Being a Black Scriptwriter Doesn’t Mean I Write Like Tyler Perry
Me: “Yeah, I write scripts.”
White Person: “Oh, so you’re going to be the next Tyler Perry?”
Me: *laughs* “Yeah, sure. (internally) Wow, why?”
Don’t get me wrong; people of my skin color have asked me the same question.
My question though: “Why Tyler Perry?”
I admit he’s a cool cat. I admire his success and productivity. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) is one of my favorite Tyler Perry movies of all time.
My problem: I don’t write anything near what Perry writes.
THERE ARE MORE BLACK WRITERS’ STORIES OUT THERE
If you look at any of Tyler Perry’s shows, the most popular themes are Christian spirituality and black relationships. I understand why most black audiences love them. Steven Spielberg and Sofia Coppola aren’t producing them anytime soon.
Someone must show movies like Perry’s can be made and become box office hits. On the other hand, not everybody wants to watch the same films with the same themes and character archetypes on repeat.
As a black scriptwriter watching Perry’s shows, I ask:
“Where are the black witches?”
“Where are the Blerds (Black Nerds)?”
“Where are the black characters set up in magical worlds wielding swords and battling dragons?”
“We need more afro-futuristic sci-fi flicks. Where are those? Black Panther is only the beginning.”
Those are the kind of scripts I write. For some reason, it confuses some people. Back in school, some of my stories puzzled my peers and my (mostly white) teachers.
Why wasn’t I writing the next family-friendly black gospel movie, the typical black family struggle show, or another Oscar-worthy slave movie?
There are more shades of black characters and stories mainstream media hasn’t touched.
I WRITE WHATEVER I WANT
Occasionally, intriguing ideas come to mind related to racial issues, black love (positive representations are precious), and so forth. I will write and produce those whenever I want.
Overall, I don’t have to write what people expect all black writers should be writing.
Baby mama/baby daddy drama? Nope.
A single, self-educated black woman is doing fine, but she needs a man and the Holy Bible to fulfill her true destiny? Excuse me, what?
Magical negroes? Oy vey.
Thug-life tales? Can’t relate. I’ve been raised in suburban neighborhoods all my early life. I wouldn’t feel right writing about a lifestyle I’ve never experienced (or least witnessed on a daily first-hand basis).
Let Tyler Perry do his thing.
Let Jordan Peele do his thing.
Let Issa Rae do her thing.
Let Shonda Rimes do her thing.
I’ll stick to mine. Never expect the obvious from us.