Even though I
have never been able to offer up my wholehearted recommendation
of one of his pictures, I like Tyler Perry. His work appeals to
a largely untapped niche-audience—Southern, Christian
African-Americans—and I can respect its function to cater to the
needs of said audience. In other words, as the polar opposite of
someone his films are targeted at—a white, agnostic
Californian—I can appreciate the fact that they appeal to
others, but have rarely been able to respond to them myself.
(Don’t get me wrong, though – never has a Perry film been an
intolerable sit for me; even I laughed so hard I cried
when I first saw Madea chainsaw the couch in Diary of a Mad
Black Woman.) Perry’s latest effort, Meet the Browns,
is unlike the rest of the titles on his resume, however. The
picture was not merely made for an audience; it
panders to an audience.
Full of hollow
characterizations, Meet the Browns coasts not by
appealing to the interests of its target-viewer, but simply by
providing them a story that they might potentially relate to.
Wasn’t it kind of obnoxious of Perry to think that he could get
away with this? I’m sure that there are many people in the
aforementioned group who have experienced events in their lives
that are similar to those that single-mother protagonist Brenda
(Angela Bassett) does in Meet the Browns, but so what? To
exploit the empathy and sympathy of these viewers for the sake
of efficient, pointed filmmaking only makes the act a greater
problem for Perry: just because he can appeal to people doesn’t
mean that he will by default inspire them. What’s worse is that
he begins to stereotype his audience through his characters;
isn’t it a tad racist of him to assume that most black
moviegoers can identify with the urban problems presented in
Meet the Browns?
Not to mention,
Perry is far better at making comedy come to life than he is
with drama, anyway. As such, Meet the Browns comes off as
a big-budget, extended episode of a soap-opera at best. I have
never much cared about Perry’s inability to branch out to
viewers like me, but I sure hope that his next picture shows the
same respect to his established audience that those he made
prior to Meet the Browns did. It would be a shame for
such an underrepresented group of moviegoers to lose the very
artist who delivers the bulk of the releases made for them.
3.22.2008 at the Regal Escondido 16 in Escondido, CA.
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns is rated
PG-13 and runs 100 minutes.
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