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Madea photo.png
Madea serving time in prison for committing a series of crimes in Madea Goes to Jail
First appearanceI Can Do Bad All by Myself (stage play)
Diary of a Mad Black Woman (film)
Created byTyler Perry
Portrayed byTyler Perry
Family"Big Mabel" Murphy (mother)
Frederick (brother)
Joe (brother)
Irene Andrews (sister; deceased)
Heathrow (brother)
Helen McCarter (granddaughter)
Orlando (grandson in law; via Helen)
Gina (granddaughter)
Maylene "Maylee" Griffith (granddaughter)
Vianne (granddaughter)
Bobby (grandson in-law) via Vianne
Lisa (granddaughter)
Tina (granddaughter)
Jackie (granddaughter)
LaKeisha Griffith (great-granddaughter)
Shemar (great-granddaughter)
Spouse(s)Johnny Simmons (deceased)
16 unnamed husbands
ChildrenMichelle Griffin (deceased)
William Simmons (deceased)
Cora Jean Simmons
RelativesVickie (niece)
Angela (niece)
Mike (great-nephew)
Sonny (nephew)
Brian Simmons (nephew)
Tiffany Simmons (great-niece)
BJ Simmons (great-nephew)
Victoria Breaux (niece)
Lisa Breaux-Henderson (great-niece)
Vanessa Breaux (great-niece)
Nima (great-niece)
Jonathan (great-nephew)
Ruby (aunt) Eileen Murphy (niece) Lacey Murphy (great-niece) George Needleman (nephew)

Mabel "Madea" Simmons is a character created and portrayed by Tyler Perry. The character is a tough elderly black woman.[1]

Vindictive in nature, Madea gets even in a bad way.[2] When asked why she felt the need to get somebody all the time, Madea answered: "Well when you gettin' got and somebody done got you and you go get them, when you get 'em, everybody's gon' get got."[3] Additionally, Madea has a tendency to overreact[4] and is willing to threaten to use deadly weapons,[5] destroy property, use physical violence, take on the law, and use any and all means necessary to show up an offending party.[6] Incorrigible in her overreactive ways, Madea has repeatedly landed herself in court (usually before Judge Mablean), anger management classes, house arrest, and even prison.[6]

Despite her questionable methods, she stands for what's right and has a nurturing side.[7] As examples, Madea is often seen officiously involving herself in circumstances in which others have been wronged, offering self-defense tips, instruction, or avenging them on her own;[1] by her very nature, Madea is more than willing to "thug out" on some of the sassiest and brattiest of children and teens, but also shows to care about their well-being in the end.[8] The character combines an unusual pronunciation style with her locutions, such as "Heller, how ya dern?" or "Halleluyer praise da lort!"[9]

Madea is based on Perry's mother and his aunt, as well Eddie Murphy's performance in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. In Perry's own words Madea is ". . .exactly the PG version of my mother and my aunt, and I loved having an opportunity to pay homage to them. She would beat the hell out of you but make sure the ambulance got there in time to make sure they could set your arm back. . ."[10]

Early years[edit]

Mabel "Madea" Simmons was born in Greensburg, Louisiana,[11] on June 26, 1935. (Madea was 68 in the first play, I Can Do Bad All by Myself, as well as Madea's Class Reunion. Her ages in the other plays are unknown because they take place between these two plays, and there's no continuity offered. In Madea Goes to Jail, Madea was around 75). In "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," she reveals she once lived in Cleveland, Ohio, but later returned to Atlanta.

Madea was brought up in poverty and grew up living in shacks with her immediate family. Madea has stated that although her family didn't have much, they had love.[12]

According to Family Reunion, Madea's mother, "Big Mabel" Murphy, was a hooker during Madea's childhood and wasn't at all religious. As a result, Madea grew up with little knowledge of Christianity (as an elderly woman, Madea has a tendency to misquote the Bible).

She attended Booker T. Washington High School, where she served as a cheerleader. When Madea was 16, her parents moved her and the rest of her immediate family to Atlanta, Georgia, in a shotgun house. It was reported in Madea's book, Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, that Madea's mother and father wouldn't allow her to go out at all until she turned 17 or 18.

