MediaSnob, PostRacialist

Black In America 2, Part 2: Fail, Jail and Tyler Perry

It could be argued that no matter what CNN produced for Black In America 2 there would be gripes. There would be complaints about quality and whether or not the documentary was “for us, by us” or “for them, by them.” There was going to be hell no matter what. Still, that didn’t quite prepare me for Thursday’s final installment that featured an uneven mishmash of stories that seemed lacking in detail, once again long on emotion and short on substance.

I gave Thursday night’s segment a “fail” due to its unevenness in presentation and how a few of the issues seemed to have little to do with “blackness” and everything to do with typical problems everyone faces (re: the marriage segment where they made it seem like the couple just needed to “do it” more often). The lot felt scripted, from the girl who mentioned healthy food on a McDonald’s menu on a night sponsored by McDonalds, to the choice of director Tyler Perry as a pioneer when Turner Broadcasting owns both the network that airs his sitcoms and CNN. Other times, it was frustrating. Like when correspondent Soledad O’Brien failed to point out the irony in a man robbing a legal medicinal marijuana grower when he originally went to prison for selling drugs. Here’s a state where you can grow and sell marijuana for “medicinal use” and he was still operating with the mindset of a small-time drug dealer. But chance for irony missed.

I did enjoy the segments on Gregory Canada’s youth fitness program and the barbershop that worked to keep black men healthy, but much of the program was depressing for me.

I could go into more detail about what I didn’t like, but I honestly don’t feel like beating a dead and decapitated horse today. I’m going to let you all have at it. What was your response to the second installment?

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20 thoughts on “Black In America 2, Part 2: Fail, Jail and Tyler Perry

  1. Reecie says:

    I was more depressed watching the first installment, honestly. I really enjoyed the same segments you did. I think because this one was shorter it was less for me to hate. LOL. I too noticed the irony of the robbery. No comment at all on Tyler Perry.

  2. David Wise says:

    A couple of quick comments. Why do these fine looking women fall for these jailbirds? I agree with the guy on the show criticizing Tyler. That Madea character is straight outta Amos and Andy. But here’s the irony. Tyler is so smart and shrewd as a businessman that I have to admire him. Most of his work is crap, though.

  3. Monie says:

    "…Tyler is so smart and shrewd as a businessman that I have to admire him. …"@DavidThere are a lot of shrewd drug dealers out there too. Do you admire them as well? This ‘I respect the hustle’ thing is getting a little old. Perry is a mistral, what is there to admire about that?Let’s just hope there is no Black in America 3.

  4. Layo G says:

    i am not as pessimistic about this segment, but I do agree that it was not about being BLACK IN AMERICA, it was more of showing our failures, although it did have some up parts. Being Black in America is more like how do we interact with other races, as individuals, as a community, how do we deal with police brutality, and feeling the need to not just be good in school or work, but to be perfect in order to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the wider society. Black in America 1 did a better job of that, and I think I enjoyed 1 better, but 2 was not as fatal as other seem to think. But I am a little mad that in neither 1 or 2, I was not represented (immigrants and 1st generation from other black nation, Nigeria for me), because I believe we do have a COMPLETELY different experience in this country, and in the way we interact with each other. And I also have to say, I agree with the Tyler Perry criticism. While I am very proud of him, and he is going into a level of hollywood that not many blacks have been, but his message of empowerment, and betterment for the Black community is lost in the gun toting, loud, non-church going grandma that is the center of his plays, and the Madea movies. Everything else gets lost in Madea, and therefore his message is diluted, and it becomes a caricature. I MUCH prefer his movies, which have been GREAT, but I can do without the Madea roles. But I am still proud of him and his success.

  5. sarah says:

    I enjoyed the Black in America series this time. At least it all wasn’t just gloom and doom like it was with the last series. They actually showed people working in their communities trying to make a differene. Hopefully people will see that and be motivated to work in their own communities too. I loved the segment about the black doctors, the Brotherhood Project. It would be great if we can start similiar programs for the ladies, the Sisterhood Project, with black female doctors. Also I think everybody needs to give Perry a break. He came straight from the black theatre chitlin circuit to producing major films. I think it took him a few movies to figure out that the loud boistrous over the top antics that work on the gospel stage aren’t suited for film. He’s figuring it out. Daddy’s Little Girls and Why did I get Married are great examples of him growing as a filmaker. He is maturing and I don’t see him, especially with the new found power he has, jumping around in grandma drag too much longer. It’s beneath him now. Madea goes to Jail is probably the last Madea film we are going to see in a very long time.

  6. Curious says:

    Just out of curiosity, Danielle, what you have liked to see; that is to say, if you were working at CNN and had complete creative control over a documentary describing what it means to be black in America, what would you do? Take us through, The Black Snob Presents: Black in America.

  7. CoCo Deij says:

    Overall my grade for the series is a C, at best. The show, while definately highlighting some postitives in our community, missed the mark on a couple of points, ultimately bringing my overall feelings about the program down. First, we have all seen these images of black poverty, dispair and suffering before, showing them again is not getting us anywhere if no one ever takes a look at the causes and reasons behind why some people are in the predicament they are in. Delve a litlle deeper, ask another question don’t just leave the discussion at black folks have problems. No one wanted to ask the questions of WHY? Why are schools in an impoverished neighborhood so underfunded? Why is there little to no parental involvement? Why is there such a high number of black men in jail? Why do so many of them return to the life that got them there?Second, can we get a more even perspective of who actually belongs to the black community. In all four of the segments (the first two and the most recent two) we have visited the ghetto, we have seen poverty, we have seen single parent households. On the converse side we saw 20-30 minutes dedicated to the black elite and 20-30 minutes on a middle class family (the married couple in trouble). Out of eight hours worth of coverage we got about an hour of something other than poverty. Not that she didn’t have the opportunity, in the segament about Project Brotherhood why not talk about the doctors who do the work, don’t just tell us their names and move on. Talk about where they come from, why they do the work they do and some of the issues and struggles they have over come. But we know all about the over-weight man who is on 12 medications. CNN failed to give me anything other than what I have already seen on t.v. a million times before. We as black people KNOW what it is like to be Black in America, so this special report couldn’t have been for us. Therefore if CNN was attempting to show the rest of the world what it is like to be "Black in America" then there needs to be a better cross section of who black people really are. In the program I saw very few people who resembled most of my friends and family. And the people who I did see got very little air time. All of us know a drug addict, impoverished person or likewise but is that our only point of reference. Why did the parents of the girl in Mr. Perry’s school get some what indepth coverage (i.e. she was on crack for 11 years and he is an abuser of alcohol) yet I know NOTHING about the doctors in Chicago?

  8. devessel says:

    I’m going to have to agree with you, Snob. Frankly, the target audience be damned–CNN (not Soledad, but CNN) was going to put on the show they wanted to. If I did not already know that the series subtitle was ‘Pioneers’, then squinting at the memory of the grab bag of stories highlighted, I suppose you could say there was some sort of thread. But just barely. You really had to have a couple of drinks first. The best WTF moment was the segment which was supposed to profile the brother running the anti-recidivism project in California. Somehow, more time was spent on one of his clients who actually got re-arrested over the course of the segment. Really? So…how is this man supposed to be a pioneer, again?

  9. SupernoVa says:

    How would anyone begin to tell our story from the beginning into the 21st century? I think that it’s an impossibility primarily because each of our stories are so different and so complex. Personally, I had to stop and say to myself as I was watching the show, that I don’t really need CNN to tell my story, I tell it well enough myself. And unless they are going to come into my home and work on my issues directly, I will just be watching. Because like someone else here said, we already know what we face each day, we have all seen it before. However, I can’t condemn CNN or Soledad for even trying, when our own Black Entertainment Television, is airing Babyboy on a regular. Ultimately, the part that bothered me the most was the segment on the black upper class, and how quickly the lady being interviewed stated when asked by Soledad if you had to be wealthy to belong to their exclusive club she stated "Not wealthy, just a part of the group". I keep wondering how can the rest of us get ahead when even our own is so good at shutting us out? The wealthy lady [as she so eloquently pointed out] meticulously took Soledad through a barrage of pictures on her wall emphasizing how she comes from a wealthy background. She then took Soledad to the boojie black ball, where she further pointed out that she and all of her boojie comrades were making DAMN SURE that their boojie offspring are being taught the same tactics [keep black high society exclusive]. Almost as if to say, "Look we can do what you white folks do!" Also not to be confused with the fact that they are going to also make sure that their offspring don’t by some off -hand chance wind up courting or dating someone from humble means. Soooo, even though we have come so far, we are still blessed and cursed by our times.LOLOL!! HIGHLIGHT of the show: Cicely Tyson!!!! I love her

  10. April says:

    The part about the couple in marriage counseling didn’t make sense to me because the whole time I was wondering, "How is this specific to black people?" Soledad whipped out the stale bit about black marriage being in crisis, but I have not heard anything about the rate of divorce being higher among black couples, and the special provided no information to support this idea, either. So, perhaps it was a feel-good story, but what did it say about being black in America?Also, I also noticed that the series seemed to have an underlying assumption that black=Christian. In the marriage segment, it was offhandedly stated that black couples need to attend church together to be stronger, and a shot of a black Christian church was shown. Of course, not all people in the black community are believers in Christ, but of course the woman who gave that soundbyte wasn’t pressed to consider that.

