What do Tyler Perry and Scandal Have in Common?

Let’s start with Tyler Perry.

A long time ago, when I was just wide-eyed girl living in Queens, NY, I would go to the movies. And every season or so, those movies would star black people. I watched Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, Soul Food, Love Jones, The Best Man and even The Wood, and life was good. Then I went to college, and a move came out called “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” It was OK, no beef. Then another Tyler Perry movie came out. Well, can’t have a good black movie every season, I thought. But then another came out. Then another. Until an entire generation (generation being 10 years for my purposes) had no idea what a non-Tyler Perry black movie was. And real actresses like Phylicia Rashad and Angela Bassett were forced to act in his movies too—just to get food on the table.

I have my issues with TP, but I will say this: he gave a lot of black actors work, who may not have been able to find it otherwise. And, more importantly, he made a lot of money. It is my belief that at some point the non-TP studios realized, if that Madea stuff can make money, just imagine what would happen if we produced a move that was actually good?? What followed was a season when a bunch of black movies were out around the same time: The Best Man Holiday, Black Nativity, The Butler, Mandela. And that was good.

Tyler Perry reminded movie execs that stories about minority people can be profitable. This fact had already been established, but like the generation who thought TP movies were the only black movies ever to exist, a generation of people hadn’t seen it with their own eyes, and therefore couldn’t believe it to be true.

I think the same thing can be said about Scandal. Scandal wasn’t successful in spite of having an African-American star, I would argue that a large part of that success was because of Kerry Washington. Because the show was making history, it received a greater amount of coverage and instant fan loyalty. I have more thoughts about Scandal and Shondaland, but that’s the point I’m trying to make for now.

As much as I love Scandal, do I think it’s the perfect example of how to utilize minority characters in mainstream media? No. Similarly, do I think Tyler Perry movies accurately portray African American life? Hell no.

But both Tyler Perry and Scandal told the world that stories about minority characters are worthy of investment. So my question is this- who is going to teach that to the publishing industry?

Not Writing = Fatness

I will admit it that I have been slacking. And now I feel fat.  Not literally though-

Let me explain.

Many people have asked me “how did you write a novel and maintain a full time job?” My response is typically to explain that writing is like exercising. It’s work and takes discipline, but ultimately, I feel better about life after doing it.  The routine gives me that content, productive, got-my-ish-together feeling.  And then they understand.

Since I haven’t been writing or blogging regularly, I don’t know how else to describe my current state other than to say I feel fat.

But it’s ok because I have a plan.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where people all over the country (world? universe?) strive to write 50,000 words by November 30. All those people out there with a novel inside of them make an attempt to finally get it out.  Part of me thinks the whole thing feels weirdly contrived.  The other part thinks this may be the only way to get me back into the groove.  I’m embracing the “other part” and thus I will strive to (1) revise my novel (again) and (2) get back to blogging weekly.

Substantively, I need to work on the dude aka my male protagonist. Everyone hates him but me. It wouldn’t bother me if some people didn’t like him, but this is consistent feedback that I have received, which is not right because he is supposed to be a decent human being. So, despite my previous resistance, I’m going to try re-writing his chapters in the first person. That is supposed to be the perspective that people connect to the most, so maybe that will help resolve the problem.

Technically, I just need to cut some stuff out. Usually, I’m good at eliminating superfluous words/paragraphs. But usually, I’m also working on shorter documents. It can literally take me hours to revise a memo that’s only 4 or 5 pages. Nevertheless, that’s one of my most important writing skills so I might as well apply it to the most (personally) important thing I’ve ever written!

So basically, I have nine more days of fatness to go.  Thankfully, I’ll be on vacation for four of them. Wish me luck!

P.S. I got an e-mail from my novel the other day:

novel

Nicholas Sparks Sued for Being an A-Hole

Don’t you love it when your instincts are right?

A year or so ago, something about Nicholas Sparks rubbed me the wrong way. Let me remind you that he actually believes that no woman has successfully managed to break into this category of “love tragedy”—which makes absolutely no logical sense.

But that’s old news.

Today we’re talking about Nicholas Sparks the accused racist, homophobe and anti-semite. I read through (most) of the complaint and, assuming the allegations are true, this what I concluded:

Sparks is an a-hole, which, combined with his position as a privileged white male, has given him an undertone of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, sexism and anti-anythingnotlikeNicholasSparksism.

Let’s start with the Nature of the Claims:

Defendant Sparks, the world-famous romance novelist of such popular works as ‘The Notebook’ and ‘A Walk to Remember,’ describes himself as ‘one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.’ However, despite his commercial success as an author, the greatest fiction created by Defendant Sparks is the public image that he is somehow a proponent of progressive ideals such as diversity and inclusiveness. In reality, the non-fiction version of Defendant Sparks feels free, away from public view, to profess and endorse vulgar and discriminatory views about African-Americans…LGBT individuals, and individuals of non-Christian faiths.

In addition to a number of a-hole tendencies (yelling, berating, etc.), Sparks was accused of:

  • telling the Headmaster not to pose with people in the NAACP (after he was hired to help diversify the school) and other prominent black people
  • stating black students wouldn’t do well at the school because they are poor and can’t do academic work
  • discouraging teachers from assisting bullied gay students in part because the student who started a “homo-caust” was the child of a prominent donor
  • Locking the Headmaster in a room and threatening him until he signed a resignation letter (because he had a multi-year contract)

This is where I stand on this: Nicholas Sparks is the definition of white, male privilege. He views his success as purely individual, the result of his own personal hard work and talent and is unwilling to recognize the advantages that this background has given him, especially as a man writing about topics traditionally viewed as “female.”

It’s one thing if he is just walking around high on himself, making dumb comments at book signings. It’s quite another when he is put in a position of power. Sparks seems to just accept that he and people like him are superior.  He genuinely has no interest and sees no responsibility as an author or a school founder to understand the racial and socio-economic nuances that helped to enable his own success.

The result is that he actually believes he is simply being loyal to his network when he supports their kids who started a “homo-caust” or instructs teachers not to discuss non-Christian faiths in his non-sectarian, non-demoninational school. He genuinely believes that African-Americans are nearly absent from his school (despite it being located in an area that is 40% black) simply because they are less capable.

Does that make him a racist? Or simply a product of and facilitator in the larger structural problems embedded in this country?

Either way, I’m glad someone is filing suit because, ultimately, someone with that mentality should NOT be running a school. As I learn more about him, I also feel increasingly uneasy with his prominence in pop culture if these are the sort of xenophobic messages he’s trying to send.