NAACP endorses “Madea” character?
Back in the early 19th century, black people were made to look like “coons,” “buffoons,” “mammies,” and other stereotypical caricatures for mainstream white audiences but we could always trust on the good ol’ NAACP to hold us down. Like in 1915, The Birth of a Nation, which is still considered one of, if not the most racist film ever made, was released but not before being protested by the NAACP, which even resulted in certain scenes being deleted that were somehow more offensive than the final film.
Or in 1942, the NAACP challenged the film industry to change “its hiring practices and the archetypal images of blacks,” as white and black minstrel performers performed as characters that white audiences laughed at and mimicked while black audiences squinted and cringed.
Nearly ten years later in 1951, the NAACP released a bulletin entitled, “Why the Amos ‘n’ Andy Show should be Taken Off the Air in 1951” as the show’s main two characters, white men dressed in “blackface,” portrayed African Americans as illiterate, foolish, manipulative, and dim-witted. One of the NAACP’s claims was that, “Millions of white Americans see this Amos ‘n’ Andy picture of Negroes and think the entire race is the same.”
While most celebrated the Blaxploitation Era, the NAACP protested the film SuperFly in 1972, whom the Junius Griffin, the former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP stated, “we will not tolerate the continued warping of our children’s minds with the filth, violence, and cultural lies.”
In 1985, the NAACP even boycotted the cult classic The Color Purple for its depiction of black men whom Willis Edwards, another former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch, stated was “very degrading.” So we see over time, the NAACP has been very active in objecting and bringing attention to images in Hollywood which display black men in a damaging outlook.
So where has the NAACP been since 2005 when Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman was released and every “Madea” film since then? They have set a historical precedent that they will not accept black people to be shown as inferior, degrading, or second-rate persons, however, when we look at today’s most profitable and well-known African American director, they’ve been ghost, right? Well not exactly, actually they’ve awarded Tyler Perry at the annual NAACP Image Awards consecutively since 2007, all but one year.
So what’s the takeaway message? So many questions come to mind. Is it that Tyler Perry, whose most profitable films include the “Madea” caricature, reflect black people in a positive light and therefore is award worthy by default? Is it because Perry himself is black? Is it that it’s “his time?” Would it be any different if Perry were white? I have to believe things would be much different if Perry were white as there would be no way he could get away with not only cross-dressing as a sassy black woman, speaking fluent “ebonics,” and using a Christianity themed platform to deliberately cater to a black audience. The NAACP has chosen not only to ignore the same things they once vehemently denounced, but they now award Perry who uses those very “cultural lies,” stereotypes, and negative depictions of black people.
There must come a time when we, the people, take it upon ourselves to realize that what we are seeing is not new, but re-packaged in order to appeal to a modern audience. We have to be smarter consumers because ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the NAACP protests a movie or not, if the public wants to see something, they will. However, if we are not wise enough to recognize the content of the character being presented, and not the color of their skin, then we will continue to find ourselves with limited black roles and the “Madea” caricature as the most popular black face in Hollywood.