Tyler Perry's new film Temptation was subpar. It was a predictable film. It was dramatic, poorly directed and filled with just enough celebrities to distract the audience from the real content of the piece. I'm not going to discuss the film in its entirety. It had a good underlying concept and there are some truths about the consequences of a taken-for-granted marriage but we get enough of those, right? I want to talk about these sorts of movies in general - the films with nearly all black casts.
For some reason when a new Tyler Perry film is released, black people flock to it. We don't know if it's going to be the same silly humor, average acting or if it will be one of his good ones. But we always go. Why is that? I think there are two reasons. One is that we don't see enough of ourselves on the big screen or in print. We don't see people that look like us, eat like us, or talk like us in commercials or on billboards so it's refreshing to go watch 2 hours of someone that "gets" you. The shots of Sunday dinners remind us of our childhood; the sibling that everyone just wants to come home is familiar; the couple with a Master's Degree in poor living arrangements confirms that we have to work so much harder to be equal. It's different. But it feels like home. Well, it feels like your neighborhood at least.
The other reason we patronize black produced films is that we really feel like we're supporting another artist of color. We don't know Mr. Perry, he doesn't know us. He's not going to lend us any of his money or stop by for dinner yet we feel compelled to buy tickets to subpar films. That's interesting to me. Do African American's support each other that way on a local level? In some ways, I think so. We can rally around an artist that we think has potential. We support soul food restaurants if only to see them succeed. Despite the misrepresentation we see of African Americans in the media and the lack of positive images in print, movies, etc., there is a culture that will rally around a cause they believe in. Even if it's a movie we're unsure of, we'd rather spend our dollars knowing a portion of it will hit another person of color's pocket somehow.
After all, it's really not about the film or its contents, that's additional. It's a bonus. For much of this culture, whether it's realized or not, it's about wanting to survive as a group first and being entertained second.