By Guest Contributor Damon Young, cross-posted from Very Smart Brothas
Like most other “Americans with pronounced but peripheral connections to the African continent-Americans” (just plain ole “African-American” just isn’t descriptive enough for me anymore) with a Borders Rewards card and dust-ridden Obama t-shirt, my life seems to be filled with three certain inevitiabilities: Death, Taxes, and Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry. And, while certain people have proven that you can actually live without paying taxes and certain scientific advances have made it so that immortality isn’t such a far-fetched concept anymore, Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry have proven to be unavoidable to the point of comedy.
From The Huffington Post and weekly 40 cent hot wing night with the crew to Facebook and my favorite porn message board, I can’t go anywhere anymore without running into Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry. It’s ubiquitous, ecumenical, pandemic, panoramic, and every another PSAT word that’s just a pretentiously educated way of saying “everywhere”. Yesterday, just when I thought I had foiled Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry and finally managed to escape it, I tripped over Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry on the way to the bathroom. After I got out of the shower, I went into my kitchen and saw Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry drinking my orange juice straight from the carton. And, right when I was about to drive to the store to buy some more juice, I noticed that Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry had not only taken the $20 in my wallet, but had the nerve to leave an “I.O.U.” note. (Triflin bastard!)
It feels like I’m at Camp Crystal Lake and Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry is Jason Voorhees lurking around the campsite with a machete. There’s no cabin I can hide in, no bed I can hide underneath, no voluptuous teenage camp counselor I can hide, um, a part of me inside of without Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry finding and disemboweling me. If Earth’s civilization was wiped out by nuclear war tomorrow, by Friday the roaches probably will have already organized a roundtable to discuss whether “Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns” was just a modern-day minstrel show or a subconscious and subliminal indictment of pre-holocaust urban cockroach culture.
At this point, the only question worth asking is “Why?”. Why do we devote so much of our time and energy to Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry, and why have we given Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry such prominence? Shit, on Friday, why did I spend at least 45 minutes of valuable talk time in a 60 minute car ride with my parents and my girlfriend discussing a movie—For Colored Girls, Perry’s film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf“—none of us had seen or even plan on seeing, especially since there are much more pressing and “important” issues when could have talked about?
The answer is simple. Tyler Perry, wait, the discussion of all things Tyler Perry unites us in our relentless need to distinguish ourselves from each other, to, to quote my Aunt Jackie, “tell on ourselves”. The ubiquitousness (there’s that word again) of Perry and Perry’s art and the myriad visceral feelings the mere thought of it induces has made Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry a personality profile, a multi-layered Myers-Briggs for colored people who were a bit too vain to ever seriously consider suicide but instead chose to use Angst-Ridden Discussions about Tyler Perry as a means to let everyone know exactly who they are.
“I’m the smartest person in the room” movie snobs (like my parents and I) discuss the utter unwatchability of all things Tyler Perry while ignoring the blatant irony in discussing the unwatchability of something you’ve obviously watched. “I’m the realist, most down to earth person you’d ever meet” Non-snob moviegoers discuss the fact that each of his movies are entertaining in their own way, something you can’t say about most cinema (but something you could also say about most crackheads). Anti-Tyler Perry Pro-Blacks (read: liberals) discuss how he’s appealing to the lowest common denominator and wasting his considerable influence and opportunity, while Pro-Tyler Perry Pro-Blacks (read: moderates and conservatives) discuss how he’s employing hundreds of black people while touching on issues unique to our community and providing (somewhat) wholesome family entertainment.
Conspiracy theorists discuss how Tyler Perry has been thrust to the forefront of black culture by the powers-that-be, ensuring the ongoing demasculinization of black males. Comedians discuss Tyler Perry because he’s an easy comedy buffet. (Seriously. If you fashion yourself to be a funny person and you can’t come up with at least one “laugh aloud” worthy comment or joke somehow related to Tyler Perry, it might be time to take up another hobby. Try crocheting) The “Real Issues Fun Police”—people whose sole goal in life seems to be to try to make people feel bad for discussing For Colored Girls when there’s widespread cholera in Haiti—discuss how our obsession with Tyler Perry is a damning indictment on American culture. Bloggers and other arbiters of pop culture discuss Tyler Perry, because, well, everyone else is doing it, and their, well, our identity is partially defined by staying relevant.
I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on Angst-Ridden Discussions About Tyler Perry. Its heart seems to be in the right place, and I can’t be too mad at something that manages to bring us and our collective need to be heard all together. But, I think I speak for most when I say that Angst-Ridden Discussions About Tyler Perry is beginning to wear out its welcome, and, until it makes good on that orange juice I.O.U., Angst-Ridden Discussions About Tyler Perry needs to stay the hell out of my kitchen.