Tyler Perry is getting criticized on social media by viewers who are not fans of the dialogue in his shows.
Twitter has been abuzz thanks to a clip from Perry’s BET show Tyler Perry’s Sistas, in which Calvin (Anthony Dalton) tells a woman he’s “too much” for them. The character goes into a specifically odd detail about why he’s too much, resulting in the character conflating being raised by two fathers with being gay or queer.
“I get it. I’m just too much for you. Me, my two dads, me being in touch with my feminine side. My lace underwear. Hell, even me liking my prostate tickled,” said the character.
WTF is wrong with Tyler Perry?!! pic.twitter.com/9bPn6Y5pwT— ☥ Virgin Mary (@_realjgoodwin) July 14, 2021
It’s not just the character who is conflating two separate identities as one. As the screenwriter, Perry is showing his own biases regarding how he conceptualizes gay or queer life. Children raised in same-sex households aren’t “turned” gay because of their parents. As science has proven, sexual identity is something people are born with. Perry’s lines alluding to a child being turned gay by gay parents is as nonsensical as someone writing that a queer child could be turned straight by straight parents.
Some of the responses to Perry’s writing range from finding the scene bizarrely hilarious to being offended and tired of Perry’s lack of tact and care for his audience.
“The writing is terrible and stereotypical,” said one commenter. “He said he likes getting his prostate checked and is basically being portrayed as if his two dads made him this way.”
The writing is terrible and stereotypical. He said he likes getting his prostate checked and is basically being portrayed as if his two dad’s made him this way— Carlos (@ayobbybop) July 14, 2021
“Tyler [P]erry got way too much money and been in the game way too long to be pushin out content like this,” wrote another. “His new shit be terrible from the writing to the acting to the editing.”
Tyler perry got way too much money and been in the game way too long to be pushin out content like this. His new shit be terrible from the writing to the acting to the editing.— Yesenia Moore (@buttericanpecan) July 14, 2021
“WOW at these lines,” wrote Fox Soul‘s Claudia Jordan. “How they kept a straight face is beyond me!”
WOW at these lines. How they kept a straight face is beyond me!— Claudia Jordan (@claudiajordan) July 14, 2021
“Tyler Perry needs to stop using creative writing to cope and see a therapist,” wrote another commenter.
Tyler Perry needs to stop using creative writing to cope and see a therapist https://t.co/t1Lkj7IoNe— Quite literally… (@WYETTHASSP0KEN) July 14, 2021
Social media personality Luvvie Ajayi Jones also commented on the viral clip, pleading with Perry to take his audience seriously.
“Tyler Perry needs to remove himself from the writer’s rooms of his projects and let people who are good at putting words on paper DO THEIR JOB,” she wrote on Facebook. “And he should hire people who know what GOOD writing is, to hire his writers…[A]t this point, to accept the trash work that TP puts forward, with the argument of ‘well he has his base’ is to argue that the people who follow him do not deserve quality content. Yes, they support him. But they also deserve good work.”
Perry has made Twitter news before in 2020, when he infamously tweeted about his “work ethic” regarding writing every script for every one of his series. Fans remarked that it would make more sense if Perry hired a writers’ room in order for the characters to be more authentic to the audience. In fact, Lil Rel Howery spoke about Perry’s lack of a writers’ room in 2020, specifically mentioning Perry’s decision to write Sistas without women writers.
“I love Tyler Perry and I’m proud of him…but I told myself I’m going to say something because I don’t agree with that. You can’t write a show called Sistas and you’re not a sista,” he said to applause. “So you don’t want no suggestions or nothing?” he said in a live taping of Deadline’s New Hollywood Podcast. “I know we talk a good game about ‘This is what I’m doing, I’m doing this, I’m doing that.’ Now, I’m talking, but I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I don’t have what he got yet, but as I climb up here, I’m [going] to do even more of that. We gotta do better man. It’s all talk, but if you’re really on that, then give people jobs, bro. You can’t base nothing on one writers’ room, brother. That means you didn’t hire good writers. Find more writers.”
Howery’s comments about Perry’s hesitance to create writers’ rooms for his shows stems from Perry’s idea that other writers don’t get his audience the way he does. As he glibly told Shadow And Act’s Trey Mangum during a press interview for A Fall from Grace, “I am very specific about who I’m writing for, who I’m writing to, and whether there’s a discourse, that’s on them. For me, I know exactly what I’m doing. I know exactly who I’m speaking to. That’s why The Haves and Have Nots returned at number one. That’s why The Oval is number one. That’s why Sistas is number two. So I have the one, two and three top shows among African American people, so if people don’t get that, that’s on them. I got me. I know what I’m doing. So whatever discourse it is, they can have that.”
But Perry’s feelings about writers’ rooms might also stem from a 2008 unfair labor practice complaint made by four Black writers for his TBS comedy House of Payne. As IndieWire writer and Shadow And Act founder Tambay A. Obenson wrote in 2015, writers alleged that they were fired for asking for union representation. Obenson also reported that Perry allegedly didn’t sign a contract with the Writers Guild of America that would give writers pensions and healthcare plans.
To be fair to Perry, he has given some thought to including writers’ rooms on future projects after the initial backlash from his “work ethic” social media post. As Tyler Perry Studios’ president of production and development Michelle Sneed said in 2020, Perry is supposedly “excited about the young, up-and-coming filmmakers and new writers that we’re working with.”
“Tyler has solidified his place in the industry; his brand is amazing, and we’ll continue to grow that,” she said. “Then on the other side, we’re working on promoting, providing a platform and advocating for this new talent, both in front of and behind the camera.”
But for right now, the twists and turns in Perry’s work are increasing the divide between the audience Perry has amassed and the potentially larger audience Perry is pushing away.