, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 321-344
Date: 29 Jul 2011

The Cinematic Incarnation of Frazier's Black Bourgeoisie: Tyler Perry's Black Middle-Class

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Images of Black Americans in modern cinema often depict negative stereotypes of working- and lower-class Blacks. Yet, with the rise of the Black middle-class and the increasing inclusion of Blacks in positions of power within the mass media, more images of middle-class Blacks have begun to appear, particularly through the work of Tyler Perry. We find that Perry’s images largely reflect E. Franklin Frazier's characterization of middle-class Blacks in The Black Bourgeoisie (1957), where Perry frames them as (1) materialistic and status-obsessed, (2) dysfunctional and abusive, and (3) disdainful of working- and lower-class Blacks. We also argue that he is creating new controlling images like the “Emasculated Black Gentleman.” In these ways, Perry’s images may have detrimental consequences including perpetuating Black stereotypes, reinforcing existing class and gender tensions in Black America, and impeding the life chances of middle-class Blacks by suggesting that they are unsuitable for assimilation and integration.

Cherise A. Harris and Keisha Edwards Tassie contributed equally to this research.