Thoughtful Revolution



Wow.

This is fantastic.  I’m not sure how excited I am for “Precious” — on the one hand, it’s based on a work by Sapphire, stars Ms. Sidibe, and has garnered some very impressive critical acclaim; on the other hand, the trailer seemed to indicate a certain syrupy condescension that rubs me the wrong way — but the actress’s confidence, all too rare in interviews with young Hollywood women, is exhilarating.

Like the Feministing crew, I’m especially drawn to this quote:

“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.”

There is a certain media myth cultivated around previously-unknown actresses who don’t fit the conventional Elle magazine standards, particularly those who defy them in terms of weight (see also: Nikki Blonsky, Ricki Lake, even Jennifer Hudson) — the myth that they were socially isolated, unattractive losers until Hollywood swept them off their feet and made them into worthwhile (“awesome”) people.  There’s so much underlying sexist, sizist, and classist baggage beneath this illusion, and as the illusion becomes more and more integrated into Hollywood lore it adds that baggage to the common consciousness.  Which, when one is a well-rounded young woman trying to formulate one’s own self-esteem, is the worst of mental obstacles — if there’s no chance of Hollywood scooping you up and carrying you off (as there never was for me), suddenly you’re stuck in the “loser” paradigm without any kind of escape route.

And that makes proclamations like Ms. Sidibe’s such a relief — because she understands, and publicly understands, and inspirationally understands, that despite the prevailing myth, her appearance and anonymity never negated her value as a person.  Perhaps, if “Precious” makes it big and/or other incipient stars echo Ms. Sidibe’s sentiments, the existing “damsel-in-distress” fantasy will be replaced by a popular, populist assertion of self-worth.  We — as women, as teenagers, as unknowns, as human beings — can only hope.

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