Courtland Milloy is a Washington Post Metro columnist, which means that his job is to decry racial outrages even where there are none. This time around, he has been offended by “Precious,” the nearly universally acclaimed movie about an abused black teenager, and attacks it with gusto. [Typically I would link to the piece here. I’m not, and you will soon find out why.] Even though both Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry were involved with project, Milloy found the movie racist. “Maybe there is something to the notion that when human pathology is given a black face, white people don’t have to feel so bad about their own,” Milloy writes. “Sexual abuse is certainly an equal-opportunity crime, with black and white women similarly affected. But only exaggerated black depravity seems to resonate so forcefully in the imagination.”
To regular Milloy readers, this is typical stuff. I haven’t seen “Precious,” though I was intending too, so I cannot fairly argue with Milloy’s opinion. He really disliked the movie, and disliked the ending particularly. So he described the ending in detail.
Now, current media etiquette dictates that if a writer or reviewer is going to give away plot twists, big scares, hilarious jokes or surprise endings, he or she prefaces it with “Spoiler Alert!” This is just good manners, showing consideration and respect for your audience. Let them enjoy the movie the way it was intended to be seen. Malloy didn’t have the courtesy to do that. Anyone who read his column found out how “Precious” ends.
This is, not to mince words, a rotten thing to do—to movie fans, to the studio, to the actors in the movie. At best it is unfair and inconsiderate, but I think there is a significant likelihood that Milloy wanted to spoil the movie for as many people as possible. He didn’t like its message, didn’t like its reflection on African-American families, and believed that it was prurient and depressing. He could discourage people from seeing the movie by his negative comments, but he could really discourage them by telling too much. So he spoiled it.
That is unprofessional, irresponsible movie reviewing, and also arrogant. He is so certain that his opinion of the film, despite being at odds with most other critics, is so inarguably correct that he can justify unilaterally making it impossible for his readers to see the film the way he did: with an open mind, not knowing what was going to happen, or how the story would end.
I’m going to see the movie anyway, despite Milloy’s efforts to ruin it for me. I’m not giving a link to his column, however; instead, here is a short film about spoilers, from the clever folks at Rooster Teeth.
We ethicists have a sense of humor. Sometimes.