Thursday, February 4, 2010

Heart of Darkness; Or, on: Gabourey Sidibe

As the cover says, this is Gabourey Sidibe. A recap: she is the breakout star of "Precious," a film based on a novel of the same name, and tells the happy tale of an illiterate, obese teenager, pregnant for the second time with her father's child and diagnosed with AIDS.

Sponsored by Oprah and starring many a celebrity, it was Gabourey's perfomance, her first ever, that captivated people and showered her with nominations. But these are just the facts, and it's not the movie I'd like to discuss.

Because, even though her role in Precious is so bleak, watching any interview with her makes it painfully obvious she is not Precious. It's called acting, people. And yet so many, including Barbara Walters, seem amazed that the woman who played Precious is instead so bright, clever, smart and infectiously bubbly. She is not Precious! She is literate, educated, self-aware, with a wonderful sense of humor. She. Is. NOT Precious!!! Why is this so unclear?

The confusion, I feel, stems not from her, or any detail about her, but by the public's confusion on seeing this woman, so secure in her image, being fashionable and holding her own against A-list stars. Because, in the simple fact of her being and her celebrity, she has turned over every notion, every truth and lie maintained by the public and shadowed interests who are after our money. These people and organizations have, for time eternal, maintained the standards of beauty and class and have propagated them in our minds, until we, the consumers, have taken them for granted. White is right and thin is in has been the singular rule of fame in the corridors that shape America's greatest export: Celebrity.

Let's compare:

See, there's Young Hollywood. And then there's Gabby. And this plays into so much. Race, class and size are all intertwined in a messy jumble that misses the greatest point of all. Wonderfully talented people who deserve our attention are swept aside to make way for those who are waify, thin, and far less interesting. Sure, size and color are no indicators of talent, but fame is much easier to reach for those who fit the mold.

But, again, I digress. Because the most appalling trouble with Gabby's celebrity, is not her treatments as Flavor of the Week, it is not even that interviewers don't know what to make of an actual human being, with wit and opinions, it is the backlash her celebrity has caused among those repulsed by her appearance. People are disgusted that someone who is not 110 pounds is being showered with accolades. I mean, look at her fingers, they're SWOLLEN!!!! AGH! FAT! Such are comments people leave after every article and interview. If she loves herself, she'd lose weight! 300 pounds is awful, they say! She's a walking mound of fat, they insist. How dare she wear leggings? Clearly Ebony airbrushed her fat off! Monique lost weight, so should she! Oh the humanity!!!!

And it makes me livid. I do not know this person, never will. But she is so much fun, earnest and honest. She is so fundamentally secure in her being, it is awesome. But everyone assumes that she's fat because she's uneducated, because she's black, because she's clearly miserable and just needs a small tuck and oh she'll be so much happier, if only she lost the weight. NO, people, what part of she's not Precious is still not coming through?

See, it's because she fits not a single stereotype about black young women, and through her, those who think themselves too literate to be racist, reveal their real nature. These millions, who absorb popular media may tolerate and may not mind diversity, but don't you dare tell them that this walking sack of black fat is fashionable, when her fingers ARE SWOLLEN!!! When these, most likely women, see this person who's absolutely rejected the messages they themselves have bent their diets and lives to achieve happiness through thinness, they revolt. They don't care that this is a real human being, not a PR stunt, not someone shilling shoes or perfumes, they don't care. To them, she's fat, ugly, horrible, a summary of the worst inside them all. She's a mirror.

To me, she's a breath of fresh air, and someone worth watching.

Further reading:

Racists support VF cover
Young Hollywood is Young, Thin
Same vein, by Yahoo
More concern about her health

And on and on...

1 comment:

Adam M Botsford said...

Thank you writing this. The sentiment and writing style, are both uncommon but very welcomed.