Tyler Perry doesn’t like Spike Lee. Perry, who’s arguably the most financially successful black film director and producer in history, had some harsh words for Lee at a press conference Tuesday, responding to his claims that Perry’s work is shameful for black audiences.
“I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee,” Perry said, as reported by Box Office Magazine. “Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘This is a coon; this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘You vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”
The two leading black directors have been at odds for years. Back in March 2009 Spike Lee was a guest on “Our World with Black Enterprise” with Ed Gordon and described Perry’s work as “coonery” and “buffoonery.” Lee isn’t the only person to criticize Perry’s work. The director, who’s most famous for his portrayals as Mable Simmons in the widely popular “Madea” series, took heat last year when he released Ntozake Shange’s play “For Colored Girls.” Critics accuse Perry’s work of being brash, overly sentimental and deeply caricatured. Lee, meanwhile, is known for work that’s highly politicized.
Lee went online, however, to say there is no feud between him and Perry. “I feel Artists should be able to critique each other’s work, Athletes and Musicians have been doing this for ages. As long as it’s given in a loving spirit (which my opinions were) it’s all good. “
Jamilah Lemieux, an actress and blogger based in Brooklyn, visited NPR’s All Things Considered to express similar sentiments:
Mr. Perry, you are in a position now where, if you were willing, you could completely revolutionize the world of black film. You could singlehandedly develop the next crop of Tyler Perrys, Spike Lees and Julie Dashes if you want to.
You have built an empire on a foundation of love and Christianity, Mr. Perry, but that is also mired with the worst black pathologies and stereotypes. I beg of you, stop dismissing the critics as haters and realize that black people need new stories and new storytellers.
Perry also had words for critics like Lemieux.
“I’ve never seen Jewish people attack “Seinfeld” and say, ‘This is a stereotype,’” Perry said at the conference. “I’ve never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos, I’ve never seen Jewish people complaining about “Mrs. Doubtfire” or Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie.” I never saw it. It’s always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo. … We don’t have to worry about anybody else trying to destroy us and take shots because we do it to ourselves.”
Perry’s latest film, “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” opens on Friday.