A friend called me over the weekend to wish me a happy birthday and to tell me another friend of ours was cast in Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns. At first, I was silent. And I know I have a history of Perry-bashing and advocating for what I believe to be quality TV for black artists and viewers, but I was honestly thinking about how I can handle the news as an adult, as a player in the game and not some reactionary artsy snob. So I finally said, Cool. Good for her. And good for Perry for employing folks [even if he's paying under scale]. I was then told to tune in to TBS and check her out. I was told Meet the Browns was much funnier and much better written than House of Payne. So, like a loyal and evolving friend, I found it on YouTube, watched both episodes [I'm attempting to be… non-judgmental], thought our friend, Juanita Jennings, displayed her craft with clever ingenuity, and then sat back at my desk and thought, Who would think this is funny, now? I mean, honestly, from my heart, I'd really like to know the answer. A black man, Mister Brown, literally hopping and skipping across the screen, speaking in truncated gibberish and mispronouncing words. It reminded me of Mantan Moreland, without question. Some people don't believe it's that deep [the concern, I mean], but I think it's very deep. Television has always been an escape for many. An escape from the woes and stresses of every day life. But with unemployment at a record high, a horrid crisis in Gaza, riots in Oakland, and salmonella amok, I don't see how an escape into a world where a black man speaks in nearly-indecipherable English can soften our stresses. There's certainly a place for all types of entertainment, but honestly, shouldn't entertainment reflect the urgency of our times? Supplement or complement or comment on the events of our present day-to-day?
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.