In the Highest Paid Man in Entertainment, Forbes

In 2005, Tyler Perry released his first movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman and had been thrivingly producing stage plays and going all over the the country for seven years (Tyler Perry Studios 2012). His life had all began, where he had constantly attempted to defeat childhood domestic violence, sexual abuse and consecutive homelessness (Bowles 2008). Tyler Perry used his first stage play entitled I Know I’ve Been Changed, as a therapeutic, self-curing, proclamation of forgiveness to his childhood abuser.  Tyler Perry is a genius when it comes to making modern day plays. These plays all addressing areas of array in concerns of the African-American community. The things that makes his movies and plays feel so real is that his characters always reflect black culture and that is how it is so easy for people to relate to them!Being named the Highest Paid Man in Entertainment, Forbes magazine estimated that Tyler Perry has earned approximately $135 million from the period of May 2010 to May 2011 (Pomerantz 2011). Using this as a point of citation, it took Spike Lee, who is another well known filmmaker, 25 years to achieve $375 million in box office receipts, Perry has earned an overabundance of $600 million in just over 5 years ( IMDb.com, Inc. 2012). Perry’s title as the Highest Paid Man in Entertainment is consistent with previous scholarly research that found Perry has a near monopoly on the image of middle class African Americans in the media (Harris and Tassie 2011). By far Perry’s most successful movie and play was Madea Goes to Jail (Perry 2009). Madea Goes to Jail received an excess of $90 million and was nominated for a 2010 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award (IMDb.com, Inc. 2012; Tyler Perry Studios 2012). Madea Goes To Jail also stars Tyler Perry’s most popular character Madea (aka Mabel Simmons); the plot centers around Madea and her involvement with the criminal justice system. The supporting actors include remarkable and somewhat disputable stereotypes created by Perry including Mr. Brown, Uncle Joe, and Cora. As such it is here argued for the motive of this study, that Madea Goes to Jail is a critical case sample of Tyler Perry’s body of film work. Perry used a great deal of technical and performance elements in his plays. Given Perry’s position of fame in the entertainment industry and his production abilities, how he shapes issues of race and criminal justice in the play Madea Goes To Jail, is of social significance and worthy of scholarly examination. In a very important,public interview with Gayle King, Tyler Perry stated he is very specific in his storytelling and creates his stories to appeal to a broad range of audience members both in age and race (King 2009).  In one of his interviews in 2009, he said he is well aware of the past media stereotypes of African Americans, including the blackface minstrel shows of the 1930s and 1940s (Perry 2009). Despite his public assertions, critical scholars have questioned whether Perry is capable or even willing to disrupt negative media stereotypes of African Americans. This criticism comes despite Perry’s assertion that he portrays African Americans as they are in real life. The use of 1960’s Civil Rights imagery in Madea Goes To Jail  marketing material would also suggest counter-hegemony. Thus it is predicted by the author that portrayals of African Americans in Perry’s Madea Goes To Jail will contain images and discourse presented in a way that will disrupt historical representations of African Americans, including both the blackface minstrel shows of the early 20th century and the myths of black crime. While the occurrence of mass incarceration began as an answer to the crack epidemic and resulting drug war of the 1980s, the public acceptance and justification was largely achieved through mediated messages of “black crime” associated with 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic (Alexander 2010). Any discussion or depiction of incarceration of African Americans would certainly have to include reference to the drug war and their disproportionate rates of incarceration. Thus it is predicted that Perry’s 2009 film Madea Goes to Jail would contain dialogue or descriptions that detail the disproportional rates at which African Americans are being incarcerated. American political discourse and the resulting media framing of race and the criminal justice system are important tools used to construct the normalization of mass incarceration of African Americans. Putting African Americans both in front of, and behind, the camera is instrumental in the fight to overcome and change dominant images of African Americans (Mcgilligan 2004; Williams 1995). Perry is one of those people: a postmodern producer of culture on the margin between the person being persecuted and the persecutor. Perry is clearly someone behind the camera. He is capable of creating alternate perceptions of African Americans in media and disrupting dominant debates. Those of a critical audience and scholars reason that he is fully aware of the negative stereotypes and images that his movies and plays portray. Perhaps Perry believes his only method of success is to purposely develop films that appeal to uncritical audiences even if it is to their own detriment.Paul Assay ,from “Plugged In”, reviewed Perry’s play Madea Goes To Jail. Assay said, “Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. Madea tells us we only have two cheeks. After those get slapped, it’s time to start whuppin’. That philosophy goes a long way toward explaining Madea Goes to Jail.On one hand, we have Tyler Perry’s messages: Faith matters. Forgiveness is important. Take responsibility for your own life.On the other, we have Perry’s mode: Madea.OK, Madea’s a comical character. I get it. We’re not supposed to take her seriously. Her outlandish exploits are intended as vaudeville interlude, over-the-top slapstick designed to give viewers a break from the otherwise serious story Perry wants to tell.And yet, in a way, we’re asked to embrace Madea. Even to admire her. She represents, on some level, what we all wish we could do to the driver who takes our parking spot. She’s the human id unleashed, full of anger and vengeance and snappy one-liners.Madea does reinforce the idea that we should take responsibility for our choices. Yet at the end of the film, despite a rap sheet as long as the Nile, she’s released from prison. Why? Because Linda’s unethical prosecution lets her off the hook. After all, a 5- to 10-year prison sentence would mean an end to Madea’s movie franchise, right? Of course she gets out.So Madea exits the big house unbowed, unrepentant and as obnoxious as ever. I’ve mentioned that she sometimes serves as built-in spiritual foil. But more often, just as in the other Madea movies, Perry’s would-be protagonist becomes a walking rebuff of the serious and significant messages the director apparently hopes to deliver.” Assay seems not to be A fan of Madea Goes To Jail or even Madea herself.. Array states, “She’s the human id unleashed, full of anger and vengeance and snappy one-liners.” Children should not be exposed to Perrys stereotypes and atrocious mind set. Considering it was on the Nickelodeon 2010 Kids Choice Awards, children were exposed to Madea’s radical behavior. Watching the behavior of how the characters act probably influences the children to act in that manner. In Perry’s interview with Gayle King, Perry stated the film’s purpose was to make people laugh and provide entertainment to the masses in hard economic times. The use of “black crime” and themes of incarceration as entertainment potentially have far reaching consequences for the perpetual recycling of negative stereotypes of African Americans. Upon analysis, the film lacked any significant counter-hegemonic discourse, or disruption of hegemonic stereotype of minorities in media; in their absence, the stereotypes portrayed in the film are consistent with media normalization of mass incarceration and new Jim Crow stereotypes (Alexander 2010).Nickelodeon 2010 Kids Choice Award. Nickelodeon’s target audience is 6-11 year old children, an audience still in the early stages of forming racial identity and stereotypes. By offering “black crime” as entertainment to such a young audience, Perry is suggesting that the issue of mass incarceration of African Americans is of no significant consequence. The film would suggest to that same 6 -11 year old audience, that by and large the criminal justice system is fair and just, thus implying disproportionate incarceration rates of African Americans is purely of their own doing. It certainly could be argued with good reason that Perry’s film MGJ creates a false illusion at the expense of an already disadvantaged group, thus ultimately serving as a form of system justification and false consciousness ( Jost and Banaji 1994)