I used to speculate that we would look back on this era of “gay”-comedy in 20 years the same way we now look at the racist “humor” of the previous generation. (Addendum: By “gay” humor, I don’t mean humor created by homosexuals but humor in which the butt of the joke is lessened by being categorized as being gay.) I think we’ll cringe watching re-runs of “Will & Grace” then like we do with “Amos ‘n Andy” now.
Recently I have come to question my own hypothesis. I have recently started to wonder if the political black-mark on this generation won’t be using “gay” as a code-word for less (as bad as that is) but instead forcing black actors into a fat suit and a dress to open a movie.
Eddie Murphy: “The Klumps”, “Norbit” (et al(?) I’m asuming there are more)
Martin Lawrence: The “Big Momma’s House” series
Tracy Jordan: “Fat Bitch”
Tyler Perry: Career
Of course white stars/actors have donned fat-suits for rolls. No less luminaries than A-Lister Brad Pitt (Friends) or Oscar winner Gwenyth Paltrow (“Shallow Hal”) or even Vince Vaughn (everything since “Swingers” (What?)). The difference being that while some white stars have chosen to don the fat-suit other have opted not to…and still have careers.
Will Smith is a product of the ’90’s. Denzel has been working since Bush’s father was in office. Who was the last black movie star (movie star, not rapper crossing over) who has had a big movie without playing a over-weight woman?
A more cogent example may be that of Chris Rock. Arguably the funniest person on the planet for the better part of this decade (inarguably in the conversation as such) and yet his movie track-record is horrendous. Movies he writes, movies he doesn’t write. Movies he directs, movies he doesn’t direct. Is it possible that my kid is going to think of Chris Rock as the bust from “Head of State” the way I once thought of Richard Pryor as the catcher from “Brewster’s Millions”?
So now the question becomes; Who is seeing these movies? Apparently the Tyler Perry movies are for middle-class African Americans. So I’m told and so I believe.I live in the Northeast, our knowledge of Tyler Perry movies is about as expansive as my knowledge of NASCAR. But one has to wonder if the principle ticket-buyers for these movies aren’t, in fact, white people who want nothing more than to watch a wealthy black man stumble around in a girdle and high heels for an hour and a half.
Are these movies (and other movies in this millieu) a fair representation of what black comedians/actors have to offer? Or is merely a refection of what the studio system will fund? Or is it just a modern day minstrel show?
I hope not. I hope not. And I hope not.