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Want to argue about race? Start with “Precious.”

Want to argue about race? Start with “Precious.” (photo)

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Is the sincere yet ultimately bathetic movie that is “Precious” really going to become the new flashpoint for talking about Race in America? We were totally due for a paradigm shift — Spike Lee’s had his 20 years — but… this?

It’s not just all the arguments about whether or not “Precious” pathologizes and stereotypes black culture. “Precious” can actually be a starting point for any dialectic you want to set up.

For example, look at the way that the New York TimesA.O. Scott bounces, of all things, “The Blind Side” off it (“imagine these movies in dialogue with each other, taking part in a conversation on race that the American public is always supposedly eager to have, but never right now”) and concludes the two movies are basically the same, because they rescue one victim of an underlying societal problem without thinking of how to solve the bigger picture. “Both movies tell stories that suggest a way out of poverty, brutality and domestic calamity for certain lucky individuals while saying very little about how those conditions might be changed,” he grouses.

It’s an argument that actually makes sense — both movies deliver uplifting movies at the expense of rationality — while ignoring the odd fact that, at the end of the day, Little Indie That Could “Precious” will probably make more money and resonate longer than the studio feel-good fare of “The Blind Side.” “Precious” has cannily managed to appeal to the arthouse audience, the feel-good crowd, the euphemistically “urban” demographic and awards-lovers at the same time; quite a marketing trick.

So “Precious” is the new must-see if you want to talk about race, even though plenty of people are feeling free to argue over it sight unseen. The most intriguing thing about the film, socially, is that it constructs an entirely black frame of cultural reference: a Harlem tale of a community left to organize itself, whether by choice or abandonment. Which also means it’s not a conversation about race: it’s containment logic, its own bubble.

It scares me to think that the current “conversation” about “race” is going to center around this stupid little movie that isn’t even about race so much as it is about trauma and redemption. This really says more about American sensitivity and prickliness to any possible racism on-screen than larger issues, arguments over representation that get far more heated than arguments over reality. It’s just as evasive a feint as privileging the individual redemption over the larger problem.

[Photo: “Precious,” Lionsgate, 2009; “The Blind Side,” Warner Bros., 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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