Recently, Jordan Peele, director of the hit movies “Get Out” and “Us,” got a lot of attention for saying that he plans on continuing his pattern of casting Black people for his leads. He goes on to say that he has nothing against white guys, but won’t use them in his films because he has “already seen that movie.” When I saw somebody post his words on Instagram the other day, I was shocked that he was so blunt about his decisions, but also glad that someone powerful in the entertainment industry is dedicated to opening the door for Black representation. When I read through the comments, the reviews were mixed. There were some who were against his words, (arguing the typical “but if someone of a different race said this, it would be seen as racist”) while there were some who appreciated his stance in the same way I did. The comment that struck me the most was when someone went on to say that his Peele’s comment and subsequent actions were no problem because Tyler Perry has been doing the same thing for years. In this context, they were right. However, in general, I wouldn’t even think to equate the two. In my mind, Jordan Peele is no Tyler Perry. And the proof is in what they produce.
Almost every prominent artists has trademark aspects of their works. Peele’s is social satire and elements of suspense/thrill. Perry’s, on the other hand, is baby mama drama, unfaithful partners with STDs and domestic violence. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Tyler Perry movies and sitcoms (I used to watch “Meet the Browns” very faithfully). I also get that these stories are real for some people, and they deserve to be told. However, it is pretty obvious the different manners in which these powerful men have chosen to regularly represent the Black community.
This is something that has actually started to disgrace Tyler Perry in recent years. For decades now, Black people have been typecast into negative portrayals. Most of the roles we are set to play are either characters that are a personified version of our stereotypes, some kind of villain, or an irrelevant sidekick. The only exception to this is when we are slaves. So it’s starting to rub people the wrong way (myself included) that this Black man with a multi-million dollar platform is using it to reiterate demeaning images. And these images continue to impact how we are seen on the screen, but also how we are perceived in real life. I understand that his extremely successful platform wouldn’t exist in the first place without the type of work media that he creates. However, many artists change their tune after accumulating enough mainstream success. For example, Beyoné played it safe for so many years. But when she became a bonafide and irreplaceable icon, her music started to showcase her as one of the most overtly pro-Black musicians in the industry today. Perry has/had the option to do this, but he hasn’t.
Peele, on the other hand, has built his empire by casting Black people in more unique and inspiring roles. He puts them in positions that include character development and relatability. You go through the movie actually rooting for somebody. His films have introduced Black people into new roles and new genres. He entertains his audience without having to bounce around in a dress.
Tyler Perry’s works definitely have a time and a place. They definitely serve as a good source of entertainment sometimes. However, with Perry being one of the only Black directors in Hollywood, I needed a break from the typical. And that’s what Peele is.
To me, it is obvious that Jordan Peele is no Tyler Perry. And to be quite honest, I’m glad.