Theology Thursdays: Sinful and Stereotypical? Two Views Of Tyler Perry's Diary Of A Mad Black Woman by Tuan N’Gai and Matthew Wanniski
* Editor's note. Tyler Perry's high grossing "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman" has inspired controversy. What follows are two views of the popular film. The first view, by Tuan N'Gai, uses an element of the movie to take the Black Church to task for what the author calls "Perverted Gospel Syndrome." The second piece is a movie review written by critic Matthew Wanniski.
Diary of A Mad Black God by Tuan N' Gai
February 25th, 2005. Opening night for Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and inside the theatre, hundreds are waiting to see the highly publicized play turned film. During the movie, people (myself included) laughed, cried, rejoiced, got angry, were wooed, and were taught a much needed lesson about love and forgiveness. I applaud Tyler Perry for his success. In fact, I admire him in a lot of ways. He’s most definitely a Divinely Gifted person and his work proves it.
Now, let’s get it straight right now, I have no problem with Mr. Perry. I take no exception to him or his work on any level. I think he’s brilliant. What I do call into question is the support the moral, holy and sanctified black church gives him. Since the President made “the gay agenda” a black issue, the “black church” has made it known that they support him in his hateful, non-Christian, diabolical and discriminatory beliefs and proposed policies. They have even formed coalitions to support discriminatory legislation. BUT…they have made a drag queen a millionaire 100 times over. Yes my friends…I said DRAG QUEEN! My question is…Is God Pleased?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “drag queen” as “A man, especially a performer, who dresses as a woman”. By this definition, whether one wants to accept it or not, Mr. Perry qualifies. And since the black church is SO holy that according to many it has been the moral compass for this country for decades…they are the MAIN ONES that support the theatrics of “Madea”, Tyler Perry’s most beloved character. Am I saying this is wrong? NO! Mr. Perry is a great artist and I believe great art should be supported. Is the black church confused? YES! Are they sending out mixed messages here? YES! Is the black church full of hypocrites? HELL YES!
Maybe the black church suffers from what I call the “Perverted Gospel Syndrome, or PGS”. See, PGS is when people have been taught one thing, and they accept it as “the Word of God”. They say they believe what they have been taught. But they live something totally different because in their spirit, they KNOW what they are being (or have been) taught is wrong. They conveniently choose what verses in the Bible should be interpreted literally (usually verses that condemn what they are ignorant of) while viewing the others (those that make them feel superior) through the eyes of scholarship. Either way, they prove themselves to be hypocrites because they live something other than what they say they believe.
For instance, the Bible says in Deuteronomy 22.5 "A woman must not wear men' s clothing. And a man must not put on women' s clothing. For the Lord your God hates whoever does these things”. And the good black Christian people who support Mr. Perry believe this is the infallible Word of God. The Bible also says “abhor (hate it because God hates it) that which is evil, cleave to that which is good (Romans 12.9).” The black church is sending out mixed messages because they are supporting what the Bible says God hates. It seems the black church has sent out a message to those they have so hatefully marginalized. They are saying, “As long as the gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, trans-gendered, and drag queens are entertaining us with our music and ‘Christian-themed’ shows…WE’LL SUPPORT THEM!” Think about it…since God hates men who dress like women, and the church is making them millionaires, wouldn’t God hate the church by extension? By their logic…YES! They are just as damned as the drag queens they support.
God is showing through all this that He’s most certainly NOT PLEASED with the black church. And I personally call them to repentance RIGHT NOW! The black church has treated the “extended” same gender loving community with hatred and contempt for countless years. They have condemned God’s gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gendered, drag community to hell. They have behaved themselves abominably as it relates to God’s laws about brotherly love. And if they don’t stop it they will be destroyed. Every hate filled word of judgment they have spewed will be applied to them if they don’t stop it. God loves EVERYBODY. And if the black church doesn’t wake up, accept it, and live it…it will reap the destruction it has spoken upon its own people. In a way, God has proven that He WILL “use the ignorance of this world to confound the wise”. He’s used the wealth and resources of the black church to make a drag queen rich and famous!
Tuan N’Gai is the Dallas-based author of “Will I Go To Heaven? The Black Gay Spiritual Dilemma." He is the founder of Biazo Ministries and co-founder of Operation Rebirth. This article appears on the site of Operation Rebirth.
