07 November 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #82

#82: Precious

UPDATED: Way more interesting analysis here.

The movie Precious opened in theaters yesterday. I've seen a lot of articles discussing the film and the book Push that it's based on. There are interviews with the author of the book as well as the director of the film Lee Daniels and his backers, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. There's also a lot of criticism about colorism in the casting as well as the overall adaptation from book to film. I plan on seeing the film (Lenny Kravitz being in it kind of sealed the deal) and I'm trying to go into it with an open-mind but one of the comments that I read about the film rings true with me. When discussing the "I am Precious" marketing campaign for the film, one person commented:

I finally figured out that Tyler and Oprah actually DO think that abuse and exploitation are Black women’s natural state of being, likely because of their personal histories.

I am NOT Precious. If I was, I couldn’t be horrified by the story. If I WAS Precious, I would likely think that my existence was the rule for everybody. Why would I believe anything different?

After going to see Good Hair a few weeks ago, I have to agree with this statement. I get that it's often hard to separate the "art" and the "artist", but I'm tired of having certain people's experiences of Blackness foisted on me. I sat through Chris Rock telling me how Black women are high maintenance and willing to put harsh chemicals into babies' heads in order to have straight hair. Is it true for some? Yes. But that is not every Black woman's experience.

Similarly, I feel like Precious is just continuing a long line of portrayals of Black women as victims. We're not all Celie and we're not all Precious. As an artist is my story less valid because I've never been victimized? I'm not invalidating the homelessness that Tyler Perry experienced or the abuse Oprah Winfrey suffered but that is not the universal experience of Black folks.

When I say "I am precious", it's because I understand that as a person, my experience is valid, my life is worth living, and that I am only one of many who are equally precious. But I don't try to make the reality of my Blackness speak for others. A lot of people talk about getting past racism and victimization and I think part of that is understanding that these things are not okay. Rape, incest, abuse, division amongst color lines, internalized oppression; these things exist but they are not right, nor are they universal to everyone's existence. Yes, stories like Precious' happen every day but they are not the norm. They need to be brought to light but not glorified, not if we're trying to make sure these stories aren't needed one day.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Check it: http://www.nypress.com/article-20554-pride-precious.html

Anonymous said...

Did you read the NY Times magazine article a few weeks ago?

PS- At first, I thought you might be referring to a jazz player. . .but no, very different.

shananigans said...

LOL. So not used to comments on my blog. Checking out the article I have to agree just because knowing Daniels' work, I know that everything that makes it to screen is deliberate. I sometimes wonder if his colorism is unconscious bias but other choices (i.e. pig's feet contrasted with humping), I know are deliberate.