Internet culture works in a binary system. Entertainment placed into two categories, the “worst” or the “best”. This system forces culture to reach a consensus, which eliminates valid debate. Arrested Development/Sherlock/Batman/Breaking Bad are universally loved by everyone. All valid criticism ignored and deemed wrong. The same happens for the “bad”.

These views get so engrained in culture that the actual consumption of the work of art becomes a secondary thought. One such thing is the films of Tyler Perry. I’ve never watched a single Tyler Perry movie, yet I’ll still reference them as a synonym for horrible. That’s unfair. I decided to watch Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family in order to formulate my own opinion.

I wrote the above paragraphs before I watched the movie. The hubris and self-righteousness that oozed from it showed a man unaware of his future. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family is the Necronomicon. Once started, demons erupted from the screen. They warped and wretched time with their squid faces. The movie’s 106 minutes took the form of 2 months. Dishes cleaned. Toenails clipped. All while Madea and Uncle Joe’s jokes about how fat everyone is, lasted roughly 45 minutes (Hell portal time).

The title of the film accurately depicts the movie’s biggest problem. All the possessive language convolutes the title. Is it Tyler Perry’s? Is it Madea’s? Is it a college student raping tree? The same confusion reappeared in the movie proper. Scenes oscillate between melodrama and slapstick comedy. The film doesn’t know what it is. The first scene of the movie demonstrated this.

Aunt Bam and Shirley are at a hospital. Handsome doctor walks in. Aunt Bam flirts with him. “Comedy” occurs. Aunt Bam leaves. Shirley learns she has cancer. The only transition between the two tones occurs with a door slam and the introduction worrying music. The next scene consist Aunt Bam exiting the bathroom in a cloud of weed smoke.  The tone is high school drivers ed class. Lanky students shifting from first to fourth gear then back to purple gear. Perry seemed scared to depress his audience. He dangles shiny objects in the form of flowery housedresses and bad wigs to distract.

My parents went to see The Avengers. Prior to it my mom only saw the Iron Man movies. My dad saw none of them. They loved The Avengers. No confusion occurred on how everyone related to one another. Everything revealed to them in easily digestible chunks.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family doesn’t do this. The movie felt like eavesdropping on a family’s conversation, in a bad way. Names are thrown around without any buoys attached and sink to the bottom without giving the audience any understanding of which are important and which are not. My notes filled up with question marks.

Here is an example of those notes:

-Does Cora work for Mr. Brown?

-Wait, Madea is Shirley’s mother?

-Is that Lil Bow Wow!?!

-Cora is Mr. Brown’s daughter?

-Since when?

-His name is Charlie Brown?

-Is this an episode of Maury?

-Wow, I wonder what Lil Bow Wow’s real name is?

*Goes to Wikipedia*

-Shad Moss?

-I am not sure that Bow Wow is better name.

-It actually turned into an episode of Maury!

-The movie is still on!?!

The most troubling aspect of the movie is the treatment of female characters. Every woman is horrible. Shirley hides her cancer from her family. Tammy caudles her children into monsterdom. Kimberly believes herself too good for her family/husband/life/planet. Renee wants Byron to sell drugs again. Sabrina pops up every fifth scene to ask for child support.

The men spend the film being celebrated for their tolerance to women. The women only reach resolution once they understand how great their men are. The only female character in control is Madea. She is also the only female character not played by an actual woman.

Even Uncle Joe’s final words, and those of the movie, are anti-vagina. Joe watches Madea implode on and episode of Maury. He stares into the camera and says “1-800-Choke-Dat-Hoe”, a callback to an earlier joke about how to handle women.

I wanted to be wrong. I ate flan and readied myself to enjoy Tyler Perry. The dark figures from my peripheral vision closed in with every scene. Paranoia set in that I may not find anything enjoyable in this. The final credit disappeared. Netflix suggested another Tyler Perry movie. I turned off the TV. A corpse of hate and anger spread out on my Ikea couch. Hell reached Earth. The internet was right.

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Julien Llerena

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