Perry's Casting of Kardashian: Black Women Can Get Even

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For right or wrong, if the sistuhs choose to hold out on Tyler and boycott his films, the honeymoon would end faster than you can say “Whatchu talkin bout Madea?”

[Your Black World]

Tyler Perry made the interesting decision recently to cast Kim Kardashian in one of the leading roles for his upcoming film, “The Marriage Counselor.”

Since that time, Tyler has been back pedaling from an army of “sistuhs” who want to smack him upside the head. Some of them are offended by the fact that Kim K was chosen for the role over more seasoned and under-employed black actresses, whose list of qualifications are far superior to the empty and mindless resume of the “great” Kim Kardashian.

Holly Robinson Peete started the conversation by basically making it clear that she and many of her black female counterparts were not happy with Perry’s decision. “We can always count on Tyler Perry to give a blacktress a job. So all across the world blacktresses are upset,” she told Access Hollywood.

I’ve only spoken to Tyler Perry once in my life, but found him to be an intelligent and reasonable man. The first thing I told him was that I have almost never seen a Tyler Perry film voluntarily.  But the fact is that any black man with a mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece or baby’s mama is going to end up being dragged into the theatre for a Tyler Perry movie at some point in his life.

The bottom line is that Tyler Perry’s entire career is elevated on the shoulders of black women.  If they step out on him, the audience for his films would consist of two crickets sharing a box of popcorn.

So, to find out what black women think about Perry’s decision, we conducted a Your Black World survey on the matter.  We asked survey respondents if they are offended by the Perry decision to put Kardashian in a leading role. A little more than half (50.6%) of our black female respondents said that they were indeed turned off.  The rest seem OK with the decision.

This reaction was enough for Tyler to come back with his public response to the backlash, which was interesting in itself.  It seems that Tyler is sensitive to the criticism, which is reflective of the fact that he is a relatively decent and thoughtful human being.  I do worry, however, that Tyler might be a bit too sensitive to criticism, which can make the crown of the king even heavier than it already is.

On one hand, it’s difficult to write off the criticism of Perry’s decision to choose Kardashian for this role.  It’s hard to imagine a black woman being able to build her entire career off a sex tape as Kardashian has done.  Actually, I can’t think of a single thing that Kim does well, other than dating famous men, having sex on tape and showing up for parties.  Kim is simply famous for being famous, which hardly qualifies her to be a Hollywood starlet.

In this regard, Kardashian might be an offensive choice to black women not simply because she’s non-black, but also because she appears to be woefully untalented and inexperienced.

On the other hand, Perry’s decision to choose Kardashian was obviously a (seemingly savvy) business move.  Actors who find themselves angry when people like Kim K, Beyonce or 50 Cent are given movie roles would wise to understand that filmmaking is more business than art.  Without being able to draw an audience and a following, filmmakers can’t pay the bills.  If they can’t pay the bills, the actors and actresses don’t have a place to work.  Let’s not get it twisted – capitalism is almost always king of the Hollywood frontier.

Secondly, the fact is that Kim is not the only actress in this film.  Tyler gives dozens of other roles to black actors and actresses, and it might be a wee bit petty for anyone to be upset that one untalented (but incredibly popular) white girl (well, not exactly white, but you get the point) got a chance to be in a Tyler Perry film.  His films should not be black renditions of the KKK, with a giant “Colored folks only” sign on the front door.  Tyler didn’t become the highest paid man in Hollywood without knowing how to draw a broad audience, and his fans should understand that.

Would I have chosen Kim K for this role?  Probably not.  But should others be so upset about Tyler’s decision?  I don’t think so.  Should Tyler be concerned that so many black women are upset?  Yes, he should be.

The truth is that even if black women are unjustified in their disdain for Tyler’s decision to put Kim K in this film, the reality is that they still have the power to render him powerless.  So, similar to any healthy marriage in America, the words “Yes dear” might be most appropriate, even when you think the other party is off-base.  For right or wrong, if the sistuhs choose to hold out on Tyler and boycott his films, the honeymoon would end faster than you can say “Whatchu talkin bout Madea?”

Good luck Tyler….I’m curious to see how you pull this one off.  Even if you gave me the $130 million you earned last year, I wouldn’t trade places with you for the world.  OK, maybe I would, but I’m sure you get the point.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World coalition.

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