A Review of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman": A Film In Search of Itself by Matthew Wanniski
Adapted from the Tyler Perry play of the same name, the hyper-clichéd, melodramatic "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is ostensibly about the search for the self when all else seems lost. In fact, it's actually just a film in search of itself. Starting with a misleading title, it meanders without much direction, as if unsure of where it wants to go or what it wants to say. Though well-intentioned, anyone attempting to find meaning in its mish-mash of conflicting themes is bound to leave confused and ultimately disappointed.
Perry's successes on the stage notwithstanding, bringing his story of a woman scorned to the big screen, under the direction of Darren Grant, simply doesn't work. Grant is unable to get natural, believable performances out of his actors, and he fails to tie the subplots together in a cohesive fashion. At times the film drags itself to a standstill, while still managing to careen wildly between extreme humor and extreme seriousness, never striking a suitable balance. It's neither funny enough nor dramatic enough to qualify as either. What passes for humor is drug use, jokes about religion, and gun violence by the elderly. It is deviancy as comedy. What passes for drama is overly-sentimental, often sickly-sweet Hallmark moments—flowery professions of love, theatrical displays of emotion -- like reading a cheap romance novel. The seriousness of the material—marital infidelity and domestic violence, corruption and revenge—is never addressed in a satisfactory way. The major themes of Perry's works are trust, self-reliance, faith and morality, but it's largely buried under the irreverent antics of wise-cracking old people.
The story's characters are less realistic than they are simply caricatures of real people. Perry himself plays three of the characters, starting with the pot-smoking, gun-toting grandmother, Madea. He also plays Madea's randy brother Joe, and the exchanges between these two are like watching Eddie Murphy in outtakes of the "Nutty Professor" films. It's hardly original, but Perry tries to outdo Murphy with a boisterously frenetic performance. He ditches the makeup and padding to play Brian, cousin to Helen, who is played by Kimberly Elise ("The Manchurian Candidate;" "Beloved"). Helen begins as the seemingly happily married wife of prominent Atlanta defense attorney Charles McCarter, played by television actor Steve Harris (ABC's "The Practice"). When Charles turns out to be a cold-hearted, egotistical, two-timing s.o.b., Helen is left to pick up the pieces of her life virtually alone. Having always been provided for, she feels unqualified to build a life of her own. Enter Madea (whose popularity is so great, she appears in several of Perry's plays), a woman who believes the best way to deal with problems is by throwing tantrums, destroying property, and threatening to shoot anyone who looks at her sideways with the handgun she keeps in her purse. She is the epitome of the short-term solution and immediate gratification. She is so over-the-top, it's like watching a three-ring circus on crack. From the moment she appears, she hijacks the film and proceeds to nearly run it off its tracks. She's far from endearing, and far too cartoonish to be taken seriously. She stands in marked contrast to Helen's pious, God-fearing mother, whose patience and wisdom provides the moral center of the film.
While Helen's predicament is unfortunate, she is a far less sympathetic character than expected. She enables her philandering husband's behavior by refusing to confront him with her knowledge of his infidelity. By choosing to look the other way, her eventual outrage carries little heat, and she never truly becomes angry by what happens to her.
Which brings us back to the film's title, and why it's misleading. Helen doesn't become "mad" until the very end of the film. So it is not a mad black woman who keeps a diary of her marital woes, just someone who is hurt and lost. Madea is the mad woman, in more ways than one. If Madea kept a diary, I'd swear the title refers to her.
Helen's weakness as a character notwithstanding, this is definitely a film that targets the female audience. Black females in particular, given that Helen represents "every black woman who ever had a problem with a black man." The reality is that race doesn't really appear to be a major point of the story, especially since it seeks to promote universal and cross-cultural values.
Perry deserves credit for the film's good intentions, but it's simply not enough to ignore everything that's wrong with it. His nearly single-minded pursuit of spectacle denies the film the impact and cultural relevance it might have had, and prevents it from reaching its true potential.
Rated "PG-13," for drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references and some violence.
Matthew Wanniski is a writer, editor and story analyst for Anonymous Content, a talent management and production company in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Mattsreviews@aol.com. This review appeared on Wanniski.com
Thursday, March 17, 2005