Thursday, December 24, 2009

1,000 Kudos to the Knowles-Carter Family

So yesterday I read a report that Jay Z and Beyonce will be known as Beyonce and Shawn Knowles-Carter.

How awesome is that?! Not only does their celebrity bring more attention to the prevalence of couples choosing nontraditional names for their family, but Jay Z is also a particularly interesting case. He is one of the most prominent men in an extremely male dominated and frequently misogynistic industry (hip hop). This choice highlights his respect for Beyonce as a person. I mean, come on...her name comes first!

I don't know anything about the egalitarianism of their relationship...but if I had to use this as an indication, I'd say they're probably in pretty good shape.

I really hope young people can take their lead as an example. Of course, if this story was half as covered as Tiger Woods or Jon and Kate's divorces, then maybe it wouldn't be so hard for the girls I've worked with to accept that I didn't take my husband's name.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prescious and The Blind Side

Recently, a Facebook friend posted this status:

Apparently there are some people out there who think that "Precious", a fictional movie that crams every possible negative myth about urban blacks into two hours, is empowering while "The Blind Side", a fact-based movie, is just another story from The Man about how the world is only a good place because of Whitey. There is a word describing these people: dumb.

I didn't reply to this status, because I wasn't out for Facebook debate, but it did cause me to reflect upon my own thoughts. I have heard people say that The Blind Side is another depiction of white people saving black people from themselves. And I'll admit, I tend to see that in the movie too, whether it is a true story or not. (Note: I haven't yet seen The Blind Side because *someone* wouldn't go with me...but I have a pretty good idea what it's about.)

Now, I take issue with a few assertions of this status. Firstly, referring to the situations of Precious as a myth is just inaccurate. The challenges that Precious faces are real in every community. Later in the comments the original poster says, "My issue with the film is that it is kind of guilty of "piling on". Precious isn't just being sexually abused by her father, she's also being physically and verbally abused by her mother, is encouraged to abuse the welfare system, does not excel in school, is morbidly obese, etc."

I can see how Precious has been "piled on." However, many of the issues she's facing are interconnected. Abuse is more prevalent in low income communities, as are difficulties with school and welfare. Also, couldn't it be said that the character of Michael in The Blind Side is also piled on (homelessness, struggling in school, broken home.) Does the fact that Michael's story is "true" mean that his character is any less piled on? The depiction of Precious in the film is not a creation of the filmmakers' minds. She is from the author Sapphire, and the book "Push." The filmmakers simply translated Sapphire's story into a movie, and, I might add...they did an excellent job and stuck to the story that Sapphire wrote. (A story which seems to possess the insight of a person who has faced similar challenges in her own life.)

But here's the issue I take with The Blind Side that I do not take with Precious: How the characters achieve their varied levels of success. In TBS Michael becomes successful through the help and encouragement of a white family. In Precious, there is very little interaction from white people at all. Presicous' success is due chiefly to her own determination and the help of a black teacher, Blue Rain. Now, having not see TBS, I don't know if Michael displays the same determination, but I *do* know Precious did.

Also, the levels of success achieved are very different. TBS is a feel good movie about accomplishing success through fame and fortune. Precious is different...Precious doesn't become famous or rich or even truly self sufficient within the bounds of the book or film...she becomes things which are much more simple and often taken for granted. She becomes literate, she finds her voice, she gets herself and her children out of an abusive situation.

For me, this makes Precious a much more relatable and realistic story of triumph over tragedy. Even if it is a fictional account, I think it is something I can personally find more meaning in. Plus...and I don't know how quite to word this, but the people behind Precious (black writers, black director, black cast) in contast to TBS make me feel like it comes from a more authentic African American place.