Monday, August 29, 2011

Madea Goes To Jail

Sorry, reverend, doctor, bishop, preacher lady, whatever your name is. I don't agree with all of this. I hear what you say about forgiveness. You're supposed to forgive. This child is telling what her daddy did. Your dad is somewhere living his life and you're on lockdown. You're in jail because of what you did. Learn how to take some responsibility for yourself. For your own stuff. I can't stand folks wanna be the victim. "This person did this so I'm this way." Everybody got a story.

Your mama and daddy gave you life. That's all they do. No matter how good, how bad the life's up to you to make something of it. Suck it up and shut up.

Everybody got a life. What you do with that life is up to you. Stop being the victim. That's all I say.
I’ve always found the character of Madea entertaining whenever she’s featured on a trailer for one of Tyler Perry’s film. I have no idea why but the weird mispronunciations of words like “Hallelu-er” and her swagger seem like a lot of fun. So when I sat down to watch Madea Goes To Jail, I expected to see Madea go through some comic shenanigans but I got a whole lot more.

Madea Goes To Jail tells two stories. One of Madea getting in trouble with the law and ending up in jail and the other of a district attorney who is engaged with another attorney dealing with a childhood friend who is a prostitute. While these stories interweave together they stand in contrast throughout the film that makes an important statement not just about African-Americans but about all of us.

Tyler Perry both embraces stereotypes with the character of Madea but also presents African-Americans like the character of the district attorney as college educated, well-dressed and well-spoken professionals. And I understand why some people may not like Tyler Perry’s over-the-top portrayal of Madea, but it’s a caricature, almost like a cartoon. It’s so obliviously not suppose to be a real reflection of anyone. The other characters buck the trend of the way that many images in our culture portray African-Americans as rappers, gansta’s or professional sports players.

This film reveals the multiplicity within the African-American culture, which is often forgotten. The district attorney’s fiancĂ©e doesn’t understand his sympathy towards the prostitute because she feels like they’ve been given the same opportunities but the district attorney reminds her that she didn’t grow up in a poor neighborhood.  As the story unfolds the interconnections and the way that people deal with the choices in their lives are revealed in an unexpected and powerful way.

The plot-line with the district attorney is intense and only with the comic interjections of Madea’s plot line is the viewer able to process the more emotional plot-line. While the film is does not represent great technique in film making it reflects a deep desire to make a positive statement about what it means to take responsibility for your life.

There are no quick fixes in this film. It realistically portrays the struggles and the consequences the characters deal with.  You don’t seen many films really addressing the issues that Madea Goes To Jail touches upon in a way that both entertains and challenges the viewer.

I’m an Asian-American and probably like many people who are not African-American, I didn’t feel that Tyler Perry’s films were for me. And I’m sure that I’m missing things in the film and I don’t really understand everything that is going on.  However,  I really enjoyed watching the film and if you haven’t checked out one of Perry’s films, I highly recommend that you do.

Rob Humanick put it best in his review of another of Perry's film I Can Do Bad All By Myself:

"It isn't great art, but it's popular art worth believing in."

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