In a run-up to tomorrow’s debut of Madea’s Family Reunion, here’s a Salon piece about the Tyler Perry phenomenon by Russell Scott Smith. “Blacks and whites don’t always understand each other,” it begins. “But in Hollywood, everyone’s favorite color is green. So movie executives of all races took notice last February when a movie called Diary of a Mad Black Woman hit No. 1 at the box office — despite no bankable stars, scant mainstream press attention and reviews that were almost laughably bad. ‘Downright awful,’ ‘an absolute mess’ and ‘one of the worst pictures in ages,’ critics wailed. Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek called it ‘the sort of movie that’s so bad, you just wish it would go away.’ Roger Ebert was offended by the movie’s star, a “Big Momma’s House”-style granny named Madea, who smokes reefer, keeps a pistol in her purse and slices up furniture with a chain saw. This ‘Grandma from Hell,’ as Ebert called her, was played in drag by Perry. ‘All blame returns to Perry,’ Ebert wrote. ‘What was he thinking?’ But there was no arguing the numbers. Perry made Diary on a shoestring $5.5 million budget, and as of last April it had grossed some $50 million.”