Armond White Abuses “Precious.”

Armond White, film critic

"I am not a contrarian; everyone else is a conformist."

There’s one in every crowd of film critics.  The one critic who doesn’t simply march to the beat of a different drummer;  he has his own original soundtrack.  That’s Armond White, film critic for a website you don’t read named the New York Press.   White has carefully crafted a reputation as the skunk at the garden parties.  If the vast majority is going one way on a film, he tacks in an opposite direction and when he goes after a particular movie that irks his sensibilities he doesn’t stop pummeling it until  he’s licking the blood off his knuckles.

The do-it-yourself aspects of the Internet made anyone with a laptop a critic whether they had the knack for it or not.  That really annoyed the professional critics who found themselves suddenly increasingly irrelevant.   So if being smart isn’t working anymore, how about just being incredibly nasty in temperament?  This is White’s house special.

The vast majority of critics have practically guaranteed Precious as a stone cold lock for Oscar nominations, White disagrees mightily.  In his review  White guts the film saying, “Not since The Birth of A Nation” has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious.”

That’s not simply a pan, but White was equally unsparing of director Lee Daniels and executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

Shame on Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey for signing on as air-quote executive producers of Precious. After this post-hip-hop freak show wowed Sundance last January, it now slouches toward Oscar ratification thanks to its powerful friends.Winfrey and Perry had no hand in the actual production of Precious, yet the movie must have touched some sore spot in their demagogue psyches. They’ve piggybacked their reps as black success stories hoping to camouflage Precious’ con job—even though it’s more scandalous than their own upliftment trade.

Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate.They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium.

Eddie Murphy in "Norbit"

"Norbit" cost Eddie an Oscar, but Armond White thinks it rocks!

I used to believe it was easy to write a negative review until I had to actually sit through bad movies when I was a stringer for Columbus Dispatch film critic Frank Gabrenya.   That’s when I realized the time wasted on bad movies, bad books or bad music makes them not much fun to trash.

Armond White is the sort of haughty, pompous and self-important critic the Internet has made pretty much irrelevant.   Of course he’s entitled to slam any film he thinks is a waste of time and celluloid, but his Precious review is nothing more than a full-blown rant against African-American celebrities he finds annoying.    The movie itself is irrelevant.  It’s just the punching bag White pastes pictures of Oprah and Tyler on to swing at.

How seriously can anyone take White when no sooner has he compared Precious unfavorably to The Birth of A Nation, D.W. Griffith’s notoriously racist Valentine card to the Ku Klux Klan  and Black politicans lording it over White citizens (Griffith would have been the guest of honor at tax day tea parties rallies against Barack Obama) than he follows it up with this jaw-dropping paragraph.

The hype for Precious indicates a culture-wide willingness to accept particular ethnic stereotypes as a way of maintaining status quo film values. Excellent recent films with black themes—Next Day Air, Cadillac Records, Meet Dave, Norbit, Little Man, Akeelah and the Bee, First Sunday, The Ladykillers, Marci X, Palindromes, Mr. 3000, even back to the great Beloved (also produced by Oprah)—have been ignored by the mainstream media and serious film culture while this carnival of black degradation gets celebrated. It’s a strange combination of liberal guilt and condescension.

That’s right, folks.  White is saying when it comes to making a contribution to cinema and uplifting the race, Precious can’t hold Meet Dave, Little Man and Norbit’s collective jock straps.

I haven’t seen Precious yet, so I can’t offer an opinion whether it deserves the hammering White gives it or it’s a bona fide masterpiece.   However, the ugly way White goes about eviscerating it only makes me more sympathetic, not less, to this unconventional underdog of a movie.

There’s a line between coherent criticism of a failed film and just ripping into as so to draw attention to your review.  White waits until the last paragraph to cross it where he drop kicks lead actress Gabourey Sidibe dubbing her a “hippopotamus.”    That goes beyond harsh.  That is just cruel.

