Big Black Mammies, Chicken Thieves, and The Oscars…

So, how exactly do I feel about the Academy Awards Show I watched last night?

Between beating my head into the desk attempting to find humor in the cliche-esque punch lines of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and hoping, yes hoping some sort of line would get crossed in the dialogue regarding Gabourey Sibide. Much of my viewpoint on this whole topic is biased, as for any American Black it should be. The highest honor for most actors and actresses is the Oscar. I have heard that the trophy called “Oscar” is supposedly representative of the Kimitian (Ancient Egyptian) God Ptah, not sure how that would correspond, but hey…whatever, right?

What I do know is that images play a strong part in the minds of people. Gabby is not going to be known as the articulate and bubbly young sister who struck it big in her first movie. She will be known as the fat black girl who ran out of the scene with a stolen bucket of chicken. I am happy for Monique’s win. I was a little disappointed at her lack of understanding. Her comment to the Academy was “…that it can be about the performance and not the politics…” Possibly.

If Mo’nique was playing the role of Dr. Mae Jemison’s mother, or possibly the mother of Sista Souljah, or better yet if she was playing the role of Fannie Lou Hammer-then I would say the politics had changed. Winning the Oscar for playing the role of a trifling, loud, fat black woman in the ghetto who is blaming her daughter for losing her man, dropping tears in the cued scene, asking, “Who’s going to love me…?” is not a change of politics. It was Mo’nique herself that evoked the name Hattie McDaniels.

I was blessed to watch a one woman performance of the life of Aunt Jemima. The stereotype of the aunt or mammy caricature seems to persist throughout history no matter how many real or fictive character types are created to outshine this monstrosity. Hattie McDaniels wins the achievement award for playing the role of the aunt/mammy caricature in “Gone with the Wind”. A great role to model, the aunt jemima role actually begun during the minstrel show days, and was immortalized in advertising by the Davis Milling Company, and they even hired a former slave, Nancy Greene to portray a real live “Aunt Jemima” for events such as the World’s Fair. Thus Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar winning performance was actually the reenactment of a Minstrel performance. And this is who our great and talented Mo’nique chooses to evoke. Thus in 2010, it could be argued that we are still wrestling the images that extended directly from slavery, and the caricatures invented during slavery to help promote it to northerners who had no clue as to what was actually going on in the homes of slave owners. It was slave propaganda. And regardless who promotes it, or who wrote it, Precious the movie, doesn’t move itself too far out of my “slave propaganda” radar.

Am I happy that Gabby didn’t win? I’m sort of satisfied. The young lady has a bright and rewarding career that I pray is not stained by this unfortunate “break”. I suppose a whore in a strip club who is allowed to perform next to a widely establish porn star would be greatly appreciative of any “break.” I suppose an upcoming star would be greatly appreciative of any chance to sit in the company of stars who have sold themselves for the privilege to be judged by the academy. I suppose.

I learned a long time ago that the winners of awards are usually never the “people’s champions”. And like Puffy/Puff Daddy/P Diddy/The Guy who snitched on Shyne for saving his punk ass life once said, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks..” I suppose the money matters that much, and since money is power, and politics is the study of power distribution, I’d say my premise stands. And Mo…I love you sister…but it is always the same old politics…