Tyler Perry Called Out For Homophobia
Freelance Journalist Gerren Keith Gaynor has written a detailed and hard-hitting opinion essay for Ebony.com that digs into the homophobia in Tyler Perry’s new soap opera, The Haves and the Have Nots. Pretty scathing and accurate criticism. I doubt it will change anything though.
I could care less about Tyler Perry really. Perry makes millions off of perpetuating stereotypes and now black gay men are included into that bunch. No surprise there. But this is Cypher Avenue. The article is well written and is a great topic for discussion.
Sticking to his usual formula of mass stereotyping, Perry covers all of his bases. Bourgie Black folk? Check. Hardworking, southern church woman? Check. Privileged Whites? You got it. (There’s even an Hispanic maid.) But this time, there’s one group Perry threw into the mix that I never thought he’d give the time of day to: gay men. Aside from longstanding rumors about Perry’s own sexual preference, it’s surprising that he would address homosexuality at all, considering his fan base is predominantly Black Christian women.
In “The Haves And The Have Nots,” Perry doesn’t just address it, he goes there. His character, Jeffery, is a gay Black man who comes from a very wealthy family and is also trapped in the closet, R. Kelly-style. While being in the closet is a very real experience for many same-gender-loving people, particularly Black men, it didn’t quite sit well with me upon first watching the show, because I suspected Perry would more than likely take the opportunity to do what he does best: drench his character in so many stereotypes that it would turn into a television hate-fest. And that it did.
Despite being an educated, 20-something psychologist who comes from privilege and class, Jeffery is, at the very core, a self-loathing homosexual who lusts after his friend and client, Wyatt. Rather than doing what he’s hired to do, which is counsel Wyatt through his rehabilitation, Jeffery begins to develop a rather creepy obsession with Wyatt. First. it starts with the biting of the lips behind Wyatt’s back, next he’s inappropriately touching Wyatt and giving him a friendship bracelet. In one scene (which absolutely drove me insane) Jeffery sneaks into Wyatt’s bed while he’s sleeping, stares at him for a few seconds, then crawls out and goes back to sleep on the couch.
For one, Tyler writes this Jeffery character as if he’s some sexual demon, just waiting for the right opportunity to take out his burning desires on this young, attractive and presumably straight White man. Not only does Tyler perpetuate the misguided idea that gay and bisexual men are hypersexual beings, but he foolishly insinuates that if you’re gay and in the closet that you’re some type of savage or threat to one’s heterosexuality. Living in society’s figurative closet is far more complex than simply wanting to act out your carnal desires. Yes, some men who are in denial about their sexuality tend to act out in very unhealthy ways, but that’s only telling part of the story. For many, being in the closet doesn’t mean that they’re struggling with their identity, but more so struggling to share that identity with the world. Many self-identifying queer men are quite comfortable in their skin and are in very normal (and mutual) relationships – not trying to turn out a straight man like some horny teenager.
Many gay, Black men are still emasculated and humiliated by society’s homophobia and hypermasculinity, and by simply reiterating these experiences without any substantial solution or takeaways, Perry’s only adding fuel to fire.
But Tyler doesn’t stop there. When Jeffery’s feelings aren’t reciprocated and Wyatt begins dating a woman, Jeffery turns very sadistic. Perry makes Jeffery the classic villain who seeks out revenge and sabotages Wyatt’s relationship, because if he can’t have him, no one can.
It’s really disappointing that with Tyler’s first-ever gay character, he would choose to be so irresponsible with the images he is projecting to his viewers.One of the most erroneous perceptions of men who are attracted to other men is that they have built-up anger and sexual impulses, and therefore, act out in very perverted ways. Taking into account that most of Perry’s audiences are older religious Black women who may already view homosexuality as a cardinal sin, it’s a very dangerous line to walk on when you think about the messages he’s recklessly promoting.
Read the full article by Gerren Keith Gaynor on Ebony.com HERE.
View a clip from Tyler Perry’s They Have and the Have Nots featuring the closeted gay character Jeffrey, HERE:
Jeffery Lets His True Feelings for Wyatt Slip
After Laura stands Wyatt up for dinner and stops returning his calls, Wyatt turns to music for comfort. Then, as Wyatt opens up to Jeffery about his heartache, Jeffery lets his true feelings about Wyatt slip. Watch as Jeffery backtracks and tries to play off his startling admission.
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