There are many histories in African-American culture that are depressing and heartbreaking. Slavery, poverty, imprisonment are just some of the stories that we seem to revisit over and over again in cinema. Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lee Daniels could have collectively come up with a film that didn't have anything to do with any of these subjects. They didn't.
Precious, the film for which Monique won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and which also won for Best Adapted Screenplay, is not a film that has anything Oscar-worthy in it. For all the hype about how Avatar had a weak story and how The Hurt Locker was stolen from someone's actual life, Precious wasn't really stolen at all. Precious won because it reflected a tired idea of how other cultures see African-Americans.
We can claim racism all day long for why Hollywood doesn't make more black films. We can claim that if we don't go and support a Tyler Perry movie, Hollywood won't make another film with a black cast in it. We can even claim that these films are good because they are uplifting.
Avatar was a pretty uplifting film. Precious was an uplifting film. The former made hundreds of millions, the latter made far less than that. Is it because the film didn't have the awesome distribution that Avatar had? Is it because Avatar was directed by James Cameron? Is it because billions of people wanted to see a 3D movie?
Precious was about a depressing part of human existence. A way of life that could kill anyone who lived in it. A way of life so limiting that moving an inch forward is moving an inch back.
Avatar was about a place that wasn't planet earth. Sure, it was made by computers. Unlike any other film out there, Avatar made a world that you felt you could belong to. I wanted to go there.
Precious is not a film that make me feel like I could go anywhere. The same goes for The Hurt Locker, or even Up In The Air, which I actually liked. It's all very much based on staying on solid ground.
I don't know about you, but for a people constantly looked upon as having limitations, why wouldn't we want more films that have us go beyond telling those kinds of stories? What is wrong with black people traveling to another galaxy? There is more than this planet in our own universe, and there is more in our minds than we could possibly imagine.
Perry, Daniels, and Winfrey should have pushed for something else in that vein. Sadly, they probably know that this kind of film doesn't make it to the Oscars. As a result, a black lady stealing chicken becomes our highlight when the Original Screenplay nomination comes up.
Seriously, enough with the sad black films. For real. Let's do something else.