Getting smart on Tyler Perry

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(Photo © 2006 Lionsgate Films)

Of all the back-and-forthing over Tyler Perry in anticipation — and subsequent reviews — of Meet the Browns, arguably the most compelling criticism I've read so far of the Atlanta filmmaker appears courtesy of Andre C. Willis, an assistant professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale Divinity School, on the website The Root. In his thoughtful essay, Willis accuses Perry of succumbing too conveniently to what Willis calls the filmmaker's black evangelical spirituality, offering too-simple solutions to secular problems …

To address entrenched social misery, lack of opportunity, economic inequality, poor schooling and housing discrimination, Perry's work trumpets prayer. For more personal and familial struggles such as drug abuse, infidelity and child abuse, his work similarly prescribes redemption through a stronger, deeper and more committed Christian faith. Even his core audience is acutely aware that his work is creatively limited, and yet they are drawn to it because it presents them with a world that is highly recognizable—in language, tone and theme.

I might quibble with some of Willis' conclusions about the importance of strong faith in someone's lives, but not having seen Perry's work, I wouldn't want to get into uncharted waters. But it's a great read, and is ripe for dialog.

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