Spike Lee isn’t afraid to start feuds with other filmmakers, but Tyler Perry isn’t having it anymore. A few years ago, Lee attracted attention when he called out the Madea filmmaker’s TBS sitcoms, saying, “I think there’s a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I see ads for Meet the Browns and House of Payne and I’m scratching my head.” Perry has shrugged off that criticism before — most notably in a 2009 60 Minutes interview where he said, “That pisses me off” — but at a press conference yesterday for Madea’s Big Happy Family, he didn’t mince words.
“I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee. 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. I am sick of him — he talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!”
“I’ve never seen Jewish people attack Seinfeld and say ‘this is a stereotype,’ 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. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a new version of the ‘darkie’ because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone. And I’m sick of it from us; we don’t have to worry about anybody else trying to destroy us and take shots because we do it to ourselves.”
If it’s any consolation to Perry, Italian groups did attack The Sopranos — the American Italian Defense Association even sued the makers of the show for contributing to negative stereotypes — but he has a point about Mrs. Doubtfire. Would its demeaning portrayal of Jewish transvestite nannies who wantonly engage in drive-by fruitings pass without comment today?