Candace Young (Tika Sumpter); Katheryn Cryer (Renee Lawless) and Jim Cryer (John Schneider) from ‘The Haves and the Have Nots.’ (OWN / February 14, 2013) Photo Credit: LA Times
Fact: Tyler Perry’s depictions of Black women on television and in film are consistently, intensely polarizing and problematic.
They are either too weak or too strong; cartoonishly naive or abrasively cynical and bitter. They have survived abuse at the hands of devastatingly handsome Black men — who are portrayed as jealous, vengeful, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent gods. These fallen women are only “saved” when they are completely defeated, crumpled in corners of abject misery. When that happens, a jealous, vengeful, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God rescues them from their craven flesh and false idolatry and all is well in Tyler Perry land.
They are hand-clapping, uproariously funny morality tales steeped in Christian narratives and traditional Black culture.
It really depends on where rejection of misogyny, sexism, racial stereotypes and lack of female autonomy land on one’s “Things To Do Before I Die” list.
Dr. Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies & Africana Studies at Rutgers University, and founder of the paradigm-shifting Crunk Feminist Collective, rejects the above societal constructs and fearlessly explored Perry’s continued “hatred” for Black women in his latest project, The Haves and the Have Nots.
Premiering on Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN on May 28 to solid reviews, The Haves and the Have Nots is described by LA Times’ Mary McNamara as proof that the O-ster has “apparently lost her mind.”
Though it claims to revolve around the wealthy Cryer clan of Savannah, Georgia, it actually orbits around Perry’s go-to race and gender cliches and this is where Dr. Cooper takes him to task in a brilliant, edgy, analysis.
1.) Tyler Perry is a cultural batterer: the cultural equivalent of an unrepentant wife-batterer. Why, you ask? Well, let’s see. In under 15 minutes of episode one there were three Black women: Hanna, a maid, who speaks like she just left the plantation; Veronica, a rich black lady b*tch, who throws her coat and hat at the maid; and Candace, the maid’s daughter, a scheming, conniving prostitute who tells people the mom is dead, later can be seen raising her hand to her mom, has her own son who is God knows where, is allegedly in law school, but paying for it by questionable means, and ultimately by the closing scene of episode two can be seen raping the white patriarch/politician.
The fact that Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire, along with their remixes (Bad) Baby Mama, Golddigger, Freak and Hood B*tch showed up in under 15 mins is surely a new world record.
A few caveats: no knock to domestics who speak in Southern dialect — I am from the deep, rural South, love the cadences in our voices, and have a beloved, and dearly missed grandmama who cleaned white folks’ houses well into her sixties.
(But I know a f**king controlling image when I see one.)
No knock to sex workers, who I think should have rights, benefits, and legal protections. Black women sex workers in primetime is a whole different deal representationally, though, and we need to OWN that.