What’s So Funny About Madea? Nothing. (Column from the Washington Post

 I would like to hear from people who both enjoy Madea as well as those who are offended or tired of him her.  Here is one man’s opinion.    

By Courtland Miloy

   Wednesday, February 25, 2009 

I went to see the Tyler Perry movie “Madea Goes to Jail,” in which Perry plays a wise-cracking black grandmother, Madea, short for “Mother Dear” and ebonically pronounced “muh deah.”

With an extensive criminal past that includes “supersize stripper,” attempted murderer and check fraud artist, Madea is a near-cult figure among many African Americans, especially women. Thanks in large part to them, Perry’s comedic creation debuted as the No. 1 movie in America over the weekend, raking in $41 million and 34 percent of the weekend moviegoing audience, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

At the AMC Magic Johnson Capital Centre 12 in Landover, where Madea is being shown 14 times a day, I was hoping to get a clue as to why this man in drag is so popular. And with the movie featuring guest appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, Dr. Phil, Judge Mathis and Al Sharpton, perhaps I’d even get in a laugh or two.

Boy, was I wrong — on both counts.

All around me you could almost hear the funny bones cracking — deep guttural laughter coming not only from kids in the audience but from my peers in the AARP set, as well.

And there I sat, silently ranting: There is nothing funny about this black man in pantyhose. And where is all of this cross-dressing-black-man stuff coming from, anyway? First, comedians Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence star in high-grossing movies as the fattest, ugliest black women that Hollywood makeup artists can conjure up, and now here’s Perry with his gussied-up version of the same butt of the joke.

By the way, I don’t want to hear diddly about Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire or Milton Berle in high heels. Having a black man play super mammy is not the same thing. Perhaps it would be were it not for America’s perverse, systemic and centuries-long efforts to humiliate African men and women and turn them into slaves.

The only good a Madea movie could possibly do would be to remind us that the scars of oppression are deep and enduring, often operating below the level of consciousness, then breaking out in the most bizarre manifestation of self-hate and self-sabotage, including pathetic images on the big screen.

Of course, Perry’s fans don’t see it that way. When I asked some women in the theater if they were at all uneasy about Perry in wigs, lipstick and rouge, they clucked tongues and rolled eyes in a manner that Madea her/himself would no doubt approve.

“Oh, please,” snapped Darlene Johnson, 51. “It’s just comedy.”

Yeah, and misogynistic gansta rap is just music.

Said Sheena Young, also 51: “He’s just multitasking. His initial budget didn’t allow for him to hire all the people he needed so he played them himself. It’s awesome.”

I’m not taking away anything from the 39-year-old Perry’s resourcefulness and ingenuity.. He pulled himself up by the bootstraps from a low-income household in New Orleans, started writing and putting on stage plays about Madea (supposedly a composite of women in his life) and went on to become one of the most successful filmmakers in America.

He has a beautiful home and his own studios in Atlanta. He hires lots of young black actors and production personnel and makes considerable contributions to worthy causes.

He is awesome.

It’s just that his movies are awful.

Here’s a typical scene:

Madea’s brother, Uncle Joe, also played by Perry, is a crusty old coot who breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank while smoking marijuana throughout the movie (he even wears a bong around his neck). Madea, ever the boss woman, scolds him mercilessly about the dangers of mixing fire and oxygen. And — here’s where the audience howls — as Madea waddles past, her behind wide as a doorway, Uncle Joe cracks: “King Kong ain’t got nothing on her.”

How’d you like to see that on a movie marquee: Madea the black woman as King Kong? That’s about as funny, say, as a dead monkey cartoon from the New York Post?

It’s not a sign of respect but one of disdain to portray black women as some updated Jemima (that’s what a white character in the movie calls her) from the antebellum South. Sure, all of Perry’s fans claim to know someone like Madea. But in truth, we know nothing — only that she is aging and irrationally angry, existing to clean up everybody’s else’s mess, a linebacker of a house servant whose unmet emotional needs remain a mystery even to the great Dr. Phil himself.

We may laugh at her, but the joke is on us.

5 thoughts on “What’s So Funny About Madea? Nothing. (Column from the Washington Post

  1. You Son says:

    yea idk about you daddy but i never got the Madea movies either. When you see the people that DO like the movies, they are HARDCORE about it.

    Apparently, you cant “like” Madea, everytime someone brings it up you have to “AHHH Honey!” “HOO HOO HOO no she di’ ent!”. and its funny you posted this because when i sent you those pictures i happened to be with one of those “Madea Families” (by the way its also funny how Madea lovers come in families)

    but anyways i was dragged to this movie. I mean i wasnt going to be a D*ck and be like “…..can we see Slumdog Millionaire”? (which is a GREAT MOVIE DAD! a must see!). Plus i wasnt payin so…..LOL

    I was sitting in the theater watching it with “an open-mind” as one of my friends told me to have walking in there lol, and i still wasnt impressed. BUT OMG the other people in the theater were SHI%$NG THEIR PANTS! For a second i thought this one lady was guna pull a “church faint” and quickly have to be revived with popcorn and constantly being reminded that the “fun” is 1:12:02 from being over. I felt like I was trying to be hypnotized into this Madea Cult man.I mean i gave the occasional “mercy chuckle” for my friend next to me not to think this was TOTAL torture. But I mean i REALLY did come in with an open mind and the stuff everyone was laughin at…..i was just like…..”when is it over”.

    Basically, if Perry hadn’t cast a good black actor/actress cast, in which i only mean Derek Luke and couple of others, i would have been in COMPLETE agony.

    I always say to my defense that Madea is just “not my kind of comedy”. BUT I am NOT going to say the movie itself wasnt remotely enjoyable. I think i had one or two unforced chuckles. but the thing is it was either AT the movie itself or a joke that wasnt even supposed to be funny lol.

  2. YO SON christian says:

    lol and everytime Perry tries to make a “serious scene” it feels like watching one of those “Don’t Do Drugs” videos from Middle School where Andy is peer-pressured into using one of those “cigs” and Mary Anne has to talk him out of it.

    (*everyone jumps in the air into a freeze frame)

  3. bbgcmac says:

    Lil C,

    You are like the funniest dude EVER! Did you say you gave the occasional “mercy chuckle” for the sake of your friends? Mercy chuckle. Imma have to use that one.

    My take is that the movies are TIRED… I am happy that Tyler is successful and puts lot of black folk to work. I think the Madea plays were ok and its natural to make A movie… as in ONE movie.. but now its a feed the monster thing and that money is talking.

    Black folks loves us some of that back home at the picnic barbque eatin chitlin circuit stuff. i say that as a general statement. and the more i think about it – the more i say spike was right when he did Bamboozled.

    Perry has LOTS of pull now.. and it will be interesting to see if he does some serious films that don’t carry the stereotypes that we see so often now whether its Mudea or the sassy sister that turned it out in Why Did I Get Married.

    I am perfectly cool with laughing at myself sometimes… even the stereotypes. After a while though.. it just gets tired and if this is the best we can do… the future is not too bright for us to be taken seriously.

    Just imagine.. Barack is the president… and the best we can put on consistatly from a black producer director is the new Fred Sanford in drag.

  4. ryanfrontz says:

    i couldnt agree more with what you have said. i am a white college student who sees such change in the society we live in today from even 10 years ago but i really hate to see Perry exploit a stereotype that many leaders before him and now have tried to erase from the mindset of America. good stuff hopefully more people will read this and think about it.

  5. bbgcmac says:

    Thanks for responding Ryan… I appreciate your point of view.

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