by ISHMAEL REED
While white male critics are campaigning feverishly to land one of two Oscars for Precious, the dissent from some black critics has been blistering. Most notably Armond White who, as a result of his review printed in The New York Press has become a folk hero among young black cyberspace intellectuals of the kind who are making a comeback after about twenty years of the left and right establishments laying black intellectuals on us who sing from the song book as they. One of those who praised White’s review printed in The New York Press, was Kofi Natambu the brilliant young editor of The Panopticon Review. I asked him what he thought was behind Precious:
“The withering contempt and sheer malice for black people (and especially black men) that this film represents and embodies is an integral part of a very disturbing and destructive trend among a number of cultural hustlers, thieves, and conmen and women in film, literature, theatre, and the music industry that is being vigorously promoted and marketed by white corporations and Madison Avenue. It’s no coincidence that the increasingly casual and overt racism that is routinely displayed in advertising and the media generally is working hand in glove with the contemptible and venal likes of artistic pimps and prostitutes like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. This development has been dismissing, marginalizing, and destroying the impact and influence of genuine African American artists in all the arts now since the mid ’90s and has in the past decade reached its vicious apex in the heinous “work” of such black retrograde and reactionary assholes as the people producing and directing this film. Remember Percival Everett’s brilliant novel from 2001 called “Erasure?” Remember his devastating critique of this nexus of white racism and black minstrel confidence schemes in his rendering of the phony black author (who sounds a LOT like Sapphire!) called ‘My Pafology?’ as now this is what this ugly marriage between the white corporate media and Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina minstrelism has come to in the modern world. If something is not done to stem this tide it’s only going to get worse and soon.
“My Pafology indeed.”
Armond White wrote:
“Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate. They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up FromIncest, Child Abuse, Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience. All the terrible, depressing (not uplifting) things that happen to 16-year-old Precious recall that memorable All About Eve line, “Everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear-end.’”
As a result of his dissent A.O. Scott dismissed Armond White as “a contrarian” which means that his conclusions about the film differed from those of white critics. The late Tillie Olson, a genuine progressive, had it right when she pointed out, sagaciously, in The New York Time’s Magazine, that many whites engage in a perverse voyeurism when viewing black culture.
They want to peek behind the curtains of black life to seek confirmation that all of the myths they’ve heard about black life are true. Richard Wright said that “The Negro is America’s metaphor.” More like America’s anti-depressant. People who are miserable in their own lives getting off by consuming black depravity, a big business. The audience at the 2:00 matinee that I attended was 90% white, the marketer’s “niche” audience. Not only did I have to swallow this seedy material for the purpose of entering this review in my forthcoming book, Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media, subtitled The Return of the Nigger Breakers, but was assaulted by two offensive previews: Clint Eastwood’s movie about Nelson Mandela and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, a black Princess this time, which, judging from the trailers, will be a remake of Song of the South. In the film, Iku (“eniti ile re mbe lagbedemeji aiye on orun”), the top- hatted mythological figure from the Yoruba religion is depicted as evil (in the film he is Doctor Facilier, “A schemer, a conjurer and a sorcerer of sorts”) ,and a follower of Oshun, a water spirit, with thousands of followers in this hemisphere, is caricatured, in the movie. In the movie her name is Mama Odie. It’s bad enough that Oprah endorses the stupid and mindless Precious but then she has to go perform for Disney. A project that demeans African Religion. And has already criticized by some blacks for the black Princess lacking a black male love interest. The Daily Mail reported on 18th March 2009
“With America’s first African-American president in the White House, Disney is counting on an African-American princess to be a big hit in Hollywood.
“But even though The Princess and the Frog isn’t released until later this year, it is already stirring up controversy.
“For while Princess Tiana and many in the cartoon cast are black – the prince is not.
“Which has led some critics to complain that Disney has ducked the opportunity for a fairytale ending for a black prince and princess.”
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: