Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My Name is Not "Precious"
So I think I'd have to hand in my 'race and identity' blogger card if I didn't take a moment to write about Precious. In case you've been snoozing under a very big rock (or you live abroad) and hadn't heard all of the buzz and noise about the Precious movie , based on the book Push by Sapphire, here's what you need to know to get caught up.
The book Push came out in the early-mid 90's but took place in the Regan era 80s. It's about a morbidly obese, poor, Black teen named Precious, who has been repeatedly raped by her father, sexually abused by her mother and is pregnant for the second time by her no-good daddy. Oh, and she's illiterate. How's that for a feel good read?
I remember reading that book in one sitting and throwing it against the wall at least three times during that time. It pained me to read. It disgusted me and it saddened me immensely because I knew that this slim little volume was fiction, yet somebody, or rather a lot of somebodies, probably recognized it as truth. Needless to say, the story haunted me for years and I always wondered what would have happened to that girl named Precious. I can't say I liked the book, but I appreciated its ability to take me to a place I've never been to before and make me consider my own life, family and relationships differently.
Well, no pun intended, Precious is Huge today --doing well at the box-office and with critics. Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry have teemed up as producers on the film and are widely pimping, I mean pushing the film to mainstream audiences with great success. But even though reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, much of the Black blogosphere and some other media outlets are crying foul.
I haven't seen the film yet and don't want to. The only reason I might is so that I can be more thorough in my criticism. Rather than tell you why I'm so not feeling Precious on the big screen. I will beg you to read journalist Akiba Solomon's fierce review on her blog smallmediumlarge.
Here's a taste of what Solomon wrote:
"I saw Precious on Saturday. Two days later, I’m still traumatized and overwhelmed by the sheer degradation of the thing.
This film is marketed–by Oprah and Tyler Perry–as a story of individual triumph over savage abuse. Thanks to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe’s excellent performance, I somehow believed that Clareece Precious Jones—a morbidly obese, illiterate, often greasy incest victim with skin the color of soil–reflected some form of reality. And to me that’s what’s so dangerous and seductive about this fucking thing.
Precious heaps so much context-free, visually engaging emotional and physical abuse on its 16-year-old protagonist that I couldn’t think straight. When her nasty, faceless, AIDS-infected daddy rapes her, when she gives birth to her second child by said daddy, when her sexually abusive, sadistic, welfare cheat of a mama beats the shit out of her, I was so fucked up, so fucking sad, so at a loss for any word or thought besides fuck! that I forgot that this fucking film was an overwrought throwback to Reagan-era tall tales of urban savagery and Black maternal neglect.
Solomon concludes towards the end of her review:
"One could argue that Precious should be evaluated as an individual work of art, a faithful adaptation of Sapphire’s problematic Push. But the same way I won’t laud the technical accomplishments of Birth of a Nation or blissfully ignore how Breakfast at Tiffany’s features Mickey Rooney as a bumbling Chinese neighbor who enters each scene with a gong, I won’t allow the transcendent performances in Precious to distract me from what it says and repeats about [Black People]."
I urge you to read the entire piece and the follow -up postings about the film and its critics at SmallMediumLarge. Oh, and by all means, check out the comments.
I swear between Chris Rock's Good Hair and now Precious, I feel Hollywood is throwing out the worst stereotypes of Black life for public consumption. And it's Black people behind it this time! And I'm not saying we can't have real-life stories up on the big screen, but what is the point of a film like Precious? I don't care what Oprah says, "We are not all Precious." I don't see any Precious in me. None. In fact, I pray to God most people can't find a scrap of themselves in Precious. Author Carleen Brice writes about this on her blog today.
At the end of the day, maybe Precious wouldn't get so much hype and attention if there were more movies about Black people to choose from. And maybe some of those movies wouldn't have to be about pathology and degradation but about things like, oh, I don't know, the power of bedtime stories or two people falling in love via the internet, or maybe a young Black woman's search for true love in Spain. Just for example.
I am throwing my hands up and shouting, "Why?" (School Daze flashback, anyone?)
(sigh) Can anybody convince me that Precious is worth watching. I dare you to try. Has anybody seen it and have a comment to share? As always, I'm listening.