precious: a win for mo’nique

March 11, 2010

The film Precious, based on the novel Push by Saph…. (yadda yaddda you all know this part), is nothing if not controversial. Its performances and cinematography were strikingly rich, the subject matter was at times problematic for better or for worse (we leave to you to decide Afro-Punkers) but Mo’Nique’s performance was indisputably moving (ditto on the for better or for worse here) and her Oscar win was not shocking in the slightest.

Her choice not to campaign for an Oscar and her choice to thank Hattie Mcdaniel have stirred up both support and ire from people who actually care about the Oscars and of course we want to know what you guys think. We thought we’d collect some compiled thoughts/ source material from the internet and let you all hash it out.

Mo’Nique said of ‘Precious’ in the New York Times in January:

“I keep hearing, ‘It’s so dark, it’s so dark,’ ” she said, placing her hands flat on the table. “This movie is not dark. This movie is honest, and I think we get that confused. I believe dark is when you see the action movies, and they’re killing 25 people in a room for no reason. That’s dark. Some people,” she said, looking up at the reporter, “can’t deal with that type of honesty, and so they just call it dark.”
(Read that here)

“But at least Mo’Nique won for a role in a film by and about black people, not for playing a sassy maid, right? Well, yes and no. It’s fantastic to see black filmmakers recognized — just as it’s fantastic to see a woman win best director, even if it’s for a distinctly testosteroney film — but that hardly means we’ve transcended demeaning stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong — Mo’Nique did a marvelous job with the material. But that material was, in one critic’s description, “an over-the-top political fantasy that works only because it demeans blacks, women and poor people” — and Hollywood doesn’t seem to have wrestled too hard with the question of why such movies are frequently crowd pleasers.” – Kate Harding,

“For some, so was the mostly white Academy’s celebration of Precious. Numerous critics, like Professor Antonio, felt the movie –while well done– contained numerous and problematic images including the fact that the more benevolent roles in the movie were played by black people with lighter complexions. Once again, African Americans were left to wonder if the Academy was recognizing the film for its merits or if they were further promoting negative images of African Americans by rewarding us for deviant roles, as some people said they’d done previously with Training Day and Monster’s Ball.

Whatever we believe, the votes are now in and folks have made their choice. The three teachers were suspended and Precious won two Oscars. And I can live with these developments as long as African Americans continue to actively monitor, speak out and hold folks accountable for the images of our community in the mass media – and if they serve as an impetus for further diversifying media images of black people.” – Stephanie Robinson for Newsone

Mo’Nique is hilarious. She’s the best host the BET Awards ever had and her full-voiced rants that tackle everything from her hatred of skinny women to her own hairy legs are legendary.

So to watch Mo’Nique play ‘Mary’, a woman so self-absorbed that she considers her daughter’s rape to be an affront to her own sovereignty, was incredible. She threw a baby on the floor in one scene! In another, she forced her own daughter to do the sexually unthinkable.

Sometimes we Black people can get in a huff about depictions of ourselves that we consider to be less than favorable as if it was our low Q Rating that caused the transatlantic slave trade.

But, whatever.”

-RK Beyers Also for Newsone

BONUS: Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar Win Speech: