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The Making of “Precious” pt.5

by Ishmael Reed

A book promoted by the magazine in which all of the crack addicts were black and in which one photo showed a black crack addict, a mother, fellating a John while a baby was strapped to her back even offended Brent Staples, a black member of the editorial board. That crack is a black drug, exclusively, is just another media hoax meant to entertain whites of the kind that dates to the very beginning of the American mass media.

So I wasn’t surprised that the magazine section featured a spread about “Precious” featuring Gabourey Sidibe, the 350 pound actor in the title role, on the cover certainly an act of black exploitation. However the interviewer, gossip writer Lynn Hirschberg, did perform a service by catching Lee Daniels, the “director” of Precious in a couple of exaggerations. In an effort to follow the marketing plan, the title of the article was “The Audacity of Precious,” after Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” subtitled “Is America Ready For A Movie About An Obese Harlem Girl Raped And Impregnated By Her Abusive Father?” Lionsgate spent big bucks to advertise the movie in the Times.

During Lynn Hirschberg’s interview with Daniels, he claims that he directed Monster’s Ball, about a black woman so dimwitted that she begins a relationship with her husband’s white executioner (though as a porn movie it was superior to Co-Ed Confidential). The husband was played by Sean Puffy Combs.

Turns out that Daniels didn’t direct the film. It was directed by Marc Forster a white director. So, did Daniels direct “Precious” or is really he playing the flak catcher for this heinous project like Oprah Winfrey and Perry? When he went on the set to exercise his role as “director” did the white people who own the movie and provide the crew for this film call security? Hard to say.

He also said that he grew up in the ghetto. His aunt disputes this.
The Times has printed no less than four articles all of which have either praised Precious, or gave those who defend the movie the most lines. Two were written by A.O. Scott, who said that this movie about fictional characters was part of a “national conversation about race.” This is the problem with films like “Precious.” White critics like A.O. Scott, who hog all the criticism space as black, Hispanic, and Asian American journalists are being fired in droves, get a chance to pick and choose which cultural products that will ignite a discussion about race usually ones that show blacks as depraved individuals, individuals that are used to blame black men and in this case black women, collectively. He suggests that based upon a movie adapted from a fiction, all black males are incest violators, the kind of group libel aimed at the brothers when Gloria Steinem said that The Color Purple told the truth about black men.

Why didn’t Dexter, Paris Trout or Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out Of Carolina, begin “a national conversation,” about race? Ted Turner tried to suppress Bastard Out Of Carolina, this white incest film and only through the intervention of Anjelica Huston was the film aired. Turner pronounced it too graphic to be shown on his network CNN, which poses blacks as degenerates 24/7. In several states, Bastard has been banned from classrooms and school libraries.

Also, why doesn’t the Times open its Jim Crow Op Ed page so that a member of Precious’s target, black men, as a class, could respond to this smear, this hate crime as entertainment, this Neo Nazi porn and filth. There are hundreds of black male intellectuals (yes, black men are more than athletes, criminals and entertainers) who would take up the challenge. But the Op Ed page is only open to one black writer, consistently–Orlando Patterson–, who, like the ‘20s writer Claude McKay, is the kind of Jamaican who has nothing but contempt for African Americans.

Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), who wrote the novel Push, also has a biography like Daniel’s that shifts about. First she told Dinitia Smith of the Times (July 2, 1996) that Precious was an actual person. “She lives there,” she said, “pointing at a dowdy building over check cashing store.” Don’t you think that if such a person existed that Lionsgate wouldn’t include her in its marketing plan so ubiquitous that an ad for this film appears on my email screen when I sign in at AOL. It figures? AOL’s expert on black culture and politics is DNesh D’Souza .Their coverage of black culture is limited to black NFL and NBA athletes who get into trouble outside of strip clubs.

Part of the packaging of both the novel and the film has been to cash in the culture of recovery. Sapphire says that she was a former prostitute and a victim of incest (Lee Daniels does his pity party routine during the Times’ interview). She also said that she is a recovering lesbian. In 1986, she began to “remember things.” “An incident of violent sexual abuse “ when she was “3 or 4.” Her father, an Army Sergeant, denied her claim. He died in 1990. (Lee Daniels also “remembered” abuse by his father. I wonder what his aunt would say.)

Her “remembering things,” and being inspired by two other profitable black incest products led Alfred Knopf to give her a $500,000 advance for two books one of which, entitled “American Dreams” included a poem called “Wild Thing,” which blamed the rape of a Central Park Jogger on black boys.

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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1 Comment on "The Making of “Precious” pt.5"

  1. Thank you so much for publishing this article. Much needed.

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