If one ever wants to know what the slower side of intelligentsia is thinking or, in this case, not really thinking, in 2016, you can often find the answer in a meme.
To wit, after Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween grossed more than $28 million opening weekend, I stumbled upon an unfortunate lil’ meme that compared that gross with the one earned by Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. There, Tyler Perry was referred to as “Tyler Fairy,” and regarding why the Madea movie made more money, well, “Because we will support emasculation over our quest for liberation.”
Of course, that was typed in all caps because if there’s one thing a homophobic fool loves more than being wrong, it’s being wrong with a caps lock. As poorly made and thought out as the meme was, it was a visual representation of many thoughts flooding social media and, depending on the media outlet, headlines. Some of us just love us a good conspiracy even if makes absolutely no sense.
Comedies tend to perform better than historical dramas. Tyler Perry isn’t some unknown entity; he has created an empire spanning varying facets of the entertainment industry thanks to a very sizable, loyal fan base. Most of that fan base consists of black women—the same demo that majorly supported Nate Parker’s movie.
With respect to the notion about supporting a film directed by a black man but released by a major Hollywood studio, uh, black people’s liberation will not come by way of consumerism, let alone a movie. Imagery matters, but one would have to be an empty-headed sucker to believe that a film could dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy.
The kind of fool who makes homophobic, meaningless memes, I suppose.
As for the “emasculation of the black man” trope, that does remind one of previous statements made by Parker himself. That’s why I take great pleasure in Moonlight, which explores manhood and gay black identity, as the critical darling many anticipated The Birth of a Nation to be. Both the Madea movie and Moonlight are enjoying success in their respective circuits.
Still, for all of Perry’s success over time, he recently revealed, "I still have issues getting screens in white neighborhoods, believe it or not.” He went on to add about his opening figures: "I think the numbers could have been bigger had people who are in the white suburbs had the option to go to their own theaters to see it. It's something I've been dealing with for many, many years."
There were also tweets like this one sent out by the Washington Post: “Moonlight is about a poor, black, gay teen. But here’s why it relates to everyone.”
Movies with predominantly white casts never, ever have their stories presented this way.
Black people, no matter their gender, sexuality or amount of duct tape used to play a woman in a comedy, still have to contend with prejudice on varying levels. Each of us continues to be limited in some way by other people’s biased perceptions of who we are and what we’re capable of. We all have our values judged.
For months now, there’s been this ongoing question about why we as black people need to support one movie over all others. It’s always been a crock; only the inherent biases are grating to the nerve. In sum, your counterfeit-Confucius, dimwitted cousins that refuse to let go of The Birth of a Nation’s perceived failure need to find the nearest tar pit and hop headfirst into it.
There will be other films where people run this same logic, but, ultimately, one thing will remain constant: If you don’t celebrate all of us, and if you opt to pit us against one another, you’re a divisive fool. That and you never really loved us no way. And go buy an extra ticket if you’re that worried.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.