It is the focus of a heated media controversy—a wrenching tale of horrific abuse by a father figure, teenage sex and out-of-wedlock birth, the pathological breakdown of social norms in an oft-neglected corner of society.
And I’m going to take a pass on this one.
Gotcha, didn’t I?
You thought I was referring to Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, the hot movie about an overweight Harlem girl who overcomes the horrible abuse inflicted on her by her parents to gain a new lease on life. But no, I actually was writing about Going Rogue: An American Life, the hot autobiography of a former Republican vice-presidential candidate who overcomes horrific abuse from the staff of a man old enough to be her daddy to gain a new lease on, well, I’m not sure exactly.
Though on the surface Precious and Going Rogue could not be more dissimilar, I suspect that when boiled down to their essence, they have a lot in common. Based on what I’ve heard about them, both shamelessly seek to shock the sensibilities of its audience by presenting raw, updated versions of the Cinderella story. Each tries to emotionally manipulate by presenting a highly selective version of the truth it pretends to represent.
But that’s just what I heard. I could be wrong because I’m not planning to waste any time on either one of these over-hyped productions. I’m tired of being played.
I don’t have to see Precious to know that it has little to tell us about how we can improve the circumstances of real-life victims of such tragedy. Many of those who are heaping praises on Precious for the unblinking eye it turns on ghetto misery were among the mob that dumped on the Washington Post for publishing Leon Dash’s down and dirty series about the underclass family of Rosa Lee in 1994. Such people would rather weep about fiction than study the facts.
So, for the most part, Precious will do what it’s designed to: move its viewers to schadenfreude—a sense of pleasure based on observing the misery of others—rather than a disciplined commitment to action on the colossal scale that uplifting the poor requires. As a moving op-ed piece by Malika Saada Saar in the Washington Post reminded us, poor, undereducated and sexually victimized girls like Precious are most likely to end up in the juvenile justice system than to be rescued from their plight.
As for Going Rogue, I don’t have to slog through its pages to know that it’s a pastiche of self-serving lies, half-lies, distortions and innuendo aimed at progressing Sarah Palin’s demented political ambitions. It would have been better as an episode on The Jerry Springer Show than as a book.
I might even have watched it.
It might have been a lot more honest than either Precious or Going Rogue.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.
is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.