Spike Lee versus Tyler Perry

2011-05-06 09:32

“Coonery” and “buffoonery” is what legendary film director Spike Lee calls Tyler Perry’s beloved Madea character (played by Perry himself).

Lee, the director of notable films such as Malcolm X, He Got Game and School Daze, is highly googleable if you type in a “Spike Lee vs”. Lee has a history of wars of words with various Hollywood actors and directors, including director of Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice John Singleton, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino.

Lee’s beef with Perry was first aired in 2009 because he believed the director of movies such as Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea Family Reunion makes lowbrow movies that dumb down black people and promote negative stereotypes.

He said: “Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavours, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better.

I am a huge basketball fan and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and House of Payne), and I am scratching my head. We have a black president, and we’re going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”

Mantan Moreland is a 1930s minstrel show type of film character, while Sleep ‘n’ Eat is a 40s flick featuring black American bit actor Willie Best, who often played service-oriented roles.

Recently, while promoting Madea’s Big Happy Family in the US, which is yet to reach SA shores, Perry responded to Lee’s criticism.

“I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee,” Perry said. “Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon’.

“I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see’, as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”

Perry is currently the most successful black producer on the planet, which has led many people to believe that perhaps Lee might be jealous of his success.

While he might be a legendary producer, Lee has never quite reached Perry’s level of popularity.

This subject has spurred a lively debate among black American filmmakers and entertainers on the state of the black film industry in the US.

Whatever the result, it will only be good for the people who support their art – lowbrow or not.

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