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

"Full of brazenly racist cliches [Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken], it is a sociological horror show," he wrote last month.

Later, in a separate column, he praised "The Blind Side" as an antidote to the "Preciousmania" seizing the nation because it is "so free of the guilt 'Precious' arouses that it simultaneously raises the level of social imagination."

Meanwhile, white culture critic Mark Blankenship, editor and chief of TheCriticalCondition.com, sees "The Blind Side" as another Hollywood production of a do-gooder white person rescuing a poor black person.

"The real story is inspiring," Blankenship said, "but the way it's being sold as a film is not very surprising. We've seen movies like 'The Blind Side' over and over again -- 'Dangerous Minds,' 'Freedom Writers,' 'Finding Forrester' -- even if we haven't seen stories like the Tuohys or Michael Oher, which is an exceptional story being sold to us as just the latest cog in a feel-good machine."

'Precious' Not First to Divide Blacks

Blankenship said he left the film "Precious" feeling as though "I had seen something unique. I was shaken and upset, but in a way that I was happy to feel."

As with Blankenship, there appear to be far more defenders of the film, and black audiences are still turning out in large numbers to see it.

Mia Mask, chair of the film department at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., understands the controversy "Precious" is generating.

"We still have a lot of difficulty looking at stories of black life that are not complimentary, that deal with abuse, addiction, desperation and contradiction," Mask told ABCNews.com. "We always get caught up in the discourse of its reproducing stereotypes."

Mask, who specializes in African-American cinema, found the film both "problematic and progressive."

She agreed with others' criticism about the director's use of light-skinned, attractive blacks -- Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz -- to represent the "good" people in Precious' life and dark-skinned blacks -- newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Precious, and comedian Mo'Nique as her mother -- to represent the ones riddled with pathology.

But Mask was also incredibly moved by the film, especially Mo'Nique's performance in the scene where she explains why she was abusive.

"I stopped seeing this as a story about black people but a story about humanity," she said, "and the terrible conditions around people's lives and what they have wrought. It became more complicated than a film that reinforces class and color stereotypes."

"Precious" follows other films about black life that have divided black audiences. When it came out in 1985, "The Color Purple," based on the novel by Alice Walker, was criticized for its portrayal of abusive black men. And despite Winfrey's Midas touch, she persuaded few blacks to see her in "Beloved," the slave drama based on Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Room for Variety of Stories

While the debate will no doubt continue, Mask and Sapphire, author of the novel "Push," on which "Precious" is based, believe there's room for both a "Precious" and a "Blind Side" in the black community.

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