Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, and The True "Haters"

Although I realize that we live in the internet-age, which means even the simplest of criticisms can be blown out of proportion, I am disappointed to see how some Black people are unable to intelligently respond to constructive criticism, even when it is not directed at them.

The person who is the latest target of the "He's just a hater" orchestra is none other than renowned filmmaker Spike Lee. In a recent interview that he did with Ed Gordon, Spike dared to criticize some of Tyler Perry's work(specifically Meet the Browns and House of Pain) and made references to the shows as "coonery" and "buffoonery" and compared them to Amos n' Andy.

For the record, let me say that I agree with a lot of what Spike Lee said. Although I liked a couple of the Madea plays that I saw years back(even though I generally have issue with Black men parading around in dresses, even for comedy-but that's another topic), these two shows don't do anything for me. That's just me, and I do realize that comedy is subjective; what's funny to one person is not funny to another. However, any person familiar with the historical 'coonery' and 'buffoonery' that Spike Lee was referring to(reference Bamboozled if you haven't seen it) would be hard pressed to argue his point that some of Tyler Perry's characters do harken back to that era. If "Mr. Brown" isn't the prototypical coon-type character, then what is? This is not to single Tyler Perry out, because there are other examples, and some of them aren't actors(Flavor Flav).

And for those who make the simple-minded argument "well, if you don't like it, don't watch it", then I respectully say to you to study up on propaganda and media manipulation, and realize that the images that we are bombarded with via television and internet DO have an impact(especially on more impressionable minds, i.e. children), and can greatly impact our self-image and the image that others have of us. This is especially true if that impressionable mind does not have an intelligent adult there to offset the negative images, as is the case in too many Black homes. I am as far from a WWWPT(What Would White People Think?) person as you can be, but perception does matter and can have an impact in our everyday lives.

The bigger issue that this situation brought to my mind was the way in which some Black people(bloggers and others) reacted to the comments. I am all for intelligent disagreement, no problem with that whatsoever. However, a disturbing trend seems to have taken over in the past few years. Actually, the 'trend' can be summed up in one word: Hater(or 'hata'..'hataz'-plural). If I had to give a new definition for 'hater' as it is used in the present, it would be "A term commonly used by individuals either unwilling or unable to intelligently and non-emotionally acknowledge and respond to criticism(constructive or otherwise)".

The most disturbing thing is that it is not only children and teenagers who find it acceptable to respond to anyone who says or does something they dislike by saying "You're just a hater", or "Don't hate, appreciate", or some other form of this dumbness. Adults, some supposedly educated, do it as well. Now don't be me wrong, I still use slang myself in certain settings; I am not a grammar snob or stickler for 'proper' English by any stretch. My issue is not that it's slang. It's that the word(and the various phrases formed around it) has (for many) replaced intelligent, thought-out responses when faced with criticism or disagreement.

It seems that many of us have forgotten that criticism(and our mature response to it) is how we grow as a person. If someone is truly "hating" on you, meaning they are just being degrading or attacking you with no constructive intent, by all means, respond with as many ridiculous phrases from the hater manual as you like ("don't hate, ice skate", wtf). Otherwise, to avoid acknowledging the constructive critique being made(whether you like it or not...and it's kind of the point of criticism that you may not like it), is to remain mentally stagnant(dead).

I have no doubts that Spike's statements were made out of love and concern, and "hate" was the furthest thing from his mind. How backwards have some of us become that we praise and accept those who encourage and enable failure and ignorance, and "hate" those who attempt to strengthen us as a people, often by bringing things to our attention that many supposed friends and supporters refuse to?

It takes far more courage (and often, love) to criticize someone. The true "haters" are those who accept anything from anyone; who have no standards or respect, for themselves or others...not suprisingly, these are the main people hiding behind "hate".

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I am in total agreement with Spike Lee and Elliot Millner. For so long, I surmised I was in the minority, because I have a real problem with Tyler Perry's movies and television shows. They are the modern day Amos & Andy, especially the father figure on "House of Payne". I refuse to watch Tyler Perry's shows, and now that new show, "Meet The Brown's" Tyler has sunk to an all time low. It's not funny in the least!