In the films, it has been revealed that Madea used to be a stripper, and her stagenames were Magnitude and Delicious. It is heavily implied that she was a prostitute as well.

Criminal background[edit]

Madea has a lifelong criminal record that began at age 9 with a charge of petty theft. It is also reported that Madea was charged with her first felony at this age, and her crimes began progressing to illegal gambling at age 18, which later evolved into check fraud, identity theft, insurance fraud (presumably related to her nine deceased husbands), assault, attempted murder, vehicle theft (mostly Lexus vehicles, the first vehicle she ever stole being a 1992 Lexus LS400), reckless driving (including smashing through objects, notably a mansion gate, a Cadillac CTS, and a fast food window in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Goes to Jail, and Big Happy Family respectively) and forklifting vehicles out of parking spaces (usually for taking spaces that she wants to park at, as she did to many Camrys and Scions, as well as a Pontiac Solstice that she ruined in Madea Goes to Jail). Throughout the series, she is a repeat offender.

In Diary of a Mad Black Woman alone, Madea and her granddaughter Helen McCarter were both charged with "criminal trespassing, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a handgun, assault with a deadly weapon, [driving on a] suspended license, expired registration, reckless driving, and a broken taillight", which placed Madea on house arrest, while her granddaughter was bailed for $5,000.

In Family Reunion, she violated the terms of house arrest by taking off her house arrest bracelet but was given the opportunity to avoid jail by becoming a foster mother.

In Meet the Browns, Madea was stopped by police as a normal traffic stop, only to refuse to pull over (fearing that she'll be sent to jail again), which leads her into a high-speed car chase with several law enforcement officials and news helicopters.

In Goes to Jail, Madea was about to get sent to jail, but was reluctantly released by Judge Mablean after learning the arresting officers did not read the Miranda rights warning when she was arrested (as the officers claimed that Madea was fighting with them), so she finally admits that her license was suspended indefinitely (implying that her license was suspended when she was 30 years old) and also gets ordered to anger management counseling, making it the very last opportunity for her to avoid jail. She, however, began driving as soon as Cora neglected her daughterly duties. Madea's brother Joe (also played by Perry) refers to her as a "po-po ho", meaning someone who is a professional at evading law enforcement.

In A Madea Christmas, Madea confides in her niece Eileen that she sold "trees"; when Eileen asks if they were Christmas trees, Madea replies that "when you smoke 'em, they make you feel like it's Christmas", implying that she once was a marijuana dealer.


Hard side and language use[edit]

Scurrilous, wise cracking, and saucy in remarks and behavior, Madea is full of comical sass and vulgar and abusive language. She also has many catch phrases, such as "You crazy as hell," and "I oughta punch you in da face!" In addition, she uses Ebonics and other various urban expressions. Madea also intentionally adds a mispronounced "t" sound to many of her words, such as "Africant Americant", "cooking and cleanting" and "living for da Lort [Lord]."

Madea is mostly noted for her outrageous overreactions and thuggish toughness over which she has shown no shame. For example, the character has four general methods of attack:

  1. Destruction of property, such as demolishing others' household appliances with a chainsaw
  2. Weapon violence, such as stabbing others with a lit cigarette
  3. Physical violence, such as strangling and pounding others with her bare hands and elbows
  4. Intimidation through outrageous browbeating tactics and threats, such as firing off her Glock pistol, which she keeps handy with her in her purse at all times (from the extended interval of rapid-fire sounds in Madea Goes To Jail, it is implied that she owns a fully automatic assault-rifle, as well, but only brings it out on "special occasions")

When using guns, Madea shoots around targets, using intimidation rather than actually killing or injuring anyone. As another form of intimidation, Madea frequently boasts of having killed in the past. As an example, she once claimed to have murdered Jimmy Hoffa over him insulting her. She also claimed to have shot Tupac Shakur while arguing over a parking space; although she claims not to have killed him in the shooting.

