Tyler Perry’s Gay Problem

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? shocked
absolutely no one by placing a strong #2 in last weekend’s box office battle with
a $30 million dollar take, but what was shocking and surprising to me was one
very blatantly homophobic scene in the movie, as well as the history of stereotypically homophobic
elements to Perry’s movies that haven’t yet been thoroughly examined.

If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, be warned there
are heavy spoilers ahead.

The last third of the movie finds
Janet Jackson’s Dr. Particia Agnew and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) engaged
in a bitter divorce that gets increasingly ugly due to his battle for half of
the royalties from her book sales.

In retaliation, she attempts to
humiliate him by bringing an enormous birthday cake to his office and
presenting it to him and all of his coworkers filled not with a stripper, but
with a flamboyantly gay black man dressed in a miniskirt and neon-colored wig
who pops out of the cake in a spray of glitter and gyrates suggestively
while It’s Raining Men plays in the background.

I’m not making this up, Tyler Perry did. The
point of contention here is not that the gay man in question is in drag or
effeminate, but that he is used as an over the top spectacle to challenge the
masculinity of a character perceived as acting outside of masculine norms by
claiming entitlement to his wife’s earnings.

Janet Jackson and Malik Yoba in Why Did I Get Married Too?

What makes a bad situation even
worse is that during this man‘s “performance,“ Jackson’s character is screaming
a litany of homophobic remarks toward her husband along the lines
of (and I’m paraphrasing only slightly)
“If you want to be a bitch, here you go!” and “Here’s your bitch!”

So, for all of us who are keeping
score, gay men are: outrageously feminine, objects of scorn and ridicule for
respectable heterosexuals, and freaks that can be used to make an embarrassing
public spectacle out of one’s enemy. Yep, got it.

Due to a well-documented history
of general awesomeness surrounding gay folks, I’m inclined to give Ms. Jackson
a pass on this, but Mr. Perry gets no such luck. In fact, this is only the
latest example of homophobia I’ve noticed in his movies.

The original Why Did I Get Married was a
similar-sized box-office hit that also had its own share of questionable
portrayals of gays. In a very brief scene near the beginning, a flamboyant
older white gay couple (dressed in pink, no less) is seen giving attitude to
Tasha Smith’s firecracker of a character Angela. Her reaction to the two, while
not as blatantly homophobic as the treatment of the lone gay presence onscreen
in the sequel, portrays yet another takedown of obviously gay characters for
the desired approval of Tyler Perry’s predominantly African-American,
churchgoing audience.

But Perry can be an equal opportunity offender. His movie Madea
Goes to Jail
featured – what else – a big, butch, tattooed lesbian hell
bent on “claiming” the pretty young inmate and prostitute played by Cosby
kid Keisha Knight Pulliam. I’ll leave
the irony of a man who made his fortune by dressing in drag trading in
offensive images of gays in his movies up to others comment on.

What I will say is that once is
curious, twice is upsetting, but three times borders on pathological, and it
leads one to wonder why Perry feels the need to include such deeply negative
and stereotypical images of gays in his movies.

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