Tyler Perry is known for having a majority black cast in his movies. He recently sent out an e-mail to his fans that said:
“I was once told [by] someone that my movies only appeal to black people and no one else. Now, I know that’s not true. I know that even though I write from an African-American experience and most of the time I have an all African-American cast, that doesn’t mean that other people from other walks of life can’t relate. I think that any human being who goes through what we all go through can relate to my films (I saw “Slumdog Millionaire” and loved it and I’m not Indian). I know and remember that when I’m writing. But when this person said that to me they also said Europeans would never relate, and that sat in my spirit. So I decided to come to Europe to find out for myself because I always thought that my work was universal.
Monday I started in Rome, and then on to Madrid, and will end this weekend in London. So far all of us seem to be pretty much the same…(smile). We love to laugh, we all have problems, we all want love, and we all have a church in every country. And since these are the things I usually write about, I don’t see how that statement can be true. Do you?”
Why do black filmmakers and/or actors have to defend or justify their content at all times? The movie theaters are consistently and historically bombarded with all white films, yet when we have an all-black cast, we must justify our relevance in the scheme of life in America. Sometimes we even see some of our favorite black actors compromise themselves for a paycheck because our productions are not getting the greenlight they need in order to be made.
The black experience has specific cultural dynamics that may not relate to the general public, but if it’s not a movie that is specific to those experiences, anyone should be able to see a human face and relate to: relationship crisis, loss, marital bliss, marital failure, birth, triumph, defeat…life.
Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, The Hughes Brothers, and other black filmmakers will soon enjoy the turning of the tide. As it has been reported, the majority is fast becoming the minority (no pun intended). Last year, the New York Times reported, “An analysis by Kelvin Pollard and Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau found 489 counties where a majority among people younger than 20 are racial and ethnic minorities and another 274 where they account for 40 percent to 50 percent of people in that age group.” If I’m not mistaken, this is the age of the moviegoer population, right?
Obama (and filmmakers) are privy to an axis of change. The old ideas of race relations are hopefully dying with the old and more humanitarian views are being born everyday in their place. The playing ground is finally becoming even and those who have enjoyed their privilege of being the majority in America are seeing our connection and its overwhelming relevance and worth as we travel into the 21st century.