Soft side[edit]

In spite of her outrageous and shocking behaviors, Madea is consultative, protective, loving, and motherly at heart. This is heavily evidenced in Gets a Job, in which Madea provides life lessons, guidance, and direction to all the residents and staff members of a nursing home.[13] Moreover, on numerous occasions, Madea has accepted family members who were without a place to stay into her home on her own accord. These family members have included her granddaughter Helen (Diary of a Mad Black Woman film), granddaughter Vianne (I Can Do Bad All by Myself), her great niece Vanessa and her two kids (Madea's Family Reunion), and ex-convict Bobby Mitchell (I Can Do Bad All by Myself).

Quite often, Madea has offered direction and guidance to those who were being abused within their romantic relationships. Though much of this direction and guidance tends to come in the form of extreme warmongering, Madea's heart is always in the right place.

Madea also instructs troubled individuals about the mistakes they've made in their life choices and leads them down the path of forgiveness and improvement. While in prison in the film Madea Goes to Jail, Madea attends an anger management church meeting under duress. During the meeting, Madea ends up lecturing all the women to stop playing victims, stop whining, and start taking action to improve their lives.

Madea is mentally strong and offers nurturing advice to struggling individuals whom she cares for.

Pet peeves[edit]

Madea has a series of pet peeves: disrespectful youth, gum popping, rude people; lazy people; people who don't return shopping carts; adulterous people; and "people who are just plain stupid." She is also a firm critic of men that sag their pants, believing that it looks cheap and sloppy.

Madea's family[edit]

(Note: There are a few discrepancies and plot holes in Madea's family tree as between the regular films and the stage-plays)

Madea's mother[edit]

In the book Tyler Perry's Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, Madea gives details on her mother, "Big Mable" Murphy, who was described as "unusually large". "Big Mable" is characterized as being very gentle, mild-mannered, kind and peaceful woman, with a long and very dangerous fuse. In Madea's Family Reunion, Madea revealed that "Big Mabel" was a hooker during Madea's childhood and not at all religious.


Madea's brothers
According to Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, Madea has several brothers. Three of them are Frederick (revealed in the book), Joe, and Heathrow (revealed in Madea's Family Funeral).

Brother: Joe
Joe (also played by Perry) is Madea's most recognizable brother as he lives with her and frequently appears in Madea films. A wise guy who is very coarse, misbehaved, and ornery, Joe has no qualms with such tendencies as openly farting and hurling about insulting wisecracks about people, including Madea. Despite being elderly, he constantly makes crude passes at younger women. Joe regularly smokes marijuana in spite of his need to be on oxygen. On smoking marijuana, Joe has stated, "God made this for us. God made this little tree, Viagra and oxygen. Put them altogether and you can take a woman to heaven and back!" Joe has at least three children: Brian, Donna, and George Needleman.
(Note: The Joe character precedes the Madea character in debut, as Joe's first appearance was in the 1998 play ''I Know I've Been Changed'', taking place when the Madea character had not yet originated. After one other play, Madea is unveiled in the 1999 play I Can Do Bad All by Myself as Joe's sister)
Joe's children: Brian, Donna, and George
Brian (also played by Perry) is a criminal defense attorney, who often gets roped into Madea's messes as he represents her in the many criminal trials Madea lands herself in. He is married to Debra and has two children, Tiffany and BJ (Brian Jr.). Joe's daughter, Donna, is married to Isaac. She appeared in Madea's Family Reunion.
In Madea's Witness Protection, Joe discovers that he has a biracial son named George Needleman with his long-lost flame Barbara. Barbara confirms this by comparing George's age to how many years ago Joe had the affair with her. However, George never finds out about this despite several hints from Joe. Therefore, George is Madea's distant nephew.

Madea's sister
In Madea's Family Reunion, it was revealed that Madea has an older sister named Irene Andrews, who has a son named Sonny and a daughter named Victoria. The film begins with everyone leaving Irene's funeral. Madea was shown as not caring much for her sister; in fact, not only does Madea claim she's happy Irene's died, but she has also said Irene probably died on purpose to get out of repaying Madea a $20 loan. In Madea Goes to Jail, Madea helps out Sonny by letting him stay at her home rent-free.