It’s possible White is really drinking the haterade and truly finds Precious to be a totally repugnant movie.  But it’s hard to take seriously his disgust when he hails a piece of excrement like Norbit as an “excellent film.”   How is Eddie Murphy swaddled in layers of latex as an grossly offensive and vulgar bastardization of Black women less offensive than comparing an overweight teenager unfavorably to the third-largest land mammal?

I mean, Norbit?   Seriously?  How can White write a sentence like that with a straight face?

There’s something vaguely admirable about holding a contrary opinion in the face of nearly unanimous praise.   Precious may prove not to live up to its hype.  Great.  White will have the satisfaction of saying he was right when everybody else was wrong.  But his sledgehammer rhetoric and praise for trash come off as a grab for attention.

Armond White is playing a hustle to get some attention for a review that would otherwise go largely unnoticed.  I regret to the extent that I have assisted him in this endeavor.    On the other hand, I’m providing a public service by exposing White’s tirade as the mean-spirited mugging  it  is.

Can you find the "hippopotamus" in this picture?

7 thoughts on “Armond White Abuses “Precious.”

  1. Hi, Jeff. I just wanted to point out that Armond White is actually for a newspaper named New York Press. We happen to have a website, yes, but we are indeed a print publication. Thanks for reading.


  2. Jeff, the cultural taste of migrants here plays out daily on TV. Sadly, RACISM is alive and well on our shores of America “en Espanol”. We could not believe our eyes/ears watching this on Spanish TV, so got it taped and translate/subtitled for ‘Mainstream USA’ to notice what slides by on our own ‘foreign-language’ media. WARNING: The jokes are offensive to most all races, except perhaps whatever you call Mexicans. Worse is that this gets catered to the mass-migrant populations..

    On YouTube, search for MEXMUNDOVISION, or click


    • Thanks for sharing this disgustingly racist episode.
      And if anything, this is a true tribute to “Birth of a Nation” not “Precious” as Armond White suggests.


  3. I have to agree with you on this one.
    It’s a bit much that he’s comparing “Precious” to “Birth of a Nation” but to say in the same breath that “Marcy X,” “Little Man,” “Next Day Air” and “Norbit” should’ve been praised as much as this Oprah/Perry-produced drama, makes me go Richard Pryor and say “That Nigger’s Crazy!”

    What kills me even more is the fact that in the past decade we’ve witnessed some of the worst and most offensive stereotypes of Black people on film since “Birth of a Nation.” YET, we hear NOTHING from our so-called cultural “leaders,” i.e. the NAACP who in the early ’70s coined the term “blaxploitation.”

    The biggest problem with those ’70s flicks is that they were low budget with often times poor acting. However, they gave lots of otherwise starving Black actors, musicians, cinematographers and directors steady work which they parlayed over into primetime tv and other mainstream film roles.

    Today most of the people producing and acting in trash such as “Soul Plane,” “The Cookout,” “Norbit,” “Little Man,” and the hundreds of straight-to-DVD flicks that come out annually is that they’re not starving. Most are high-profile rappers, actors, comedians and already established network tv stars.

    It’s as if these million $ niggers if you will are taking on these roles just to humiliate and embarrass us on the national and international stage. And when a critic speaks up and out their ignant response is one of “How come Arnold Schwarzennegger can kill up a hundred thousand people and no one say nothing,” “I got a family to feed,” or “It’s entertainment don’t be so serious.”

    White is clearly part of the problem. He mentions some of the films that have contributed to our woeful image internationally yet he has the gall to suggest that they should’ve been promoted even more.
    I went to see “Little Man” at the $1 theater and it was during the hours when the films were only $0.50. I was pissed after leaving out and had to be restrained from demanding a refund.


  4. Pingback: Armond White Gives the Finger to Roger Ebert’s Thumb « The Domino Theory by Jeff Winbush

  5. Pingback: Armond White Gives the Finger to Roger Ebert’s Thumb « The Domino Theory by Jeff Winbush

  6. Pingback: “For Colored Girls:” Tyler Perry’s Bid for R-E-S-P-E-C-T. « The Domino Theory by Jeff Winbush

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