To Have or Have Not?

By Drew Dorsey

 Encompassing privilege, facades, and dysfunction, Tyler Perry’s new series The Haves and the Have Nots is catching the attention of audiences everywhere. In the past, Perry has garnered a great deal of backlash from critics claiming that he exploits and creates misconceptions about the African American community by highlighting negative lifestyles and experiences that do not pertain to the African American community as a whole. Although similar to Perry’s past projects in the sense that the series stems from a prior stage version, it presents something fresh that is clearly resonating with audiences.

Despite the critics, the OWN series made history for the network by garnering 1.8 million viewers in its pilot debut. So it begs the question: what is it about this particular Perry project that is stealing the show? For starters, this is Perry’s first drama series made for television. Having been compared to the likes of Scandal and classic soap operas, The Haves and the Have Nots tells the story of the Cryer family. On the exterior, the Cryers appear to have it all: wealth, privilege and power. But as life often reveals, those that appear to have it all are often lacking in other aspects of life. The Cryers work tirelessly to maintain their flawless image, but life and temptation are determined to crack their veneer.

Meet the controversy: The breadwinner of the Cryer clan – Jim Cryer –  is a well-respected judge with a great deal of power stemming not only from his job description, but also from his pockets and complexion. However, behind that image painting a picture of her own is a sultry, African American temptress, Candace Young, who knows how to get what she wants regardless of the repercussions.

Fighting to maintain her family’s spotless image, Katheryn Cryer, the Mrs., fiercely protects her family’s status at the top of the social food chain.

Of course, with dad’s shenanigans and mom’s hunger for perfection, there have to be two dysfunctional children in the mix to stir the pot. Wyatt Cryer is their troubled son who is no stranger to rehab due to his inner struggle to discover his true identity underneath his forced jock facade. His sister Amanda does what she can to live up to her family’s name by pursuing her law degree; however the plot thickens when Amanda becomes close with no other than her father’s vice, Candace Young.

The so-called “Have nots” may not have deep pockets, but they carry something with them that arguably carries more clout. Among the “have nots” is the Cryer family’s maid, Hanna Young. Young lives a modest life with family, morals and faith at the core of her foundation. But as many have heard their elders proclaim in reference to their unruly children, “They may have come from us, but they are not us.” This is Hanna Young’s mantra with her daughter being none other than the lustful vamp – Ms. Candace Young.


On the surface, “The Haves and the Have nots” may easily appear to be just another cliché melodrama. But it’s effort to explore the truth behind these characters is what makes them so chillingly real. The depth of the series stems from the fact that these characters are real in society and are more than their exterior shells. They reveal to audiences the layers of their flawed humanity by exemplifying their strengths, weaknesses, temptations and imperfections.

Although fictional, these characters exist and are walking among us. Many viewers may associate these characters with those in their own families, and others may recognize these characters as reflections of their own identifiers. One could argue that what gives this series that special something, is the fact that the characters are not just typical personalities in a script. They have depth and an unsettling truth about them that unfolds right before your very eyes.

You be the judge. Catch Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots on the OWN network Tuesdays at 9p.m. ET/PT.

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