Madea's parenting, husbands, and children[edit]

In Madea Goes to Jail, it was revealed that Madea supported her children by stripping, pole dancing, and professional wrestling, among other things.

Madea has buried nine husbands, among them Jimmy and Johnny. Madea claims to have shot some of them and poisoned others of them with her sweet potato pie. After each husband died, they were buried quickly and Madea collected their life insurance checks. Each time it's happened, Madea has stated "I'm tryin' to get to the insurance company by five, and the casino by nine!"

First husband: Johnny Simmons
Madea killed her first husband Johnny Simmons (deceased), the father of Michelle and William. Madea implies that she was glad when he died and that their marriage wasn't good. Johnny's niece Vickie appears in Family Reunion; she is the mother of four sons.

Daughter with first husband: Michelle Griffin
Madea's daughter, Michelle Griffin, was born when Madea and her first husband, Johnny, were teenagers. Michelle grew up to be a prostitute and neglectful mother of two daughters of her own, Maylee and Vianne, who appear in the play, I Can Do Bad All by Myself. Michelle's children might have different fathers.
Michelle's husband was a drunk who didn't spend enough time with either of his children. Madea explains that Michelle did not know the father of Maylee and called her "Maybe" because she was sleeping with four or five men when she got pregnant. Madea changed it to "Maylee" when she took her and Vianne out of the projects to raise them. Maylee has a 14-year-old daughter Keisha, who is also seen as pregnant.

Daughter: Cora Simmons
Madea's daughter, Cora Simmons, is her most recognized and only child to appear in most of the plays and movies. Cora is 50 in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. She was born in 1953 when Madea was 18. Cora is a devout Christian and is often in the company of her father Leroy Brown.

Tina and Lisa only appear in Family Reunion, but are the only granddaughters to be mentioned all the time.

Cora thought that Johnny was her father until Class Reunion, in which Madea reminded Cora that she [Cora] was the product of a one-night stand with Leroy Brown during their prom in 1953. This suggests that Madea is 62 years old in her first appearance, as well as in Madea's Class Reunion when her parents attend their 50th class reunion. Once Cora learned the truth, she became closer to Mr. Brown, visiting his family (in Meet the Browns) and taking him to the hospital in What's Done in the Dark. Their father/daughter plotline is shown on movies in Meet the Browns, the TV series Tyler Perry's House of Payne, and its spin-off series Meet the Browns. In the movie, Madea's Big Happy Family, Cora enlists the help of Maury Povich to find out if Leroy Brown is in fact her father, after a blood test proves he is not. DNA tests reveal that Leroy Brown is not the father of Cora.

In Madea's Big Happy Family there is no apparent relation between Leroy Brown and Cora other than friends.

Son: William Simmons
William is Madea's youngest and only son. Depending on the chronological order of the plays, William could be older than Cora. William is married to Myrtle. As far as the plays, Myrtle only appears in the Diary of a Mad Black Woman. She is, however, mentioned in the I Can Do Bad All by Myself play. In the plays, Myrtle is in her 50s. In the film timeline, Myrtle is in her 70s, and is placed in a retirement home. This shows a natural propensity to disregard timelines humorously, because Madea herself is only in her mid-seventies.

William and Myrtle have three children: Helen, Jackie, and Gina, all of whom have either appeared or been mentioned in one of the plays (though only Helen is mentioned in the movie). William's oldest daughter, Helen, is in her mid to late 30s in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which makes William in his 50s.

Tyler Perry has confirmed that in A Madea Family Funeral (2018) Madea has another brother named Heathrow (also played by Perry), a Vietnam war veteran.

Media & entertainment featuring Madea[edit]

Madea has appeared in several plays (some of which have been recorded for repeated viewing), fully produced films, a couple of television programs (guest appearances), one book and one animated film. The character made her first appearance in the 1999 play I Can Do Bad All by Myself, later appearing in numerous other plays by Perry, then appearing in films based on those plays.