 

No stranger to feuds, Spike Lee has publicly challenged 50 Cent and Clint Eastwood, and has been known to offer some biting commentary on white directors who have tackled films about black life, such as Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. In 2009, the two-time Oscar nominee said in an interview with Ed Gordon, “When I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows and I am scratching my head. We got a black president and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?” To be fair, Lee didn’t specifically name Perry’s two TBS sitcoms, Meet the Browns and House of Payne, but the point seemed obvious. And Perry clearly took it personally.

A lot of the negative talk surrounding the master of Madea has to do with the portrayal of blacks in his work and his perceived lack of artistic talent — see the mixed reviews for For Colored Girls — and Perry made it clear in his rant that it was not only unfair but a uniquely black thing for African Americans to criticize one another for their creative work. At his press conference, he compared himself to Zora Neale Hurston, whose writing was panned by some of her black peers. “I’ve never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos,” he said. It’s always black people, and this is something I cannot undo.”