Things I Learned about Tyler Perry While Being Interviewed by Mo’Nique

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black WorldScholarship in Action 

I watched Tyler Perry last night on the Mo’Nique Show on BET.  It was an interesting interview, with Mo’Nique fawning over Tyler’s brilliance in the way you would expect an actress to kiss up to one of the most powerful filmmakers in the world.  I fully expect that Mo’Nique will get some coveted roles in future Tyler Perry films.

With that said, I noticed a few things about Tyler’s personality, which might explain a bit about his recent blow-up with fellow black filmmaker Spike Lee:

1) Tyler is very sensitive.  Perry seems to be the kind of person who feels things and responds to them.  I imagine that Spike’s criticism (coming from a New Yorker, who’s used to people speaking their mind and being rude about it) actually hurt Perry’s feelings.  Southerners often have a difficult time dealing with the abrasive nature of many New Yorkers, and I imagine that Tyler’s nasty responses to Spike’s comments are a reflection of that cultural difference.  In other words, Southern folks value politeness, which Spike didn’t offer Perry in the least.

2) Tyler is very humble.  I’ve rarely seen a man so accomplished display so much humility.  Tyler truly seems to remember what it was like to struggle his way to the top and shows a degree of compassion for others that I rarely see from Hollywood megastars.   He spoke of his mother like she was an angel, and talked about his employees like they were his family.  He has a strong sense of community and cares deeply for his fellow man/woman, and for that he should be commended.  This humility seems to play a role in Perry’s decision to share his frustrations with the world, rather than fighting behind closed doors to keep the “little people” out of the conversation. 

3) Tyler is very honest.  Tyler is not the type of brother to beat around the bush.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and his “go straight to hell” remark toward Spike is likely a function of the fact that he doesn’t enjoy pretending to like someone that he despises.  I can understand Perry’s disposition, for I am the same way.  Although Spike’s critique of Tyler has some degree of validity, Spike’s approach could certainly have been more productive.  There’s no need for two of the most powerful black filmmakers in Hollywood to go at it in such an ugly and malicious way.

4) Tyler is very strong.  Tyler might be sensitive and humble, but “he ain’t no punk.”  There’s a reason Perry rose to the top and dominates his profession.  He’s an intense, focused, determined workaholic who will not allow himself to be bullied by any person or any situation.  So, rather than being quiet and diplomatic in the midst of Spike’s attacks, Tyler made it clear that Spike should not mistake his kindness for weakness.  Beneath the polite southern boy demeanor lies a beast who will only let you push him so far.

Bottom line: I think more like Spike Lee, but I have more respect for Tyler Perry.  Spike should be working to educate and uplift, not to simply criticize and destroy.  Tyler has hired more black people than all of Hollywood put together; that’s GOT to count for something.  So, while we must hold Tyler accountable for the implications of his message, we must do so in a way that fully factors in the magnitude of his contribution.  In other words, the brother’s work isn’t all that bad.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.
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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Things I Learned about Tyler Perry While Being Interviewed by Mo’Nique

  1. shondasdailybread

    I didn’t get to see the interview, but I agree Tyler Perry is a force to be reckoned with. Spike needs to focus on his own work and keep it moving.

  2. I think that this is a fair assessment (for the most part) of Perry’s interview with Mo’Nique. I would just like to point out, however, that Mo’Nique “fawns” over the brilliance, success, and/or potential of all of her guests. If Mo’Nique gets a role in one of Perry’s upcoming works, it will not be because she was “fawning” over Perry’s brilliance on her show, it will be because of her own brilliance. After all, she has won an Oscar. She is very supportive of the guests on her show, so her treatment of Tyler Perry was not an exception to this rule.

  3. Servant

    I will be GLUED to the tube if Spike Lee answers Monique’s request to have the 2 filmmakers come on her show to hash things out. I’d hope it would be a very powerful and productive thing for Black folks to see. I also think there’s PLENTY of room for Tyler, Spike, John, Antoine and more…
    P.S. Don’t mistake Perry’s comedic style for him being a punk.

  4. Alberta

    Hopefully in time these two brothers whom I’ve grown to respect very deeply will come around and not necessarily begin to love each other, (although not such a bad thing) but learn to respect one another. Hate and animosity is just too distructive and take so much out of you.

  5. I don’t believer Tyler Perry would stoop so low as to have a dialogue with
    Spike Lee, who, by the way, is NOT in Tyler’s league!

  6. EJ

    Spike could have spoken to Tyler personally over the phone and not tried to discredit and disrespect his work in public to the masses. It was completely wrong. And anyone would lash out the same way. Spike should keep doing his work and allow others to do theirs. There are flaws with every movie, but the positive work and how Tyler is feeding families and keeping black peole employed is much bigger than Spike’s negativity. Grow up and handle it like a man.. youhave something to say, then say it to the man personally!

  7. Aneisha Elliott

    I wonder where Tyler Perry got his film degree. I want to be in one of his movies someday! And hopefully become an AWESOME movie producer like him someday(-:

  8. Joseph Gillard

    I have to agree with Spike Lee in the debate over the quality of Tyler Perry’s films. In all honesty they seem like much to do about nothing. Each movie has just about the same plot. Every movie has an elder person smoking weed, the past girlfriend is always on drugs, previously did prositution. Bring in Madea…She goes through about 4 or 5 scenes where she does the old “negro” porch talk about life. Then you bring on the montage of church music, her comes the boyfriend and the newly annoited girlfriend she is now cleansed and a brand new person. Oh, did I forget to add in Mr. Brown. Just have him butcher up a few passages from the bible and have Prince dress him once again in the paisley colored print short sets, sprinkle some flour on his knees, and BAM! Another 30 to45 million dollar Mega Hit …just for us poor old black folks. Its almost like watching steppin and fetchin from the 50’s. I think its so cliche when black folks always say, Tyler tells it like it is, and this movie touched my heart. You must have been living in a cave if any of his movies touch home. We really need to hold our people to a higher standard. You would think he would go into another genre of movie after making tons of money off the same script, rewritten 9 times? But why, if you can make that kind of money off a movie that takes 15 to 20 minutes to write, why change? Tyler has 0 substance to his movies. Watching his movies are like eating a bread and air sandwich.

  9. yes i agree i like tyler perry movies,shows, and books he is a very talented man and i aprreciate him .

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