Rasputia: A Comic Type, or a Racial Stereotype?

Tyler Perry (left) and Eddie Murphy in their costumes.

hide captionToo Much? Tyler Perry (left) and Eddie Murphy in their costumes.

Lionsgate/Dreamworks

Two recent film portrayals of African-American women have drawn huge audiences: Tyler Perry's Madea character, which has spawned a franchise; and Eddie Murphy's Rasputia in Norbit.

Both characters are large and boisterous — and they have also sparked anger and outrage along with laughter and ticket sales.

To some, they are endearing comic exaggerations; to others, they're an insult.

One side of the debate over the plus-size heroines casts them as sisters of the bold and brassy women played by Monique and Queen Latifah. The other sees them as being closer to the "mammy" stereotype that once prevailed in American popular culture.

Also being considered is how the images affect real-live black women who are overweight.

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