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The Making of “Precious” pt.10

by Ishmael Reed

In her interview with Daniels, Lynn Hirschberg said something similar: “Precious is a stand-in for anyone — black, white, male, female — who has ever been devalued or underestimated.”

To which Milloy answered:

“Let’s see: I lose my job, so I take in a movie about a serially abused black girl and I go, ‘Oh, swell, she’s standing in for me.’

“Maybe there is something to the notion that when human pathology is given a black face, white people don’t have to feel so bad about their own. At least somebody’s happy.

“Sexual abuse is certainly an equal-opportunity crime, with black and white women similarly affected. But only exaggerated black depravity seems to resonate so forcefully in the imagination.”

Will the “niche” audience for which this movie is intended ever become weary of the brothers being symbol of universal male misogyny? The face on the bull’s-eye at which disgruntled feminists from all ethnic groups aim their arrows, women who are scared to challenge the misogyny practiced by males who share their background? Judging from the box office receipts,
maybe not. As of Nov. 22, three weeks after the debut of the film, box office receipts totaled a gross of $21,277,521.

What is the solution offered by the people behind this film for the millions of blacks who are suffering from a depression during white America’s recession? After a hurried flurry of images belonging to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Shirley Chisholm, Precious becomes redeemed by semi-literacy and black pride. The film’s true ending occurs when Precious and her mother engage in furious battle; the black pride part seems forced. After the mother/ daughter battle, the movie lingers like a wounded animal that nobody has the nerve to put out of its misery. Even more dreadful was somebody’s idea to tack on one of these trite sistuh solidarity songs.

What else do the film makers recommend that the underclass do, people who in the movie go into stores and rob and down a whole bucket of fried chicken, an image borrowed from The Birth of a Nation? Go to church and get sterilized which is the subtle Eugenics message that appears on a sign, “Spay and Neuter Your Pets,” as Precious and her two children travel to their new apartment.

According to Stefan Kuhl in his book, The Nazi Connection, Eugenics, American Racism and German National Socialism sterilization is an idea that the Germans borrowed from the United States as a way of ending the reproduction of unwanted groups. People who possess a violence gene?

In the mid-seventies, the late Chester Himes predicted that the Establishment was trying to start a war between black men and women. They succeed by treating both groups as opposing sports teams. And so while Armond White has been denounced by defenders of the movie, many of them women, and whites who consider him “contrarian,” the woman who put up the money, Sarah Siegel, has chosen to remain in the background. None of the exchanges I’ve read even mention her name. While the print and blog war over Precious rages on, she relaxes in her mansion, counting the profits from her Gold Mine of Opportunity: Precious; which is to blacks what Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ was to Jews.

Finally, who will market the next black movie that white audiences will pay to see? MSNBC has been drawing a lot of laughs from the same demographic by running a story about a black man who has been arrested twice for having intercourse with a horse and infecting the horse. Even the token progressives on MSNBC favor this story. I’ll bet somebody is working on the screenplay and the niche marketing for the film. Sarah, you listening?

Ishmael Reed is an award-winning novelist, author & essayist. He was born in Tennesse & raised in Buffalo NY and is a former journalist for the Buffalo Challenger. His next book “Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: the Return of the Nigger Breakers” will be published in the Spring by Baraka publishers of Quebec. He is the editor of Konch. He can be reached at:

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