The Oscars and Why We Can’t All Be Sidney Poitier

And as we embrace the warts-and-all diversity of the human experience, we don’t have to be. So don’t hate when Precious makes history at the Oscars.





The writer Jill Nelson, toiling away, I’m assuming from some far corner of Martha’s Vineyard, nastily supplied a “Top 10 Ways To Know if You are Precious” list:

10) “You order the 10-piece chicken bucket when you’re dining alone.” 5) “You forget that it’s only a balanced meal if you serve greens with that hairy swine and macaroni and cheese. (That cheese better be Velveeta.)” 3) “You think breasts has at least three syllables.”

One Niaonline commenter completed the thought: “I am not precious either, but i am a teacher…and i do see a generation of preciouses who are born to toxic young turbo breeders each day.”


Slate’s Dana Stevens dismissed Precious as “poverty porn,” a too-simple description that has caught on among many black critics. But the lack of empathy for Precious may be more a case of the cultural competencies of certain critics than anything else.

Stevens didn’t “get” the close-ups of sizzling pork or the dream sequences of Precious in which she yearns: “I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with real nice hair. But first, I wanna be in one of them BET videos.” Stevens calls these scenes a “disservice” to the character which provides a “pathos-ridden glimpses into Precious’ impoverished mental life.”

It takes Teresa Wiltz, writing on The Root, to explain that “this is a film about metaphysical need, DNA-deep, adolescent-sized, existential longing and the power of popular culture to—temporarily—transform unspeakable realities into BET fantasies.”

The irony of both the affliction of white beauty standards and the futility of the BET cure seems to be lost on most critics.

Which brings me to Ishmael Reed’s blackmancentric critique of Precious in his Counterpoint essay. On behalf of me and every other black person, he denounces Precious, which he calls a continuing assault on the black man. Reed compares the film’s makers and white patrons to “the KKK, Nazis, film, television, etc.”

Precious’s evil father appeared for oh, about, 15 seconds. So why is it ALL ABOUT black men again?