Upon entering the theater I felt nerves and anticipation coursing through my body. I expected to cry. I expected to feel anger and helplessness. I did, indeed, feel all of those emotions; but, I also felt more emotions than I expected inspired by the people around me and their comments. The experience of watching Precious has likely strengthened my resolve to tell my story. Not because anyone can do it if Precious did it, but, because, it will be my red scarf handed down to the little girl who feels all alone in the world.
Prior to viewing this movie, I read tweets from people who refused to see it, from those who saw it and were deeply touched, and from those who opined on the gross amount of racial stereotypes. Of those who refused to see it, many found fault based on the previous work of the people responsible for bringing the film to the big screen: Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. Words and phrases such as “coonery” and “typical black girl from the ghetto” were common in their complaints. Of those who saw it and were unimpressed, this tweet speaks volumes: “Whoeva suggest anyone too see this movie “precious” need to kill urself….dis givs black familys a bad look smh.” Please don’t listen to this person. I could cry peeling back the layers of disillusionment and incongruity present in that one allegorical onion. What came first: Precious or the Black Family?
This movie was adapted for film by Lee Daniels based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire. It is a first person narrative dictated to us by Clarice “Precious” Jones. Walking through the streets of Harlem with a scowl on her face and the weight of years of sexual, physical, and verbal abuse on her shoulders, she tells us the story of her life in such a manner that it prompted one viewer behind me to say, “This is realistic. I like it.” A concise and accurate statement, it is the reason to see the movie.
In the afore-mentioned tweet we see a common model for behavior in (Black) families. What goes on in the house, stays in the house; and, this is a thread that runs throughout the movie, as well. From the outset, we see Precious avoiding the truth and refusing to tell her story, petrified that her mom would kill her. Meanwhile, her mom continues to call her a fat ass, tells her that she’s a dummy, education won’t help her, she’s a nobody, and she should rely on a welfare check to get by in life. These are the racial stereotypes that people are afraid to see. They don’t want people to know what is said in their homes. Well, maybe what is said should change. It’s just a theory. A theory that “Precious” is attempting to make a practice.
In one form or another everyone can relate to her story. We have all either been the abuser or the one abused in some way. Other comments heard around me include: “Is that really how big she is?” “She looks like a boy. She looks like Eminem.” “Y’all ain’t right.” The second comment was directed to Mariah Carey’s performance as a social worker. Without her glamorous hair and makeup team, Mariah looked like an average woman, but it prompted someone to call her a boy. Worse, her friends laughed and made other jokes about her appearance, causing one girl (the only big girl in the group) to casually denounce their behavior. It is this casual accusatory tone that encourages the abuse. It is not seen as something that is really bad behavior. If she were to leave the theater and discontinue the friendship, she would be blamed for taking herself too seriously. “It’s just a joke” they might say. Well, Precious didn’t take it as a joke when she smacked her classmate for calling her fat.
The tagline for the movie is: “Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is….Precious.” Does it have to be this way, though? We’re so busy preparing each other for the “real world” that we forget to take care of each other. We forget to love. We forget to be the models of good behavior that we actually seek in others. Life is not some made up entity that comes out of nowhere to do us harm. Life is people. We are the creators of Life. If our lives are so rich and precious, why do we choose to de-value it?