Monday, November 23, 2009

'Precious': Racial Stereotypes & The Petite Bourgeoisie of the Negro Mind

So here I am, somewhere at the intersection of Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come". I'm not confused or lost in applesauce as is the expression, because maybe I'm something like "Black Caesar"  or that old James Brown classic "A Blind Man Can See It". Quite frankly, I'm a bit disappointed, and disturbed by the negative backlash the movie "Precious" is receiving from and within the so-called Black community.

I hate to be cynical about this, but I have to ask: will Black people ever be happy? We have people who are bothered by this movie who see it as just another one in a long line of stereotypically negative images of Black people (or more specifically Black women) in the mainstream. Then there are people like me who totally see this movie for what it is: a necessary film that promotes and draws attention to various pathologies that are often overlooked and rarely discussed within our so-called Black community. Hello, Shaniya Davis anyone?

"Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show." - Armond White (Source:

What gets me, is that people are caught up in the idea that maybe this movie is representative of all people of color in America - a rather foolish line of thinking in my book when you consider that we're not a monolithic people. However, rich or poor, upper or middle class, the central themes of this movie knows no discrimination, and is not exclusive to any family of a certain socio-economic class. Yet and still, some of us are hell bent on promoting the idea that this is all fantasy which has the effect of making us look bad. I'm sorry, but I don't quite get you "image-conscious" individuals, and I'm going to need some help with that.

Yes I know we don't all have the same story, and yes I know there are many different narratives of the Black experience in America. But isn't the "Black experience" and our various stories riddled with conflict and pathologies (some of which we don't even realize) that may be detrimental to our survival? I'm sorry, but when a film is put together and produced by two of the most powerful Black people in the entertainment industry (Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry), it's hard for me to overlook the films message and focus on the "Blaxploitation" meme. Who better is there to bring to life a narrative such as this than a person of color?

"Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate.They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up From Incest, Child Abuse,Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience." - Armond White (Source:

That said, should people of color with power and influence in the industry, ignore any attempts to bring to life subject matter that's considered taboo to the Black petite bourgeoisie, and the Black community at large? Come to think of it, maybe that's why there aren't as many "quality" Black movies of substance being produced, no? Precious is a movie produced by people of color that has already created an Oscar buzz, but yet Negroes are mad because it's not exactly Terms Of Endearment or Guess Who's Coming To Dinner material? Which is funny because when a white person makes a movie like Hotel Rwanda, Black folks never have anything negative to say, or even support it for that matter.

Well RiPPa we need to see more Black movies with more than one narrative! True, we do; but let's not act like they haven't been produced. It's disingenuous to give the impression that everything coming out of Hollywood for and about Black people by Black people are just bastardly negative. But then maybe therein lies the problem - that would be, the thought that each of these movies reflect us and our individual and personal story.

One thing that should not be ignored, is just how hard it is for a person of color to break into the Hollywood movie making industry; an industry dominated by people who pretty much determine American culture. What's funny about that, is while we as Black people remain image conscious, the power elite steals our culture and promotes it.  

Where are the "image conscious" Black folks among us when little white sub-urban kids run around looking and acting as if they too had the privilege of growing up in the ghettos we despise and sweep under the rug?

Listen, "Precious" is no more representative of the Negro collective anymore than "Nino Brown" is - they are both representative of a reality that exists among us, and we should never feel shameful about these movies or these characterizations. Ironically, it is this very shame which may become a major factor in this being Gabourey Sidibe's only leading role in a movie while we bitch about all the light skin people who somehow dominate the media market. So yeah, you guys can continue to beat that tired drum and stay with the whole shooting the messenger, and missing the message thing. You're gonna need it when there are no more Black production companies in Hollywood especially when somebody like Steven Spielberg decides to do Boyz In The Hood II.

Has anyone seen John Singleton lately?



wibiya widget


Related Posts with Thumbnails