Tyler Perry has come a long way. He is almost like the Woody Allen of African-American audiences with the way he writes and directs his own material.
He has been active since the early 1990s and yet not widely known because he was only writing and directing small stage plays.
When the Madea character came out in the new millennium we forgot about other actors such as Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy who had previously played black women in movies.
Coming to us with something that has no Madea in it, Perry presents The Haves and the Have Nots, a soap drama he adapted from a play he wrote. In it we meet three families in different financial circumstances. There is the Cryer family, which will remind you of the Graysons in Revenge as they are just as rich.
In the same tax bracket is the African-American Harrington family. These two families are dubbed as the “haves” and it is obvious throughout the series why they fit the description.
On the bottom of the food chain are the Youngs, another African-American family who look up to the other two rich households in the hope of be- coming just as wealthy one day.
Set in Savannah, Georgia, The Haves and the Have Nots attempts to show how the three nuclear families intertwine and relate to one another.
To start with, the Cryers’ maid, Hanna, is the leader of the Young family. So based on that alone, the Youngs are financially prejudiced as they earn off the Cryers. Their place on the social ladder is much, much lower than all those around them because Hanna is simply the help.
In the “have nots” section is also Celine Gonzales who is another maid at the Cryer homestead, making her a colleague of Hanna’s.
The Cryers and the Harringtons may be very rich, but they are also different, and that comes out in how they behave and what wealth means to them. However, what they have in common is being dysfunctional and their money manages to cover up their problems. This is not the case for the Young family.
It has never been disputed that Perry is a great writer as over the years he has managed to carve his niche and make a name for himself in Hollywood. But the one thing that will possibly hurt this drama series is the fact that Perry, as usual, is a jack of all trades. He writes, directs and produces the show, leaving no room for any fresh ideas.
This has been the case with most of his older films, reaching a point where you think the man is nothing short of narcissistic. At least he is not acting in this one because we know when he starts to act, just like Murphy, Perry wants to star in so many roles in one movie.
Those who have watched the Madea films know they all have something in common, the lessons within. The Have and the Have Nots is no exception. Perry tackles a lot of touchy subjects which include substance abuse, rape, abortion, homosexuality, cancer and infidelity, among others.
While it is appreciated that someone in his position puts these subjects up for discussion, Perry usually fails as a result of sounding “preachy”. There is nothing wrong with delivering a message, but sometimes there is a fine line between being the voice of reason and an annoying Jehovah’s Witness representative.
We get it, we Earthlings are a mischievous group of people, but there is no need for a filmmaker to over-emphasise his role as the moral compass, considering he is also part of that same group.
In the past, especially in his early film-making days, Perry notoriously used only black actors, making it obvious who the target market was.
Over the years this has changed, as can be seen in Madea, Witness Protection and Good Deeds.
The Have and the Have Nots follows that trend as we see several actors from different ethnic back- grounds. These include blacks, whites and the Latinos.
Also included are actors of various sexual orientations and all this was done to show the “real” America. It is believed there are very few shows that have a cast as diverse as this one, which is commendable.
We all love Madea, but even she has widened her horizons.
• The Have and the Have Nots airs on Saturdays at 7pm on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161).