Open letter to Tyler Perry

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by Morris W. O’Kelly

Dear Tyler Perry,

I have never been concerned with gaining favor with celebrities or undeservedly denigrating one’s work. I have always prided myself on putting my community first, even when doing so has been unpopular and frankly unappreciated by members of that same community.

So understand that my letter to you is on principle and premise…not personal animus. This comes not from someone who is a fan of “this” or “that” person, but a fan of the community of African-Americans. They come first in all I do.

The problem I personally have with your letter Mr. Perry which offered insight into your decision-making process of casting Kim Kardashian, is that it seeks to weave a disingenuous narrative. You seem to suggest that the sum total story of redemption to be told in Tyler Perry’s The Marriage Counselor holds more weight than the combination of its components.

Untrue.

The issue isn’t whether K.K. is appropriate or whether you Mr. Perry have the right to create as you see fit. Nobody is deluded here. Nothing is going to change from this letter, neither your mind nor your movie. Nevertheless, some things need to be said and placed on the record because the truth doesn’t change and isn’t subject to interpretation. Meaning, the issue I have is that your letter to your fans was an attempt to spin the casting of Kim Kardashian into some higher calling.

That can not pass without a truth check. Again, this isn’t personal, just a matter of principle.

Some people are angry with you because Kim Kardashian receives too much attention as a Black man’s pin up. Some are angry with you because she is not an actress by any stretch of the imagination. Others are displeased that given your high profile movies, an African-American actress in the role means more to your core fan base who made “Tyler Perry” a household name, than fans you may gain by crossing over and dipping into the Reality TV punch bowl.

And let’s be honest, many are disturbed that given your kinda-sorta-Christian-themed-message-movies, you are further rewarding an individual whose original claim to fame was a sex tape.

For all who criticize you on this issue, it is some of that. For some, it is all of that. Inevitably, the distaste for Kim Kardashian amongst many African-American women (your core fan base) is real, not imagined. Take considerable care in the underestimation of their angst and the strength of their collective memory.

A common theme in all of your movies is the story of redemption. Even the worst of the worst are worthy of second chances.

Agreed.

But Mr. Perry, you can’t really argue telling the STORY of redemption through use of a promotion vehicle (Kardashian) who presently lives and thrives on irredeemable REAL LIFE behavior. I’d rather see a sermon lived out than hear one, any day of the week. I’d rather see a sermon than one acted out on the silver screen. People who live their creed mean affect more lives than ones who act it out for a paycheck. If you want to truly reach the followers of K.K., seek to change K.K., don’t give her a movie role and then claim you are doing your fans (and her fans) a quasi-Christian favor by doing so. I think we all understand the economics and business strategy here. There is no need to further convolute the issue.

Truth check: Spiritual discernment still trumps spin and specious argumentation.

K.K. wasn’t an actress who “made a mistake” and who now is being granted a second chance. It’s a “mistake” to even characterize her as an actress. Her claim to fame IS the mistake.

And here you are further rewarding it. Truth check.

If your fans are angry with you (and they are); let’s be truthful and honest about the realities of their anger. Let’s not minimize, trivialize or bastardize the nature of their grievances. It’s not that they didn’t “hear you out” or “jumped to conclusions.” You’ve insulted their intelligence by suggesting their anger was misdirected or misinformed in the first place.

Your company is yours to run as you see fit, your brand to build as you choose. Your success thus far is inarguable. None of the aforementioned ensure though that your judgment is infallible. Don’t glue chicken feathers on a chinchilla Saturday night and then try to sell it at KFC as part of a two-piece and biscuit Sunday morning. Don’t insult the collective intelligence of the African-American film community.

You’ve now tied your brand to Kim Kardashian and must now carry all of the baggage that comes with her. The question is not and was not ever whether your loyal fans understood why you chose Kim Kardashian. The question is and continues to be whether you understood what it means to align yourself with Kim Kardashian.

Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) is a political correspondent for the BBC Radio and Television networks and author of the syndicated column  The Mo’Kelly Report. For more Mo’Kelly, please visit http://mrmokelly.com . Mo’Kelly can be reached at  mrmokelly@gmail.com and welcomes all commentary.

(Reprinted from the St. Louis American)

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