“Precious” Oscar Contender and Klansman Fantasy?

By Jorge Rivas Nov 30, 2009

"Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire" has phenomenal actors. Gabby Sidibe, who plays Precious Jones is so convincing in her role, that people actually confuse her for her character, in real life. Generally, almost all reviews were positive, even from the most critical of reviewers. But not everyone is buying it. Erin Aubry Kaplan wrote an op-ed for the LA Times yesterday and commented on the "discomfort" she saw in a packed theater with a largely black audience in Marina Del Rey, California. She then delves in to the growing debate that looks at "Precious" beyond the regular film review and moves us to a more complex realm: what are the cultural ramifications of a film like "Precious"?

The unrelenting inner-city misery that frames "Precious," including a foul-mouthed welfare mother and an absentee father, has raised plenty of alarms among blacks, notably film critic Armond White. In his review for the New York Press, the famously curmudgeonly White excoriated "Precious" for being an "orgy of prurience," "a Klansman’s fantasy," racist propaganda cast from the infamous mold of "Birth of a Nation." For White, "Precious" is bad art because it is a bad representation, a reminder that for black people, art and politics are inseparable. Yet one of the unusual things about "Precious" is that it doesn’t try to separate those things, and so forces us to think beyond the negative/positive binary that often keeps discussions about movies like this airless and superficial. Certainly other black people share White’s condemnation. But that condemnation has dimensions: C. Jeffrey Wright, writing at UrbanFaith.com, a conservative Christian site, fretted less about the images in "Precious" than about the fact there are too few black films released to provide a diversity that would make the movie less controversial. That’s a fact nobody on any side of the discussion would disagree with.

Read the entire op-ed at LA Times.com.