I love to write. More specifically, I love to write about the stories of my life. The fighting-in-the-middle-of-the-street stories. The stories of abuse. The stories of perseverance and triumph. The just-plain-ole-tomfoolery-and-ain’t-no-damn-point kind of stories. The profound stories. The banal stories. I love telling life stories. No matter how ordinary or pointless a situation may appear to be, there is a lesson and something to be gained from that story. The lesson may not be Earth-shattering. The lesson may simply be to laugh at ourselves and see the humor in life. As I used to tell a judge I once clerked for, sometimes “it ain’t that deep.” I once got into a debate with a friend about the merits of Tyler Perry movies versus those of more “highbrow” or “serious” Black directors like Spike Lee. Like many other Black folks, my friend believes that Mr. Perry’s movies are buffoonery and have no real point to them. She also feels that the gun-toting, cussin’ female character “Madea,” played by Mr. Perry, is nothing more than a modern-day minstrel show, and a caricature rather than a true representation of Black people’s experiences. My friend believes that Mr. Perry has a responsibility to “do better” because there are so few opportunities for Black directors. However, she feels that White producers don’t have the same responsibility because they dominate the movie industry. Admittedly, some aspects of Mr. Perry’s movies fall head over heels into the unmitigated tomfoolery category – as is the case with many movies by White directors. However, some aspects of Mr. Perry’s movies are more serious – as is the case with many movies by White directors. I love Tyler Perry’s movies, disagree with my friend, and think Mr. Perry’s movies have much to teach us. But, I’ll save that debate for another blog post because I’m trying to make a midnight deadline! However, our conversation made me think about a writer’s responsibility in telling stories. Mr. Perry has often said that his movies and plays are based upon aspects of his own life and those of people he knows. Must a writer tell a story that resembles the experiences of a majority of the community of which he is a part? Should the writer’s story reflect one of many stories? Or, does it even matter how rooted in reality a writer’s stories are? And what role does the audience play?
I deeply believe that all of us have the right to tell whatever stories we choose, however we choose, and for whatever reasons we choose – even if that reason is only to entertain. All stories have value – the funny, the sad, the profound, and the outrageous. And sometimes, it just ain’t that deep. I remember going to see the movie “Bridesmaids,” starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, a little over a week before my grandmother passed away. By that point, she had been in the hospital for about 3 weeks and I was exhausted from going to work and then to the hospital every day. I just wanted to take one day to relax and laugh. So, I decided to go see Bridesmaids before going to the hospital. I think that movie may be the funniest movie I have ever seen. There was no profound point. I didn’t leave the theatre with some great epiphany about life. I simply laughed myself right out of my chair, along with everyone else in the theatre. And that’s exactly what I wanted and needed. There are some aspects of my life, and many people’s lives, that would be ripe material for a Tyler Perry movie. Those stories should be embraced, told, and valued as much as the Spike Lee moments. Sometimes life is heavy, serious and revolutionary. And sometimes life just ain’t that deep. Perhaps that is the lesson some stories are meant to teach.