Last night, I attended an early release of the movie "Precious" starring Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, and introducing Gabourey Sadibe. The story is about a 16 year-old girl from Harlem (circa 1987) named Claireece Precious Jones. She's black, fat, ugly, pregnant with her second child, and illiterate. Oh yeah, and let's not forget that she's also being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by her mother and father. I don't want to ruin the film for those of you who plan to view it, so I'll spare you the gruesome details.
Despite my efforts to support quality African American films, I can not place my seal of approval on this one. Sorry Tyler and Oprah. The film was racist, stereotypical, disturbing, and uninspiring. To be fair, I must admit that there was a lot of truth in Precious' story. Having grown up in an inner city in New Jersey, I have witnessed child abuse, dependence and manipulation of welfare, complacency, unstable households, poor schools, and disdain toward white America. But my disgust with this film is predicated on the summation and exaggeration of these elements in the young life of Precious. Yes, one or two of these things may afflict a young girl or many young girls in River East, but the picture painted here is a worst case scenario. And with all the gore and unsettling stereotypes of African Americans, the filmmakers went to such lengths to exploit, the story could have at least ended on a positive note or sounded a call of action - but there was none.
I have not been informed, "empowered", or swayed to write to the Chancellor of Schools, my council member, or congresswoman. Instead, I'm sick to my stomach. This is the kind of movie that creates racists, instead of inspiring original thinkers and innovative leaders.
Despite my disapproval for the film, I do recognize Sapphire, the author of the book PUSH, on which the movie is based, for her good intentions. Her objective probably was to place the spotlight on the struggles of young women in inner cities, but her technique was overkill and will likely result in unintended consequences.
But the bottom line is we've all come in contact with a Precious. But we must ask ourselves: do we greet Precious when we pass her on Good Hope Road, or do we pretend we don't see her? Do we call Child Protective Services when we notice a black eye, or do we say, "That's her and her momma's business?" Do we reprimand rowdy girls poll-dancing on the Green Line , or do we move to the opposite end of the Metro car and turn the volume up on our iPods?
These are the questions I have savaged from Sapphire's tail. I just wish the world wasn't so hard and cold that loving and standing up for a child who is not our own has become such a radical idea.