A Dire Digression from a ‘Precious’ Review
The following is a re-edited version of a comment that I posted on a thread which was flimsily connected to a review of the multi-Oscar-nominated film Precious. But, first, some shout-outs:
Congratulations, Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, on your Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, portraying “Precious”! Congrats to director Lee Daniels on your Oscar nom for Best Picture after taking a chance on Sapphire‘s book, Push (and on an untrained actress for the lead role)! Congratulations to screenwriter Geoffrey Feltcher on your Oscar nom for Best Adapted Screenplay! Congratulations to Mo’Nique, on your Academy Award nod for Best Supporting Actress, and for the prestigious awards that you already have won! Mo’Nique, you totally inhabited the role of the frighteningly troubled character “Mary Jones,” and hopefully you and the rest of the ensemble cast in this poignant Lee Daniels film will open up more dialogue on incest, which, in terms of what is discussed openly, is the most tabooed form of rape. Mo’Nique, sista gurrrl, you make us “full-figured gyals” and us “skinny bitches” — to use your ironically affectionate term — proud no matter where we reside, no matter what color “we is,” and I have followed the rise of your star faithfully.
Dear readers, you will note that I have omitted the name of the website in the comment that follows. I review films on a regular basis on that website, and I really don’t want to distract you from the sensitive topics discussed herein.
I welcome your comments because, good people, we need to get to a point where we realize that we are one race: The Human Race. Race, especially as that word is (mis)used in the United States of America, is a sociological construct that continues to erode (but not destroy) people’s spirits and divide our nation — and not just into two parts: black and white.
No, “race” is dividing people into bits, which is crazy because we are all one people, one species. As a long-ago friend used to joke with me (repeatedly, especially whenever someone in the media said something inane and “racially intolerant”), and here I paraphrase: When the aliens come down from some other planet, all of us humans will be clinging to each other for dear life. If that paraphrased comment doesn’t grab you, watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original or either of the remakes — though I’m a fan of the 1978 remake, with Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum) and you might find yourself chucking those Ambien tablets. Eeeeeeuuuuuuhhhhhh!!!
Well, I hope to find discussions on [———-] with regard to Precious that open up the dialogue on incest — incest that occurs in families of any “race,” ethnicity, color, etc., and no matter where this heinous crime occurs on Earth. If it weren’t for the real-life girls who were incestuously raped — girls who form a composite for the character that writer Sapphire created in her 1996 debut novel, Push, a character who is called “Precious” — then there would be no movie to riff off of into various subjects here on [———-].
So let’s keep in mind that, yes, it’s important to bring to light (pardon the pun) the sometimes-subconscious, sometimes-conscious decisions to cast lighter-complexioned Black actors and actresses in heroic/savior/well-educated/sophisticated/affluent roles, and darker-complexioned Black actors and actresses in criminal/villainous/illiterate/crass/scatalogical-mouthed/buffoonish/poverty-stricken roles. And the way that we (and by “we,” I am referring to any of us who can write a book, play, screenplay, and/or direct a movie, TV show, teleplay or theatrical play, no matter what phenotypes we possess) can change these unjust portrayals — portrayals that do not reflect the realities in Black neighborhoods, families, schools, etc., across the United States of America, in other parts of North America and on other continents — is to create more-realistic characterizations.
This is not to say that the publishing, television and motion pictures industries have not made progress. This also is not to say that we as social beings are not getting “there.” After all, for a film such as Precious — I mean, really consider the nature of the movie from the context of the plot and the relationship between the title character, an abused and illiterate teenager, and her abusive mother, Mary — to even make it to 18 theaters is a near-miracle.
Then consider that for this amazing, well-acted film to make it to those 18 cinemas and gross so many millions of dollars is history-making. This achievement of Precious, and of Sapphire‘s book Push, is proof-positive that none of us Black Americans can say any longer that people who are not Black or who are not Black American will want to see a predominantly Black cast in a story containing a universal theme. That mind-set is passe (je desole, my French readers, I can’t get the acute accent over the “e” in passe, nor over both “e’s” in desole).
People — and I mean all of us of the rainbow — let’s get it together. True beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Did y’all ever check out that “Twilight Zone” episode??? You know the one. In many episodes of “Twilight Zone,” as in many episodes of “Star Trek,” the writers used a parable framework, so you can find lots of issues regarding diversity, the spectrum of beauty, various kinds of tolerance, etc., in the many excellent episodes.) Ah, but beauty is also in the eye(s) of the beholder when said beholder is the person looking in the mirror. Why? Beauty also is inside of us, spiritually. If you (yeah, you) don’t feel beautiful inside, you just might act ugly on the outside — i.e., in how you present yourself to the world.