  11. I guess I liked the married couple because they could have been any color. But, considering the statistics that we get all the time about Black women and marriage, that these two have been married, and for a long time, and were devoted to their children, but did what so many people do – devote themselves to the children and neglect their relationship – it was the very ‘ human’. we can recite the statistics in our sleep about Black women and marriage. Here was a long-term married couple.

  12. I think Thursday’s show was very random in the way the segments were put together and the way the editors seemed to jump from one thought to another. Plus, as others have said, it didn’t really focus on Black America. I think that they could have shown more uplifting segments (the first day did better with this) as well as shown a wider variety of the people that make up the Black American diaspora.

  13. thetammyt says:

    after reading the peice and quite afew comments, the one that captured my attention the most was from April. Soledads piece was "stale" It had a sort of regurgitated concern. I myself couldn’t watch the mish-mash of story vs. over-inflated concern.

  14. Wizz says:

    For crying out loud people… This series was not bad at all.. There is no pleasing us.. We complain about negative images in the media, then when someone tries to show some positives going on in all our neighborhoods, we complain about that too.

  15. TheVerdict says:

    I am watching the show now. I enjoyed BIA I a lot better than BIA II. BIA I seemed more positive and showed how people are making a change in others lives. BIA II, showed programs that hope to affect change, but many of the featured programs did not show how the programs are making a positive impact. For instance, black men re-entering prison is an issue. The show told how one group is trying to make a change but the case highlighted was a failure. I would have preferred to see that episode balanced with a success story. Health, education, finding jobs, crime, and single parent households are problems in the black community. These things we already know. I really wanted to see more solutions that are working. In any case, I’m still watching the show so maybe those parts are coming. The part on Tyler Perry is coming on now. Gotta go :).

  16. TheVerdict says:

    The Tyler Perry portion seems more about individual success. I acknowledge that Tyler Perry has made an impact on jobs for blacks in Hollywood. I guess the message was that when you achieve your dreams/goals you can help others to achieve theirs. This message was also in the segment on Dr. Newman and her efforts to find a cure for breast cancer in black women. Again the message was your success can lead to the success of others. I felt the message was positive in both instances. Regardless of what you think of Tyler Perry movies, Jobs and Health are big issues.

  17. TheVerdict says:

    The BIA II segment on the man recently out of jail that quit his job showed me that some of our youth really need to understand consequences of their actions. The consequence of quitting his job in a recession with a baby on the way and multiple children to care for was obvious to me. Why wasn’t it obvious to him? He was very optimistic with no basis for his optimism. The deck was already stacked against him. I felt the same disbelief when the young basketball player that traveled to Africa in BIA I felt he could become a lawyer but was basically failing every class. He also did not connect his failing grades to his chances of obtaining a law degree. These instances raised issues of personal responsibility and consequences. Or maybe it was an issue of low self-esteem camouflaged by unrealistic confidence. IDK but as a person that works with children, I feel these issues are real and need to be addressed.

  18. BooBooKitty says:

    Having a BA in Theatre’ and having trained professionally in music, dance, and theatre since my childhood with screaming and leg-popping teachers in voice and dance as well as sitting through jazz history and music history courses with hard-nosed instructors that were vengeful if you fronted false sincerity about the arts, I have to admit I give Tyler Perry a pass. It’s art at his level and he has shown he really has tried to improve. He just is stuck where he is with limited talented and a lot of luck and grace bestowed upon him in monetary, secular success.Tyler is not trying to offer us high-brow arts. He is offering his base–our people with bastardized, limited tastes and intelligences, as much as they can appreciate. We are blaming Tyler for the audience being bastardized, primitive, and rudimentary when we are fearful of looking mean-spirited and snobby to admit that is where they are and that which he gives this is what they want. He is not producing vulgarity but he is producing weak and trite characters and predicatable stories we already know. He is not creating stamina-inducing concepts for his audience. But he creates something for them. And yes sadly, our people need to be pressed/forced to advance but we are so intimidated ourselves by wanting to protect our own civil liberties that we are trapped by the same luxury of those civil rights to not oppress our brethren to have to be better. We just blame Tyler because he is an easy target instead of admitting that we have rudimentary family members and community that we love and endear that are evolutionary stuck in and under-developed as modern civilized humans living in a competitive society that their competing peers know they have commit to in accepting challenges of educational advancements in reciprocating higher-browed arts.I thank Tyler Perry for being because he gave a friend of mine an assistant directing job who has been having a hard time. Those in the arts are struggling who are independent contractors of no-name notoriety. That friend I just sent $120 to try to get a technology device so he can still be able to network and take meetings to stay competitive to work. Tyler Perry gave him a job once and that is something I will never forget. I thank him for being eventhough I have not watched but one of his movies (and that was the first one which my friend worked for him).

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