I’ve been psyched for Precious ever since I saw the trailer this past spring. It was released here in DC this weekend, but up until then I had read varying opinions about the movie.
From Hit me Back!
I should be clear: When I say that Precious was horrifying, I don’t mean it in a “Wow, kudos to Sapphire/Lee Daniels/Oprah/Tyler Perry because they just outdid themselves” and got me wanting to testify about it kind-of-way. No.
Make no mistake — Lee Daniels is a pathology pimp. Plain and simple. He’s not the first. Some of our most prolific movie directors (Scorcese comes to mind…) are pathology pimps. Pathos tells good stories and, often, creates great, watchable art. But, see, this is my problem with Lee Daniels. He’s a pathology pimp and he’s not even good at it. His work, ultimately, is not art. It is raw, unchecked, internalized oppression that he is peddling as “important” stories about Black folk that “need” to be told.
There are elements of Precious, of course, that are real. In this country and around the world there are Black girls like Precious — morbidly obese, abused, victims of incest, illiterate, HIV-positive, etc. There are women in my family who, in one aspect or another, have been subjected to the same atrocities as Precious.
But, really, tell me something I don’t know. I live in Chicago. All I have to do is watch the news, read the paper or visit my proverbial cousins “Pookie an’ ‘nem” to know that there are elements of Precious that exist. One look at the health, socio-economic and class status of many African-Americans is proof of that.
I wanted to hold my tongue on my own critique of the movie until I saw it for myself. And now that I have I’m revisiting some of the reviews I’ve been reading over the last few weeks.
I think she makes an interesting point. It is the type of criticism that I could imagine Boyz n the Hood received–the fact that a painful black narrative is being created for the “amusement” of white audiences. But I’m of the belief that even though a movie is heralded by white audiences doesn’t make the story less valuable. That said, it shouldn’t be implied that this is the story that all Black girls grow up with having to endure.
I also think the fact that there are kids just like Precious in hoods all over the country, and that it shouldn’t take a movie to alert people to this. But part of the power of this movie is that Precious is telling someone’s true story. It’s unfair to deduce Lee Daniels to a “pathology pimp” when this is one story that is being told on film; by saying that the motivation for making the movie was solely to exploit or glamourize black pathology for White people’s entertainment doesn’t give Daniels nearly enough credit.
Precious is the kind of film that needs our support. It’s a film that reveals a slice of American life that we too often close our eyes to. Because we don’t want to see.
It’s such an ugly slice of reality, you want to keep it hidden. But people NEED to see this movie. I hope it’s shown in schools. I hope the people who need to see this movie, see this movie.
As raw and real and painful as it is, Precious is uplifting. And important. We can’t let movies like this come and go without making some noise at the box office. Because there are many, many more stories like Precious, that need to be told.
While I tend to side more with Afrobella, I think there is room for many of the varying opinions to be right. Yes, Precious is a difficult story to watch, just as novel Push was to read. But it’s an important movie nonetheless. For one, I’m glad to see us telling a story about a Black girl growing up in the hood. So many times we see hood coming of age stories that center around boys; The Wire comes to mind. This isn’t to say that every girls story of growing up in the hood includes rape, incest, and abuse, but that the story of Precious Jones is just one of several that we can tell, and I hope that it leads to more explorations of a black girl’s life on film and in literature.
On the acting front, I absolutely enjoyed both Mo’Nique and and Gabbey Sibide’s performances. I can’t say that Mo’Nique’s acting was necessarily Oscar-worthy the way I can with Gabby’s, but it definitely will help her break out of the comedic actress box, so it’ll be great to see what other roles will open up for her after this. Solid performance by Paula Patton as well. Mariah didn’t move me either way, and of course I didn’t mind the addition of the nurse character played by Lenny Kravitz not only because I thought his character was endearing, but because anytime I can ogle at that fine hunk of man candy for 2 hours on screen is a CLEAR WIN (don’t argue with me on this point, okay?)
Speaking of Paula Patton, I”m gonna have to agree with Racialicious here and say that I was disappointed at the casting of Paula Patton to play the part of Blue Rain. In the book, Blue Rain was a woman who looked a lot like me–a dark skinned Black woman with dreadlocks. For Precious, a girl who already suffers from self-hatred and sees light skinned people as more beautiful and more capable of being loved and cherished, Blue Rain presented an alternative image of Black beauty, and an entry point to healing and reinforcing a more positive image of herself. Paula Patton as an actress is perfectly fine, but I think casting Blue Rain as a light skinned woman was a HUGE mistake given what her character represented in Precious’ life.
There’s been lots of discussion about whether or not Lee Daniels has colorstruck tendencies in his casting selections. All of the “good” characters in the movie adaptation are light skinned while all of the bad or dysfunctional characters were dark skinned. I can’t say either way Lee Daniels is colorstruck because I don’t know the man well enough to label him as such nor was I in the room when the casting took place. that said–I wasn’t bothered by Mariah Carey or Lenny Kravitz being cast as the “good” characters. The only casting I saw as problematic was Paula Patton because omitting her the significance of her skin tone in the book omits a huge part of Precious’ healing.
One thing they didn’t omit was the fact that Blue Rain was a lesbian. I was glad they actually showed Blue with her partner, because oftentimes black lesbians are fetishized on film, shown only for the entertainment and arousal of men. While Blue was only shown with her partner a few times, I think it’s important that the audience sees a positive image of Black lesbianism, especially in a Black film. It’s also a subtle way confronting homophobic attitudes in the Black community.
Overall, Precious is a great film, and important film, and I hope it gets all the attention and notoriety it deserves.