Why Some Blacks Prefer 'Blind Side' to 'Precious'

Precious vs Blind Side

There are two new films at the box office depicting poor black teenagers trying to escape their gritty urban lives. But only one of them is drawing criticism from many members of the black community.

"Precious," the critically acclaimed drama about an illiterate black teenage girl abused by her mother and pregnant with a second child by her father, has come under fire by a number of blacks, including Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy and former Time magazine columnist Jack White.

Meanwhile, blacks, for the most part, have been noticeably silent about "The Blind Side," the Sandra Bullock-helmed movie based on the true story of a Memphis family, the Tuohys, who take in a poor homeless black boy, Michael Oher, who becomes an NFL star.

VIDEO: Movie trailer for Precious.
'Precious' Oscars 2010 Nominee

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips finds the discrepancy puzzling.

"While everyone is fussing about 'Precious,' a movie like 'The Blind Side' is going to make a pile of dough and seems far more racially patronizing," said Phillips, the white co-host of the syndicated show "At the Movies."

"'The Blind Side' is telling a really good story about one African-American character completely through the perspective of the white family."

"That's absurd and patronizing in itself," Armond White, chief film critic of The New York Press, said of Phillips' comments.

The reason for the discrepancy, said White, who is black, is simple.

"Some black people find 'Precious' offensive and they don't find 'The Blind Side' offensive," he said. "There's more humanity there. 'Precious' is like a horror show, a freak show. There's nothing but misery, debased behavior and degradation. One film is about Samaritan-ism, humanism, kindness, love and brotherhood, and the other is about degradation and ignorance.

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"I'm happy that people aren't buying it ['Precious'] and prefer to buy 'The Blind Side,'" he added.

Indeed, "Blind Side" opened last week just behind the "Twilight" juggernaut, raking in more its first weekend -- $34 million -- than "Precious" has grossed since its limited opening Nov. 6. Granted, "Blind Side" is being marketed as a Hollywood mainstream film, whereas "Precious" is being sold more as an art film.

Most Demeaning Since 'Birth of a Nation'?

Since its Nov. 20 wide release, "Precious" has made a decent showing at the box office and, moreover, it's being widely touted as the Oscar front-runner.

So why is a film, written and directed by blacks, based on the popular novel of a black writer, getting so much push-back from blacks?

Milloy wrote in his column last month that Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, executive producers of the film, "have helped serve up a film of prurient interest that has about as much redeeming social value as a porn flick."

Milloy told ABCNews.com he hasn't seen "The Blind Side," but among his black friends who have, they "like it a lot," he said. "Apparently, the book was really good, and people went in knowing that they were going to get a happy holiday ending."

Jack White refuses to see "Precious," writing in a recent column on TheRoot.com, "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."

Armond White, who chairs the New York Film Critics Circle, called "Precious" more demeaning to black people than any other film since D.W. Griffith's crudely racist "Birth of a Nation" in 1915.

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