Racist confusion around Gabby Sidibe and Precious
Like many people, I became instantly enchanted with Gabourey Sidibe as soon as I saw her in an interview. She has a dynamic personality, she’s funny, and she’s an incredible actress. When Chris Rock inexplicably groped Sidibe at an awards show last week, she responded, “It’s my own fault for being too damn fine.” I like her so much!
While Sidibe is doing quite well for herself, its unsurprising that she’s being targeted by people fuckheads like Howard Stern. What is surprising, though, is that people apparently don’t realize she’s an actor. Weird, right? Especially considering she was just nominated for Best Actress at the goddamn Academy Awards? But people are racist, classist, and just plain idiotic. I guess people think Sidibe’s portrayal of Precious must have been so good because it was an exact reenactment of her own life. Sidibe told The Guardian:
“I’ve seriously got people saying to me: ‘Are your children OK now?’ And not just from ordinary people, but from people who’ve been in the movie business 20 or 30 years” (emphasis added).
What the hell is wrong with these people? They seriously think this film was a documentary! As Alex Jung in RaceWire puts it, this would never happen to a white male actor– no one asked Edward Norton “how his experience in the mental ward was” after Primal Fear. In fact, I’m pretty sure no one would ask Meryl Streep to cook them something from “Mastering the Art Of French Cooking,” either.
This appalling behavior isn’t about Sidibe’s youth or her newness to Hollywood– no one believed Haley Joel Osment must have really seen dead people. It’s about her blackness, certainly, but it’s also about where she’s from. To presume that all black girls from Harlem must have identical experiences speaks to a profound separation from communities of color and low-income communities. Precious is a narrative film based on a fictional novel. The fact that large numbers of people are assuming that because Sidibe is also from Harlem, and therefore must be Precious, illustrates that those people know nothing about Harlem. These assumptions exoticise Harlem as a mysterious place where everyone must lead dysfunctional, terrible lives. The fact that Sidibe is a happy, college-educated, well-adjusted actress (who is also black and from Harlem) is, apparently, difficult for some people to grasp. Sidibe puts it best:
“They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome,” says the actress. “But the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role.”
Yes, Gabourey Sidibe! You are awesome. And you embody the attitude that every girl should have, no matter where she’s from.