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The Worst Thing About Stanley Crouch Is…

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…how dude’s late on everything. His article ‘Why We Line-Up For Tyler Perry’ is an interesting defense of the much-maligned and mocked Tyler Perry movies. He provides the black comedy precedents for Tyler Perry and wisely confronts the elitism and lack of perspective many have when they critique stuff like ‘Meet the Browns’: “Those black people who are not so estranged from Perry’s kind of humor that they even find the inanely narcissistic “Seinfeld” sophisticated…” He adds–and rightly so– that part of what makes Perry’s movies not only very successful but quite good and affecting is their heart. It’s a good point, but this late in Perry’s career, Crouch’s opinion one way or the other on something like ‘Meet the Browns’ means very little. Early on, when every smug critic (black and white) laughed-off his movies and success as simply dumb or worse, invoking words like “coonery”, Crouch’s nuanced perspective could’ve done some good.

NYPress brilliant mind Armond White’s been defending and defining Perry’ artistry for a couple of years now. A personal favorite was this review of ‘Why Did I Get Married?’, which wisely contrasts it with the smug, knowing, white buffoonery of Judd Apatow: “Nothing in Knocked Up is as meaningful as Perry’s spectacle of men who must restrain their anger physically or his politically incorrect fashion show of women proudly, luxuriously wearing furs as signs of pleasure and achievement.” I won’t complain about one more critic however late, being genuinely discerning, but Crouch’s oscillation between old-man curmudgeon and quasi-post-race idealist is not only inconsistent, it’s cowardly. One of the recurring issues of the anti-identity-politics baiting of Crouch is his persistent frustrations with the Al Sharptons and Spike Lees of America who’ve made careers and developed followers because of their infatigable cynicism, but it’s rare that Crouch will go out on a limb and praise anything himself. And when he does, it’s often something already established. Another good example is his very-late discovery of BET’s ‘American Gangster’ which he only praised during it’s significantly higher-profile Second Season and in contrast to the obviously-goofy ‘American Gangster’ movie. Even this stupid blogger knew BET’s ‘American Gangster’ was smart early on: You Should Watch: BET’s American Gangster’.

The worst thing is other than his sadly misinformed take on hip-hop, Stanley Crouch can actually be a pretty brilliant mind. His book ‘Notes from the Hanging Judge’ is a contrarian classic and his kinda recent book ‘The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity’ has probably the best take on Quentin Tarantino and race out there. But between a certain vested interest in being the insider’s outsider and his obsession with hip-hop’s “negative effects”, Crouch nuance stumbles into muddled argument and ideas. It’s hard not to throw his argument out the window when he contrasts Perry’s populist and arguably negative appeal with “the mush-mouthed posturing of hip hop’s thug icons” but ends his article with a concession that perfectly defines hip-hop’s appeal: “He [Perry, but also hip-hop] knows how to bring trash and soul together in a way that doesn’t make one get in the way of the other. Like it or not, that is some form of genius.”

Written by Brandon

April 8th, 2008 at 9:09 pm