Tyler Perry’s films are often criticized for their cartoonish depiction of African-American life and, especially, his depiction of black women as either abused, struggling beings who are rescued by good men or ambitious shrews who are brought low by bad men. There’s always a good deal of finger-wagging and Bible-waving at these wayward women.
But his latest morality melodrama, “Temptation,” which opened to scathing reviews last weekend, has appalled even many of those who in the past have been willing to cut Perry some slack. Not only does he once again smack down a woman who would dare step out of her lane, but he uses HIV to punish her.
Beyond blasting “Temptation” as a technically bad movie — Kim Kardashian has a speaking role in the film — some commentators have decried its message as damaging to the decades-long battle to destigmatize people with HIV.
Helena Andrews, writing for The Root, admits to being a fan of bad movies and was looking forward to this one. “[B]ut instead of reveling in the ridiculousness of it all, I left wondering whether Perry actually watches his own movies. Does he realize that successful women are the victims of their own ambition in nearly every one of his films?”
Veronica Miller, writing for The Grio, said Perry paints a false and out-of-date picture of people living with HIV. “Perry’s message is targeted specifically at black women — live the way a good little Christian girl should, or be eternally damned with disease.”
And Lindy West, writing for Jezebel, goes all in on the filmmaker, who does have a loyal, enthusiastic following among a significant segment of the African American community. “Perry has done a lot for the visibility of black voices in popular culture, but that doesn’t make his moralistic subtext in Temptation any less repellant and irresponsible.”