This Week in Diversity: A Cinematic Rollercoaster

Welcome to winter! I know, according to the calendar winter doesn’t start for another week and a half, but the weather says it’s winter. So let’s curl up by the fire, roast some chestnuts, and talk diversity.

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on some new films depicting African Americans. We start out with Precious: is it a harsh but realistic portrayal of issues too-often found in poor black communities, or is it a racist depiction of black Americans, relying on stale clichés and taking advantage of the people and situations it pretends to help? David Schmader explains why he likes it and then highlights the arguments of those who don’t.

On the other end of the spectrum is The Blind Side, portraying a black football player adopted into a white family. Sounds better, right? But, as we talked about last week in relation to depictions of Native Americans, portrayals of the perfect minority are also dangerous. Thaddeus Russell looks at film history to explain The Blind Side as a a continuation of the “magic negro” genre, in which a harmless black man helps or saves white people. Ta-Nahesi Coates takes this theme and runs with it, looking at the magic negro through guilt and history, and looking to the future.

In other news, chicken soup is good for the body and soul, and recently, a Times reporter with a cold went in search of Chicken Soup in New York. She found everything from Jewish penicillin to a Chinese soup that should be eaten regularly to stave off illness.

And speaking of lunch, it’s time to start frying. Winter started just in time: Chanukkah starts tonight at sundown, and that means an excuse to eat fried foods for eight days.

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