By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
8.30.16: National – (Politics): For years, Mr. Tyler Perry has written and produced work that shined a spotlight on black cultures and employed performers of color. African-American actors like Ms. Cassie Davis and Mr. Palmer Williams, Jr., prospered greatly and received a grand level of exposure to audiences because of Tyler Perry Studios, an Atlanta-based production facility. Mr. Perry, however, has reached a plateau of sorts with his urban audience and mostly black-centric storylines, and it makes sense that the playwright and star of stage and screen would seek to diversify his offerings.
But for as much as America harps on diversity, Mr. Perry’s evolution has been viewed largely as controversial; the casting of mostly Whites in the eight episode television show, ‘Too Close to Home,’ has become a news story for no other reason that because of black privilege, the expectation that only White people should diversify and focus on inclusion while African-Americans maintain their practice of the opposite. Contrary to popular opinion, Mr. Perry not only has the right to expand his audience with new media offerings, but it’s smart business and he’s not the first to do it, nor will he be the last.
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In the 1970s, there was no greater diversified television content creator than Mr. Norman Lear, a white man. Mr. Lear, celebrated to this day for his imagination, found an audience early-on with shows featuring an all-white cast, such as ‘Maude’ and ‘All in the Family,’ and then diversified his offerings by spinning off both those two productions into ‘Good Times’ and ‘The Jefferson,’ successful sitcoms that centered on the Black family. History was kind to Mr. Lear’s creative expansion; dissenters, if they existed, weren’t worthy of much note and yet the audiences Mr. Lear attracted to his media properties were.
In contrast, much space on the web has been dedicated to highlighting and quoting Mr. Perry’s critics, some who feel betrayed by his perceived whitewashing. As expected, Mr. Perry has grown annoyed by the critiques and the questioning of his executive decision.
“I’m so sick of folks asking me why I have a show full of white folks,” Mr. Perry, a multi-millionaire, said recently on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
A video is making its way around the web that shows a TMZ reporter confronting Mr. Perry outside a swanky restaurant and asking him about the lily-white casting; he appeared shocked that this line of questioning had once again surfaced. Mr. Perry’s bewilderment on this issue is justified, because a mountain is surely being made out of a molehill.
The real story isn’t why Mr. Perry, who revived his role as Madea in a Halloween-themed movie to be released in the fall of 2016, opted to diversify his business to attract non-black audiences, but why an expectation exist among mostly African-Americans that he would do otherwise.
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