I'm almost always disappointed in Charles M. Blow's "visual op-ed" column in the New York Times, which typically marries a simplistic premise to a lousy bar chart. But Saturday's column was even worse than usual.
Blow wrote a whole column based on the premise that Mo’Nique is likely to win an Oscar for her role as a "an abusive, crack-addicted mother" in "Precious," which Blow called "another step in the seeming campaign to resurrect the increasingly passé image of the crack-addled black mother":
Mo’Nique is a favorite to win an Oscar next Sunday for her powerful and disturbing portrayal of an abusive, crack-addicted mother in the movie “Precious.”
If she wins, I will silently grit my teeth — not because she’s undeserving, but because it represents another step in the seeming campaign to resurrect the increasingly passé image of the crack-addled black mother.
This critique was paired with a chart comparing crack addiction by race and gender.
There was only one problem -- Mo'Nique's character didn't use crack (did Blow see the movie?). In other words, Blow himself was the one resurrecting "the increasingly passé image of the crack-addled black mother." Here's the online version of the correction that ran in today's Times:
The column by Charles M. Blow on Saturday, about race and crack addiction, incorrectly described a character in the movie “Precious.” The abusive mother portrayed by Mo’Nique is not a crack addict.
With his premise destroyed, Blow simply changed his argument, now arguing that it's "heartening" to see that Mo'Nique's character wasn't a crack addict:
Mo’Nique is a favorite to win an Oscar next Sunday for her powerful and disturbing portrayal of an abusive mother in the movie “Precious.”
If she wins, I may grit my teeth at the depraved depiction, but at least her character is merely juxtaposed with the crack scourge and isn't in fact an addict. That's heartening since the crack-addicted black mother has recently made a curious comeback.
There was a time when this character was more relevant: in the 1980s and 1990s when the crack epidemic plunged whole communities into violence, fear and chaos. (To be fair, “Precious” is set in the 1980s.) But this character now feels like a refugee of time — and discordant with the facts on the ground.