Faith, Media & Culture

Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. America needs The Mighty Macs. I just attended a screening for the theatrical comedy based on the true story of how, in 1971, coach Cathy Rush  took the struggling-to-survive (much-less-win) basketball team at the Catholic and all-female Immaculata College (now a co-ed university) on an incredible journey to national victory. The movie is set to open on October 21st and I’ll save my full review for closer to the premiere date. For now, I’ll just tell you that the Rocky-esque story of courage and determination against formidable odds is worth looking forward to. Unlike Rocky, however, Mighty Macs is really about what can be accomplished when people together and work as a team to accomplish a common goal. The movie should be required viewing for Congress. Cathy Rush for President!

For more info, visit The Mighty Macs website here.

2. House of Perry. From The Wrap: Tyler Perry has been saying for years that he wants to launch his own network. Now he may be on the verge of starting an Oprah Winfrey–style channel with the backing of Lionsgate.
Comment: This is good news for anyone (like me) who wants to see  folks with traditional Christian and faith sensibilities gain control of distribution channels. Perry brings his Christian ideals to his projects and has no trouble connecting with audiences. I predict, if the network indeed launches, it will be a huge success.

FYI, here’s Perry’s bio from his official website:

Tyler Perry’s inspirational journey from the hard streets of New Orleans to the heights of Hollywood’s A-list is the stuff of American legend.  Born into poverty and raised in a household scarred by abuse, Tyler fought from a young age to find the strength, faith and perseverance that would later form the foundations of his much-acclaimed plays, films, books and TV shows. 

It was a simple piece of advice from Oprah Winfrey that set Tyler’s career in motion. Encouraged to keep a diary of his daily thoughts and experiences, he began writing a series of soul-searching letters to himself. The letters, full of pain and in time, forgiveness, became a healing catharsis. His writing inspired a musical, I KNOW I’VE BEEN CHANGED, and in 1992 Tyler gathered his life’s savings and set off for Atlanta in hopes of staging it for sold out crowds. He spent all the money but the people never came, and Tyler once again came face to face with the poverty that had plagued his youth. He spent months sleeping in seedy motels and his car but his faith – in God and, in turn, himself – only got stronger. He forged a powerful relationship with the church, and kept writing. In 1998 his perseverance paid off and a promoter booked I KNOW I’VE BEEN CHANGED for a limited run at a local church-turned-theatre. This time, the community came out in droves, and soon the musical moved to Atlanta’s prestigious Fox Theatre. Tyler Perry never looked back. 

And so began an incredible run of eight plays in as many years, including WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED!, a celebrated collaboration with the prominent Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes. 

In the year 2000, I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF marked the first appearance of the now-legendary Madea. The God-fearing, gun-toting, pot-smoking, loud-mouthed grandmother, Madea, was played by Perry himself. Madea was such a resounding success, she soon spawned a series of plays – MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION (2002), MADEA’S CLASS REUNION (2003), MADEA GOES TO JAIL (2005) – and set the stage for Tyler’s jump to the big screen. ,

In early 2005, Tyler’s first feature film, DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, debuted at #1 nationwide. His ensuing films, MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION, DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS, WHY DID I GET MARRIED?, MEET THE BROWNS, THE FAMILY THAT PREYS, I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF, MADEA GOES TO JAIL and WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO? have all met with massive critical and commercial success, delighting audiences across America and around the world. 

2006 saw the publication of Tyler’s first book, DON’T MAKE A BLACK WOMAN TAKE OFF HER EARRINGS: MADEA’S UNINHIBITED COMMENTARIES ON LIFE AND LOVE, which shot to the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and remained there for eight weeks.  It went on to claim Quill Book Awards for both “Humor” and “Book of the Year” (an unheard-of feat for a first-time author), and spread Tyler Perry’s unique brand of inspirational entertainment to a devoted new audience. 

It is a brand that is quickly becoming an empire. In 2007, Tyler expanded his reach to television with the TBS series, HOUSE OF PAYNE, the highest-rated first-run syndicated cable show of all time, which went into syndication after only a year. His follow up effort, MEET THE BROWNS, was the second highest debut ever on cable – after HOUSE OF PAYNE.

Not one to rest on success, Tyler Perry and his 300 Atlanta-based employees have been hard at work. His latest film, For Colored Girls – based on Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, hit theaters in November 2010 and featured an all-star cast including Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Thandi Newton, Kimberly Elise and Kerry Washington.  Perry also helped release Academy Award-nominated Precious, a movie based on the novel Push by Sapphire, in conjunction with his 34th Street Films development company, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Lionsgate.   Tyler’s next film, Madea’s Big Happy Family, which is based on his 2010 stage play of the same name, will hit the big screen in April 2011.  Perry is producing Lionsgate’s upcoming comedy We the Peeples, due out in 2011 through 34th Street Films.

In the fall of 2008, Perry opened his 200,000 square foot Studio in Atlanta, situated on the former Delta Airlines campus of more than 30 acres. The Studio consists of 5 sound stages, a post production facility, a pond, a back lot, a 400-seat theater, a private screening room, and designated areas for entertaining and hosting events. 

But listen to Tyler Perry and you’ll hear a man who hasn’t forgotten about the people that have helped him reach the top of a mountain he could once only dream of climbing. He has been intimately involved in civil rights cases, including the trial of the Jena 6 in his home state of Louisiana. He has donated generously to charities that focus on helping the homeless, such as Feeding America, Covenant House, Hosea Feed the Hungry, Project Adventure, and Perry Place – a 20-home community that Tyler built for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In July 2009, Tyler sponsored a trip to Walt Disney World for 65 children after learning that a suburban swim club had turned them away because of the color of their skin. Tyler Perry has also built 2 churches and has donated generously to the NAACP.  In January 2010, Perry pledged $1,000,000 via The Tyler Perry Foundation to help rebuild the lives of those affected by the recent earthquakes in Haiti.

Tyler Perry practices what he preaches, and what he preaches has endeared him to millions of fans drawn by that unique blend of spiritual hope and down-home humor that continues to shape his inspiring life story and extraordinary body of work.

3. Strong word-of-mouth expected to help The Help at the box office. From The Hollywood Reporter: Tate Taylor’s The Help got off to an impressive start at the Wednesday box office, grossing at least $5 million in its first day and earning a rare A+ CinemaScore from delighted moviegoers. DreamWorks and Disney decided to open the movie midweek to build buzz going into the weekend…The Help is only the second movie of the year to receive an A+ CinemaSocre after TriStar/Film District’s Soul Surfer. Films earning the top score enjoy strong multiples, such as Soul Surfer, which opened to $10.6 million and grossed $43.9 million domestically. Disney’s Tangled and Disney/Pixar’s Story 3, both released in 2010, also received A+ CinemaScores and enjoyed similar multiples.
Comment: More proof that audiences are looking for stories that are actually about something.

4. Muppet marriage? From CBS Los Angeles: An online campaign is calling for the producers of TV’s “Sesame Street” to allow characters Bert and Ernie to get married in an attempt to “put an end to the bullying and suicides of LGBT youth”, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Comment: I guess questioning this idea could be construed as Muppet-phobic so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

No blog tomorrow. See you Monday!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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