Saturday, February 27, 2010

Times Op-Ed column has too many cracks

New York Times editors have an embarrassment on their hands this morning in the shape of Charles M. Blow's Op Ed column about the "cliché" of the "crack-addicted black mother" perpetuated by producer Tyler Perry in two of his films, a television series, and, most damaging, in his "presentation" of the movie Precious, for which "Mo’Nique is a favorite to win an Oscar next Sunday for her powerful and disturbing portrayal of an abusive, crack-addicted mother.

"There was a time when this character was more relevant: in the 1980s and 1990s when the crack epidemic plunged whole communities into violence, fear and chaos," thunders Mr. Blow, who cites statistics showing that drug use among young blacks is below the national average.

But then, a parenthetical phrase is added by the editor:

"To be fair, 'Precious' is set in the 1980s."

Granted, that disclaimer does tend to water down the argument slightly, but there's still the fact Mo’Nique is perpetuating the negative image of the black crack mother--

Except Mo'Nique's character in Precious is not a crack addict, as a revised version of the column now states:

"Mo’Nique is a favorite to win an Oscar next Sunday for her powerful and disturbing portrayal of an abusive mother in the movie 'Precious.'

"If she wins, I may grit my teeth at the depraved depiction, but at least her character is merely juxtaposed with the crack scourge and isn't in fact an addict. That's heartening..."

"At least her character isn't in fact an addict? "

"That's heartening?

"To be fair, 'Precious is set in the 1980s?"

Time to pull the column, no?



If that's not enough reason, there's the example Mr. Blow cites as proof that the "crack mother cliché" is passé: Whitney Houston.

"These never-ending portrayals perpetuate the modern mythology that little has changed when much has. Even for Whitney," he concludes.


Unfortunately, he writes the very week that Whitney Houston's erratic behaviour and poor concert performances have led to speculation that the diva is back on the drugs.

The New York Times, that paper of record, settles for an online correction:

"Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly described Mo'Nique's character in the movie "Precious." She was not a crack addict."

No comments: