In a recent interview with Hello Beautiful, actor Brian White had some interesting things to say about the way black people, and specifically black women, are portrayed on screen.
When asked about how to maintain a healthy relationship, the newlywed and Stomp the Yard star went on to air his feelings about black stereotypes and how they are mostly accurate.
Check out an excerpt from the interview
What is your insight on the Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry beef? Why do you think people hate Tyler Perry so much?
Because Tyler holds a mirror up to people. Stereotypes are not stereotypes today. The most popular character [in, Why Did I Get Married?], and it’s not the one that Tyler picked as the most popular, is Tasha! You have Janet Jackson and Jill Scott; my point is Jill Scott and Janet are huge music stars with huge fan bases, Tasha became the most popular because her character is portrayed the most like “Love & Hip Hop” the most like, “Desperate Housewives of Atlanta,” [we think he means “Housewives Of Atlanta] you might as well switch it around and pop in Nene [Leaks]. [Tasha Smith] is brilliant, she’s nothing like the character, she’s just portraying what she sees in society, magnified.[sic]
And people get mad and say that’s not us. Yes it is, turn on “Love & Hip Hop” and turn on “Desperate Housewives Of Atlanta” those are “reality shows.” You can’t call something reality then get mad when it shows up in the movies as reality but that’s what we’re doing. That’s where the cycle continues. They don’t do that in Africa, they don’t do that in France; they don’t connect with that message. What’s interesting is we, here, in America connect with that message and get upset at it. That’s what Tyler sees. If you look at Spike, what is his most successful movie ever? successful defined by how much money it made versus how much it cost to make. “Inside Man” and the stars were Clive Owens, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Denzel Washington and Jodi Foster… Four huge actors, two white, one known–Denzel and then another amazing British actor people don’t know here. That is not the type of film that Spike necessarily wants to focus on, right? So what makes money isn’t what Spike makes, so it’s upsetting and frustrating–I would assume. But, what Tyler makes, does make money…$500 million worth of money. [sic]
Do you think Tyler Perry only depicts black people in a negative light? There are a lot of black people who fit into the stereotype but there are a lot of black people who don’t.
You can’t call it a stereotype if it’s the majority. The most prevalent image in “urban society” right now is women like Nene [Leaks]. If there’s a fight that breaks out on “Love & Hip Hop” those people are one every blog, the cover of every magazine the next week. It’s not Taraji or Gabrielle, it’s whoever just got into a fist fight. Tyler’s not stereotyping, he’s holding up a mirror and people are mad at him because people don’t want to look at that image in that way.[sic]
When we use the term here in America, and say “black movies,” that has no reference for the rest of the world. Look at “Luther,” Idris just won a Golden Globe for “Luther,” that is NOT a black show, it’s a British show. British don’t see color they see quality. People who watch BBC don’t go, ‘oo’ there’s that black show, nah. Most African Americans were not even aware of Luther because it’s not a stereotypically urban themed show. Once we in America start focusing on quality first and telling human stories that connect with everybody that might want to watch it, the problems will solve themselves.[sic]
Do you believe that the stereotypes we see on TV are prevalent in the race or just portrayed on TV? Is it really the majority of black women that act like Nene?
I have five sisters and two moms, none of them are like that! To me, I can say I’m offended if they want to represent that and don’t want to represent my mom, but my mom represents Phylicia Rashād and has been represented on TV all my life. I can’t say that. I don’t watch “Real Housewives,” I’ve never seen an episode of “Love & Hop Hop” I’m not supporting it, I’m not giving it ratings. I’m not making the stereotype exist on TV. You’ve watched it, you’ve added to why it’s on TV.[sic]
While I agree with many of his points, that some black folks support foolishness that caters to the lowest common stereotypes, I reject his notion that there is no such thing as a stereotype because SOME people actually behave that way.
We all know that black people are diverse and networks continue to portray us in a one-demential light because it sells, not because we actually act that way in real life (and despite his assertion that black folks in the UK and France don’t struggle with these stereotypes, I’ve seen quite a few “hood” films from both of those countries that my international peeps bemoan. So it’s not just the US.).
Although I dabble in some reality TV foolishness from time to time, I also support diverse entertainment options such as Luther (I guess Brian White doesn’t read Clutch, we big up that show all the time), Awkward Black Girl, Reed Between the Lines, and other options that show a “different” side of black life. And I know many of you do too.
At the end of the day, we want programming that reflects our diversity. Is that too much to ask?