Does Tyler Perry Have Issues With Black Women? A VIBE Contributor Goes in

Movies & TV

Vibe | November 18, 2011 - 6:11 pm

VIBE contributor Bené Viera wrote an open letter to Tyler Perry in response to his statement that defends his decision to cast Kim Kardashian in The Marriage Counselor. Viera asserts that while she isn’t mad at his decision to cast Kim K, she has a problem with the way Perry addresses and portrays his core fanbase–Black women. Read it and see if you agree:

Dear Mr. Perry,

Let me begin by congratulating you on your massive success. It is truly commendable to overcome the obstacles you have—molestation, poverty, abuse and homelessness—to becoming the highest paid man in entertainment. If nothing else, your story of triumph is living proof that achieving a dream is attainable even when one’s circumstances reek of hopelessness and despair.

I write this letter as a black woman, journalist and media critic. I have also watched 95 percent of your films and several of your plays. I have had countless debates with intellectuals about the quality of your work and whether or not your depictions of the black community are damaging. In those conversations I’ve often played devil’s advocate arguing both sides of the debate. I have taken offense at the way people belittle your target audience because a part of that core audience are my aunts, mother, cousins and grandmothers. It is one thing to critique your artistry, but it is quite another to demean those who enjoy your work. Mostly I have emphasized on several occasions that you deserve credit for employing black actors and actresses in Hollywood. For whatever reasons the non-black executives calling the shots in Hollywood rarely take chances on black films where the lead characters aren’t thugs, whores, uneducated, uncouth, angry or ghetto. Some of Hollywood’s A-list actresses who have been in the game for nearly two decades struggle with landing quality roles. Not because they aren’t skilled enough at their craft to play the role, but because the roles are nonexistent. It bears repeating that I applaud you for employing black actors.

Where my round of applause halts is your latest letter to your fans, “Kim Kardashian in the Marriage Counselor.” With all due respect, Mr. Perry, this is where I draw the line. You are well aware of the latest controversy over your decision to cast Kim Kardashian in your next film the Marriage Counselor. I presume you’d read enough emails and heard enough backlash that you decided to pen a ridiculously condescending letter justifying your decision. Curious to find out what your response would be I attentively read your letter with disgust after only one paragraph in. Within the first two paragraphs you managed to insult your core fan base who’ve helped you break glass ceilings in Hollywood—black women. Perhaps you need to reread what you wrote so you can understand how problematic it is:

I could not have imagined I’d be getting all these emails about Kim Kardashian. I HAVE SEEN THEM!! YOU HAVE BEEN HEARD!! …LOL. Now, may I say something? Can a brother get a word in?….LOL. Y’all gave me a new movie title, Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman Cause You Hired Kim Kardashian, Don’t Make Me Take Off My Earrings and Boycott Yo A**.”…

You continue on with your anecdote about an older woman you met in a Mexican restaurant. Is this supposed to be a black woman since she pronounced Kardashian wrong?

I was in a Mexican restaurant and the cutest little old woman stopped me and said, “I want to talk to you about KAR-DAT- CHA-NEM.” I said, “Ma’am?” She said, “What is wrong with you putting her in the lead role of your movie?”

For the record, I could not care less that you cast Kim Kardashian in the Marriage Counselor. You certainly have the right to cast whomever you think can play the part. I also understand this to be a great business move. You and I know that Kim Kardashian’s role, no matter how big or small, will ultimately get her fans in the theater seats, which equals more money in your bank account. My gripe with you is specifically the way you addressed and depicted black women in your letter, which goes hand in hand with how we’re portrayed in your films.

Read more here.