There is a really good article in the New York Times on “Precious” by renowned author, Ismael Reed. In it he explains why “Precious” has gotten such great critical response from the white community while being disparaged by many critics in the Black community.
Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father. The author Jill Nelson wrote: “I don’t eat at the table of self-hatred, inferiority or victimization. I haven’t bought into notions of rampant black pathology or embraced the overwrought, dishonest and black-people-hating pseudo-analysis too often passing as post-racial cold hard truths.” One black radio broadcaster said that he felt under psychological assault for two hours. So did I.
Reed also looks into the reasons why “Precious” has been received from the all white, Oscar voting committee.
It was the enthusiastic response from white audiences and critics that culminated in the film being nominated for six Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an outfit whose 43 governors are all white and whose membership in terms of diversity is about 40 years behind Mississippi. ….
He goes into detail using former First Lady, Barbara Bush as an example.
Barbara Bush, the former first lady, not only hosted a screening of “Precious” but also wrote about it in Newsweek, saying: “There are kids like Precious everywhere. Each day we walk by them: young boys and girls whose home lives are dark secrets.”
Another point made, is that “Precious”caters to previous stereotypes about white people saving Black people from dispair.
Black films looking to attract white audiences flatter them with another kind of stereotype: the merciful slave master. In guilt-free bits of merchandise like “Precious,” white characters are always portrayed as caring. There to help. Never shown as contributing to the oppression of African-Americans. Problems that members of the black underclass encounter are a result of their culture, their lack of personal responsibility.
Like writer Armond White, he compares “Precious” to “Birth Of A Nation.”
Redemption through learning the ways of white culture is an old Hollywood theme. D. W. Griffith produced a series of movies in which Chinese, Indians and blacks were lifted from savagery through assimilation. A more recent example of climbing out of the ghetto through assimilation is “Dangerous Minds,” where black and Latino students are rescued by a curriculum that doesn’t include a single black or Latino writer.
I agree with Reed’s article. I thought “Precious” was a bad movie that was meant for white people to feel pity for poor Black girls. The main character is in no way representative of the Black community. She is an extremely overwieght, illiterate girl who is raped by her father, has two children, one with Down Syndrome from her dad and has AIDS. While illiteracy, obesity and AIDS are a problem in the Black community, it seems like they only play pity parts in the movie.Despite what Barbara Bush may think overweight, illiterate, teenage mother, incest victims with AIDS are not “everywhere.” The movie is clearly directed at the Oscar voters who vote for movies with mentally disabled people or holocaust victims by getting the “pity” vote.