I wish I knew how to post photos on my blog — ah , but then I would need to deal with copyright (hmmm, something I will need to research sometime soon). I wish I had photos here because of what I am about to share with you. I don’t care if a nose is flat, pointy, broad, pug, quaintly upturned, short, long, has a bump, is broken in a few places, has naturally flared nostrils, has naturally pinched nostrils. I don’t care if lips are thin (yes, yes, yes, George Clooney, Jimmy Smits, Colin Farrell, Guy Pearce, William Petersen and Hugh Jackman), barely there lips (R.I.P. Christopher Reeve — yeah, Superman, you were yummy back in the day, also in Somewhere in Time!), evenly thick lips (Plant one on me, Idris Elba, Simon Baker, Blair Underwood, Laz Alonso, Melvin Van Peebles, Costas Mandylor, Allen Payne, Gary Dourdan and, oh yes, Mekhi Pfifer!), sextra-thick lips (Ooh, ooh, baby, LeVar Burton — where you at, “Geordi La Forge”? [Trekkies will get that one.] Talk to me, Richard T. Jones and Daniel Sunjata!), lips thinner on top than on the bottom (Pucker up, Wesley Snipes, Adam Rodriguez, Allen Payne, Pooch Hall and Harry Connick Jr.), lips thicker on top than on the bottom (forever yummy Laurence Fishburne, Denzel Washington and Cory Hardrict), pouty (Al Pacino, Michael Ealy and Johnny Depp).
[ANOTHER SERIOUS ASIDE TO THIS DIRE DIGRESSION FROM THE PRECIOUS REVIEW: I feel compelled to comment on the notorious “one-drop rule,” and please do not construe anything I say in this aside as self-hatred as a Black person or as I prefer to identify: a human of the African Diaspora. The U.S.A.’s “one-drop rule,” which would have singer-songwriter-musician Alicia Keys, singer-actor Mariah Carey, actor-model Halle Berry and actor Wentworth Miller (“Prison Break”) labeled “mulattoes”; and (who knows how deep the pigment goes?) maybe even musician-actor Harry Connick Jr. and musician-activist Sheryl Crow and President Jimmy Carter, labeled “octoroons”!
And I’m not one of those people — just about all “races” are guilty of what I’m about to say — who utter that when Black and White mix, the children are always so beautiful. Could we please stop perpetuating that myth?
This “racist” one-drop rule is part of the reason that I still cannot find a job (the other reason being a lousy economy), thanks to job boards requiring that I self-identify on applications or else suffer the consequences when I show up at the interview and objectively identify [O]therwise, phenotypically speaking.
Funny how the “one-drop rule” doesn’t work in the other direction: If a Black American person has a drop of Northern or Eastern European blood — don’t get me started on the complexities, in terms of perception of Western European ancestries — or a drop of Asian blood, no matter what country on that continent, said Black American person doesn’t automatically get called White or Asian. You know, the more I think about those job applications, and the box labeled “Other” on other kinds of applications, the more that box is what I would want. The reason is, to be brown-complexioned and have any kind of texture between soft&curly/wavy (a/k/a “good hair” in the lingo of Black people who self-hate) and coarse&curly (a/k/a “bad hair” in the lingo of Black people who self-hate) makes one an “Other” in the United States of America.
I have spoken with many other people from various cultures and discovered just in the past two years that recent immigrants from the subcontinent of Asia and from the Middle East — but this is not a blanket statement about all people from those parts of the world — dissociate themselves from brown-complexioned folks like me even if they are browner than I. So, absurdly, that would make a Black person (no matter what complexion) who is a descendant of the African Diaspora an “Other” like no “Other.”]
As you can read from above — well, the text above the lengthy aside — beauty is diverse. If we all looked the same all over the world, how boring a visual that would be!
Please allow me to continue this dire digression from the Precious review: Could we as Black American people (because I think we are the only people doing this — and if we aren’t, then I’m calling out everyone) STOP using such derogatory terms as swirl, jungle fever and oreo, all of which perpetuate prejudices against interracial couplings and self-identification?
And, I realize that this is off-topic, too, but could we as Black American people please stop creating other terms and phrases whenever any of us have some kind of accomplishment. I, for one, hated to be called a “White girl” whenever I was successful in corporate America; just as I abhorred being called “corporate.” One of the Black people who labeled me “corporate” also called me “high yellow” often. “Yellow” and “high yellow” are just as extremely offensive as “darkie” and “blue black.” How I abhor colorism, whether it is practiced by Black people or non-Black people!
And “talking ‘White’ “? WTF?! Let me get this straight (and don’t start breakin’ on my relaxed hair because I said that): Because I strove to be upwardly mobile, was it really necessary for someone to call me a “buppie”? Heck, I was living paycheck to paycheck and wearing the same three suits. I had the fashion know-how — and the congeniality to seek help from various, trendy sales associates — to coordinate various blouses and skirts with those suits.
All of us should lift ourselves up and increase our tolerance or else the only race that exists anthropologically speaking — the human race — will not survive into future millennia. The fate, in a macrocosmic sense, of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their subsequent generations depends on how we change our attitudes today and going forward.
Thanks for putting up with my verboseness, dear readers of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog. The Divine/Creator/God didn’t give me a calling as a writer and amateur anthropologist and sociologist for nothing.
Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve