Sterotypes and “Precious”

This has been all over the net yesterday and today. Dan Rather is kind of known for his folkisms. Here is the transcript:

When you talk about a triumph though, part of the undertow in the coming election is going to be President Obama’s leadership and the Republicans are making a case, a lot of independents will buy this argument, listen he just hasn’t been…look at the health care bill, it was his number one priority, it took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death and a version of …listen, he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate, this was going to be used against him. But He couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him if you gave him a State Trooper to flag down traffic…”

Sure it was stupid. But it was unintended. Combined with the “articulate” comment, you almost expected him to say “clean” as well. The only reason I bring it up is because we all know how this would have gone if a conservative would have said it. So my point is why don’t we just chill out about public figure mis-speaking? Let’s stop trying to make everything a big deal. I’m really tired of all the things we can’t say. Why don’t we ask blacks if they are offended by it? I’m thinking that most would say they wish we would just stop focusing on race AT ALL. I’m pretty sure most would agree that mentioning a black and watermelon in the same sentence isn’t going to send them into a rage. Only people like Al Sharpton care, and then only when it is a conservative.

We all have watched Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle use all the derogatory names for blacks, all the sterotypes of food choices, clothes, and slang. It’s oh so funny. But then if we use those jokes or sterotypes in real life your practically stoned to death.

Really? It’s so stupid. You can’t have it both ways. Either we say we won’t accept a certain type of sterotyping or insults even in comedy (the way I would like), or we understand that they are used as jokes and you have to live with the consequences of a popular culture who makes fun of races, religions, and just about everything else and loves sterotypes.

Which brings me to the movie “Precious.” I watched it this weekend. Is it only me that was upset with all the black sterotypes in it? From the eating of fried chicken, to stealing, to stealing welfare out of laziness, to immoral sexual behavior, to being uneducated, to AIDS, to abuse. Good grief. It was awful.

It did display the hellish consequences of dependency on the government and a failed public school system And there was a line in there about more whites being on welfare in numbers than blacks, but that was said by the abusive mother. How many people are going to take that as fact? Just because a movie is gripping and well acted, doesn’t mean it isn’t perpetuating sterotypes.

The worst thing about it was that there was no answer to the problems that this poor girl had. You leave the movie knowing that this girl is going to have a hard difficult life no matter what.

Why does Hollywood think that in order a story to be gripping, it has to be full of horrible things? She couldn’t just be very obese, she had to be uneducated. She couldn’t just be without a real father, she had to be sexually abused by her dad. She couldn’t just be pregnant (by her dad), she had to have a down syndrome child as well. She couldn’t just be lonely, she had to be abused by her mother both physically and verbally. She couldn’t just have a terrible home life, she had to have gotten HIV from her dad too.

At the very least I wanted a more uplifting ending. Something more than her finally standing up to her abusive mom and moving on. Moving on to what? We can all guess sadly.

The performances were amazing. No doubt about that. But is it so wrong to want a more positive portrayal of African Americans? Also, do we really need to be reminded of the spirtual poverty that surrounds us? We see it every day.

I know this reaction comes from my personality. I’m all about the positive. I haven’t watched R rated films for years. I didn’t like the images in my head. I’ve started to let myself watch a few. Which probably explains my reaction to it. My daughter wanted to see “Precious,” and I was curious.

I think I’ll go back to reading instead.

*I decided to look around and see if anyone agreed with me on this and at least one person does:

Armond White, the chief film critic of The New York Press and the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.

“Not since ‘The Birth of a Nation’ has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as ‘Precious,’ ” Mr. White wrote in his review. “Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show.”

“Black pathology sells,” Mr. White said in an interview. “It’s an over-the-top political fantasy that works only because it demeans blacks, women and poor people.”

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