Hollywood loves Black men, especially when they throw on a dress. From Flip Wilson to Eddie Murphy to Jamie Foxx to Martin Lawrence to Tyler Perry, black entertainers have a history of pulling off the slacks and pulling up the pantyhose. Over the last few weeks several of my intelligent, socially-savvy male friends have called me to ask, "What's up with Tyler Perry and the dress?" They used a few more colorful phrases, but I'll leave that to your imagination. I have no idea why they deem me the expert on gender and culture in Hollywood, but I understand their concern. Living and working in New York City where the image of a professional brother is few and far between, it's a bit daunting to walk through a city plastered with posters of Perry—a black man donned in lipstick and dress. But truth be told: I think Madea is Tyler Perry's best offering. He's kind of a comedic genius in that dress.
I remember while I was working on a CW sitcom and two of the other black male writers—braggingly married with children—were the first to throw on dresses for the annual Gag Reel [a spoof the writers do mocking the actors]. I remember thinking: Interesting. It appears every comedic brother has a woman in the repertoire.
Let me take this a few steps further. Perry, just like Wilson, Foxx, Murphy and Lawrence, is an actor/comedian. They're artists. And many artists like to indulge or exploit every part of their humanity which, in their case, include the feminine part. And it might actually be considered a talent to embody a woman's persona [uh oh! society's designated guideline for a woman's persona. that's better]. In fact, some may consider it courageous. Now I know many believe black actors in a dress is a way for Hollywood to disempower black men by feminizing them while making big cash and that's a legit concern. Black men have it tough enough in this country and anything or -one that suggests vulernability and femaleness could be considered a threat to the hard-earned image of "black manhood". Without a doubt. But something tells me Perry or Lawrence don't care about that. What do you think?
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.