This from Charles Blow’s NYT op-ed about “Tyler Perry’s Crack Mothers,” which uses Mo’Niques likelihood of winning an Academy Award for her performance in “Precious” as a jumping off point for discussing the demonstrably false stereotype of black crack mothers prevalent in Perry’s films, and in the culture more generally:
Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly described Mo’Nique’s character in the movie “Precious.” She was not a crack addict.
Now it’s common enough practice for op-ed writers to use a particular cultural moment as a springboard to broader sociological inquiries. I’ve got that. But if Blow’s central premise is faulty, if he’s never apparently seen the film in question, why does the article exist in the first place? Why wouldn’t the Times just pull the online version entirely? Besides his analysis of “Precious,” Blow includes but one example as to how the crack mother trope is prevalent throughout Perry’s oeuvre:
In the last five years, he has featured a crack-addicted black mother who leaves her children in two of his films and on his very popular sitcom, “House of Payne.” (In one of the films, the character is referred to but never seen.)
I’m going to guess that the editor who made the correction didn’t likewise go back and correct Blow’s arithmetic, which would mean that Perry has featured a crack-addicted black mother who leaves her family in exactly one film in five years. In that time, Perry has directed, written, produced, and (generally starred in) ten separate feature films, counting “Precious.” On television in that time, Perry has produced just under 50 episodes of his other very popular sitcom “Meet the Browns.” “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” was recently renewed by TBS for an additional season, giving it an unprecedented 126 episode run within two years. This figure is equivalent to a new episode every 2.896 days. In all that air time, Perry has apparently produced only two black crack mothers? Is there really nothing else to write about?
Tyler Perry is an outright scourge when it comes to the perpetuation of racial stereotypes; that his cultural products find a home with the same audience he is typing makes his message all the more powerful and, to most eyes, pernicious. But Blow’s argument uses Perry in all the wrong ways. He sets the director up as a straw man, and Perry’s the one left laughing when Blow swings and can’t quite knock him down.