Sunday, March 7, 2010

Precious Little Stereotypes

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I went to see the film "Precious" with a tremendous amount of anxiety. I'd heard the film received rave reviews from reviewers, award panelists and others in the media who love to see a good movie about dysfunctional black people. I knew the film was being analyzed by the same individuals more likely to notice Denzel Washington playing a sick, crooked cop in "Training Day" than to see him play a strong, intelligent black man in the film about the life of Malcolm X.

While reviewers might consider "Akeelah and the Bee" to be unrealistic, "Precious," or "Hustle and Flow" seem to be stunningly accurate reflections of their perception of life in Black America. Yes, we certainly have our share of pimps, prostitutes, and child molesters in the black community. But would hardly expect that we're any more problematically programmed than other ethnic groups.

I thought the performances in the film "Precious" were very good. I admit, however, that I found the film depressing. Not that the movie was entirely unrealistic. Rather, it seemed to feed itself off of one emotionally-draining scene after another. The star of the film was illiterate, poor, morbidly obese, physically abused, sexually abused, HIV positive, inclined to steal and suffering from low self-esteem. It was almost as if the directors said, "What else can we do to make people feel sorry for her? Oh yea! Let's let her mother be a welfare queen who beats her child and molests her when her sexually abusive father isn't home!" Yes, there are kids like this in the black community, but this film is not a representation of the prevailing experience for most black youth in America.

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