The 44th NAACP Image Awards, Minus Tyler Perry

Tuesday, December 11, 2012, the nominations for the 44th NAACP Image Awards were announced. The show recognizes achievements of minorities, mostly African-American and Hispanic artists in music, literature, film and television. As with any awards show, there are snubs and nominations that are surprising as well as unwarranted. To me, this is especially true in the film categories, and I'm going out on a limb, but I feel all the nominations that went to Tyler Perry and his various properties should not have happened in light of the alternatives.

According to the NAACP press release, the goal is to honor the accomplishments of people of color and to celebrate their artistic craft as a way of sharing positive images of Black and Hispanic culture, and by extension the cultures of other minorities, including Native American, Indian, Asian and etc. The NAACP apparently makes no quality judgments. They honor anything regardless of its critical or financial success.

I can understand ignoring the financial success of a piece of art because historically-speaking art work from minorities has always struggled in the marketplace for various reasons. Some of those reasons have been unfair, but I don't understand ignoring the critical success or rather the critical failure of an art work.

The NAACP shouldn't allow the Rotten Tomatoes score of a particular film determine which movies it chooses to hold up. The contributors and administrators to Rotten Tomatoes are mostly white, so some would argue that for that reason alone it should not be the arbiter or barometer for Black culture. Yet, if we're supposedly living in a post-racial world, I don't think the Rotten Tomatoes score should be all together tossed aside either.

For Outstanding Motion Picture, the nominees are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Flight, Red Tails and Tyler Perry's Good Deeds. The first three all have Rotten Tomatoes scores of 77-percent or higher. Red Tails has a score of 39-percent and Good Deeds has a score of 32-percent, which would consider the latter two bad movies.

I don't know how the nominations are determined. The NAACP might hold a vote among all its members or it might decide the nominations by committee. Either way, any person sitting and watching this would consider these five choices as the best that the NAACP could find. The question is if these five are the best.

Red Tails is a special case. George Lucas produced Red Tails and the NAACP is giving him the 2012 Vanguard Award in part because Red Tails was a self-financed, passion-project for Lucas to bring to the big screen an action film based on the history and heroics of America's first all-black aerial combat unit. It's a safe bet that if Lucas hadn't put up the money to make this movie, no one would have. Therefore, I'm willing to give him a pass.

Tyler Perry's Good Deeds is another story. The reviews for it on average are no better than anything else he's done, but the box office returns make it the lowest for a Tyler Perry movie. According to Box Office Mojo, there are 12 Tyler Perry movies, ones that he himself wrote and directed. Box Office Mojo even refers to them as "Brand: Tyler Perry." Good Deeds ranks 11 on that brand list, earning only $35 million.

It's not just about what white critics are saying about Tyler Perry. It's also that the general audience, or at least Perry's regular audience didn't really embrace Good Deeds. Yet, this is the film that the NAACP chooses to hold up. Why? It couldn't be due to a lack of alternatives. Instead of Good Deeds, the NAACP could have nominated Think Like a Man or Life of Pi, two films that have higher Rotten Tomatoes scores and extremely higher box office returns.

For Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, the nominees include Denzel Washington in Flight, Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, Morgan Freeman in The Magic of Belle Isle, Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi and Tyler Perry in Alex Cross. Again, Tyler Perry is the odd man out. Not only did Alex Cross receive one of the lowest Rotten Tomatoes scores of the year, a pathetic 12-percent, but the movie has made less in the box office than Good Deeds.

Again, I ask why. It wasn't due to a lack of alternatives. The NAACP could have easily substituted Perry for Will Smith in Men in Black 3, Michael Peña in End of Watch or James Howson in Wuthering Heights. All three of those actors no question gave better performances. I would even argue that Nate Parker in Red Tails gave a better performance than Perry. Some have also been really praising the performance of Clarke Peters in Red Hook Summer, but even that film was totally ignored.

I have no beef against Tyler Perry. Clearly, the man is successful. He overcame a lot of hardships to get where he is and I respect him for that. Next to Oprah, he is possibly the richest black person in the entertainment industry. I suppose that buys him a seat at the NAACP Image Awards every year, but Tyler Perry is no longer an artist. He is a brand who is only churning out product to fill what will probably be his own network. This is fine, but when his seat at the NAACP pushes aside legitimate artists, then I have a problem with him.

The 44th NAACP Image Awards air February 1, 2013 at 8PM on NBC.


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