“Pause,” a recent episode of “The Boondocks,” is stirring up lots of controversy and becoming an instant classic.
The episode aired on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” on June 20, and features a storyline in which the patriarch of the Freeman household finds late-life career success as a leading man in a Winston Jerome play on the “Chitlin’ Circuit.”
The title comes from young homophobe Riley Freeman’s practice of saying “pause” whenever something is done or said that could be misconstrued as “gay.” In the episode, everything Winston Jerome does would merit a pause from Riley, from having a designated lotion assistant on staff to appearing in drag both on and off the stage.
It’s clear that Jerome is a parody of Tyler Perry: He acts, produces, and appears in drag in self-written plays, and has a multimedia empire and a large estate for production of his dramadies. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough black male millionaires for there to be any confusion.
In light of the fact that many of his fans are conservative, Perry probably is most put off by the insinuation that Jerome, and therefore he, is a flamboyant homosexual behind closed doors. All Perry has said on the subject is that everything in “Pause” is a lie. My opinion on the subject: If Perry was gay, he would never risk losing his vast audience by coming out. Perry wouldn’t take a chance on letting his base turn on him.
I won’t hazard any guesses on Perry’s sexuality, because I don’t think it matters, and I think that the more cutting commentary in the episode is about the content of Perry’s plays and movies. Riley’s older brother, Huey, is spitting the truth when he says that all Winston Jerome creations are the same. Huey wryly insinuates that the central plot of most Tyler Perry plays and films is a beautiful, brown-skinned woman leaving her abusive husband, the “dark-skinned and bald dude from ‘Law and Order,’ ”for her “shirtless lightskinded gardener who just got out of jail,” and the two of them finding love through Jesus.
It’s a bit oversimplified, but if Perry is going to take on the task of bringing back (or just creating) “Black Hollywood,” then he owes it to his viewers to provide more complex and less predictable storylines. It’s great that he targets a previously untapped audience — churchgoers who weren’t moviegoers — but if Perry made movies that were more than formulaic drivel, the people he claims to represent would be better off.
Let’s disregard the fact that he wears a prosthetic bra to get the biggest laughs in his work. What is refreshing about movies featuring a black woman who, when angered, can’t help but pull out a gun?
The stereotype of the angry black woman is in full effect with the Madea character. Is every single black woman without a gun and a temper wasting away until she can find Jesus and a husband? Do all working — or middle-class black families have crackhead cousins with legal troubles?
Many say that Perry is the only mainstream producer who shows black women in loving relationships as well as responsible, employed black men, and that he deserves credit for that. I applaud him for bringing that kind of diversity to the table.
I don’t care if Perry is gay or not, or if he prefers to wear dresses at home, but if he’s going to be our representation in Hollywood, he needs to give us real, challenging plots.