question of the day: Are ‘Precious’ and ‘The Blind Side’ racist?

Is it impossible to make a movie about black characters that actually deals with, or at least touches on, issues of race and class that someone won’t accuse of being racist? Perhaps it is. For at the moment, we have the cheery, upbeat, feel-good The Blind Side, which, according to ABC News, black people prefer over the horrific, depressing, downbeat Precious. Even though:

“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 [Chicago Tribune film critic Michael] 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.

Of course, White has been railing vociferously against Precious. From his review:

Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show. Offering racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity, it’s been acclaimed on the international festival circuit that usually disdains movies about black Americans as somehow inartistic and unworthy.

And that’s not the worst of what he has to say.

Are Precious and The Blind Side racist? Is one more racist than the other? Trickier still, should we give more creedence to black people when it comes to talking about whether a movie is racist or not? Or should be all feel comfortable talking about this?

(Phillips makes more sense to me in this particular argument, but then again, I’m white, and so is he, and maybe that does make a difference.)

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