Race and Humor: “The Five White Characters In Every Tyler Perry Movie”

by Latoya Peterson

Via readers Lola and Ron, I watched a video from Cracked.com called “The Five White Characters In Every Tyler Perry Movie.”

(Interestingly, I was a bit more amused by the Newcastle Brown Ale spin on the adoption narrative commercial that appears permanently coupled with the video.)

Cracked doesn’t allow embedding, but here’s a couple screen grabs that are really all you need to know.

New white girlfriend
Hooker
corporate boss

The comedian, Eliza Skinner, jokes that there are only five roles that a white woman can play in a Tyler Perry movie: the new white girlfriend, the evil corporate boss, the hooker, the new white wife, and the nasty shopkeeper. Leaving aside that all of these characters don’t actually appear in most of Perry’s movies (she also left out the white friend, played by Kathy Bates in the Family that Preys), I couldn’t really find the joke funny.

For me, it just reinforced how even in “black movies,” there is still space for white people. But that doesn’t work the other way around.

I tried to think up how we could flip this around.

What are the top five black characters in a Judd Apatow…never mind.

Top five black characters in a Michael Bay…nope, not there either.

Steven Spielberg’s got Amistad and The Color Purple under his belt, but these movies were based on existing historical moments or texts.

Then I wondered if we could expand it – if it would fare any better if we included more POCs. But still no. (Five black characters in a romcom won’t work either. Maybe if we dropped it down to two…)

Even hunting for stereotypical roles in modern movies, it would appear that in many, many mainstream cinematic creations, nonwhite people only exist as extras. Even the black sidekick phenomenon is on the wane.

Readers, can you think of any current directors who cast enough characters of color in their movies for us to make jokes out of?

Edited to Add: Michael Bay did Bad Boys I and II. I’m not giving him a pass, but he has shown it is possible have a major movie with two black leads. (Side note: And what is this Bad Boys III they speak of “in development.” Damn IMDB pro!) ( Super side note: I’m not going to lie – I got a little giddy when Simon Pegg & Nick Frost fashion themsevles after Bad Boys in Hot Fuzz.) Thanks Malones!