Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

four reasons why i won’t watch precious

push_based_on_the_novel_by_sapphire_movie_image__4_

i first heard about precious, the screen adaptation of author sapphire’s push, several months ago when overhearing a conversation between my mother and sister about the oscar buzz actress/comedienne mo’nique has received for her performance in the film.

since then, i (and every other african-american with a monitor and modem) have been inundated with myriad forms of precious propaganda. apparently, not only is precious a searing indictment on slavery, poverty, racism, education, america, politics, prison, the newspaper industry, kool-aid, the black woman in the popeye’s commercials, diddy, and diddy’s teeth, i actually am precious (who knew?)

yet, despite its critical acclaim and the fact that the movie addresses a few of my favorite talking points, i replied nah. not at all when a friend asked last week if i planned to see it.

here’s why

1. between ordering each season of the wire on netflix last winter so my girlfriend could catch up, brick city, cnn’s black in america 2, good hair, american violet, and derrion albert, i’ve already filled my yearly, “who cares if obama is president. we (black people) are still f*cked.” viewing limit.

because of this, watching any more black poverty p*rn this year will force me to dip into the yearly quota i’ve already set for 2010

2. the whole “white, or much lighter skinned people save undesirable darkies from themselves” movie motif became tired to me by the second half of dangerous minds. that was 14 years ago

basically, i’m not going to spend my money to support tyler perry’s odd obsession with casting colorism, even if said colorism results in a lesbian paula patton

3. liberal white people seem to like it a bit too much

this, btw, is the same reason i can’t really mess with trader joes, american apparel, or lupe fiasco

4. “poor black women abused” just isn’t entertaining to me

you know, a part of me feels like a hypocrite for watching (and enjoying) season 4 of the wire or a movie like antwone fisher, which both deal with many of the same issues (poverty, sexual abuse, neglect) turning me away from precious.

thing is, while that type of content is always tough to watch, it is, for lack of a better term, easier for me to view if the main party being abused isn’t a black woman. for whatever reason, black women getting abused on screen completely disintegrates the fourth wall and makes me feel like i’m watching a snuff film starring my nieces.

anyway, that’s enough about me. people of vsb.com, how do you feel about the precious phenomenon?

have any of you seen or plan on seeing it? if not, why?

also, do you think am i being too harsh with my assessment (especially since i haven’t seen it), and am i the only one who finds it harder to stomach a movie when black women are getting abused?

—the champ

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • cam1ll3

    i’ve heard good things, as depressing as the book is supposed to be. i’m pretty much in it for a good story. i like tyler perry, i’m wanting to see if mariah ‘s performance is as good as they say and i want to support black literiture since i tend to shy away from it on the regular (another conversation for another time, ya’ll).

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @cam1ll3,

      i want to support black literiture since i tend to shy away from it on the regular (another conversation for another time, ya’ll).

      lol, this is the perfect time and sh*t. what the hell are you waiting for, brunch?

      • Big Man

        @The Champ,

        Yeah, good work is nice, but I need my sanity more. Watching black pathology on the big screen doesn’t appeal to me that much anymore. Over saturation is a mother.

      • Big Man

        @The Champ,

        Yeah, good work is nice, but I need my sanity more. Watching black pathology on the big screen doesn’t appeal to me that much anymore. Over saturation is a mother.

      • cam1ll3

        @The Champ,

        i wasn’t trying to rile folk up whilst we debate the affirmative and negative reasons for viewing the flick. but since ya asked…

        i shy away from black lit because a great deal of it isn’t well written. well written african american fiction for me is alice walker, dianne mckinney whetstone, terry macmillan…these sound very mainstream, i know, but these ladies WRITE. they develop a story and see it thru. i can get lost in the book and by the time it ends i’m having to wipe drool from the corners of my mouth because i want more–that’s not to say the story is lacking, but that i never wanted it to end. some of the black fiction i’ve read aside from those i listed above are some straight bullshiggedy. i get halfway thru or complete the book and am angry because i’ll never be able to regain the 8 hours/2 days/3 months it took me to wade thru that half-ass-written-sack-of-juvenile-cornpoo. zane has broken my heart twice. if anyone can recommend anything, please feel free.

        all of that to say, a friend suggested “push” and i was like “ehhhhhhhhhhhh, i dunno about that…” but folk swear by it and i want to support if it’s that good. that’s all.

        • http://stemartaen.com L

          @cam1ll3,

          Octavia Butler (I truly believe she is a genius)

        • http://stemartaen.com L

          @cam1ll3,

          Octavia Butler (I truly believe she is a genius)

      • cam1ll3

        @The Champ,

        i wasn’t trying to rile folk up whilst we debate the affirmative and negative reasons for viewing the flick. but since ya asked…

        i shy away from black lit because a great deal of it isn’t well written. well written african american fiction for me is alice walker, dianne mckinney whetstone, terry macmillan…these sound very mainstream, i know, but these ladies WRITE. they develop a story and see it thru. i can get lost in the book and by the time it ends i’m having to wipe drool from the corners of my mouth because i want more–that’s not to say the story is lacking, but that i never wanted it to end. some of the black fiction i’ve read aside from those i listed above are some straight bullshiggedy. i get halfway thru or complete the book and am angry because i’ll never be able to regain the 8 hours/2 days/3 months it took me to wade thru that half-ass-written-sack-of-juvenile-cornpoo. zane has broken my heart twice. if anyone can recommend anything, please feel free.

        all of that to say, a friend suggested “push” and i was like “ehhhhhhhhhhhh, i dunno about that…” but folk swear by it and i want to support if it’s that good. that’s all.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @cam1ll3,

      i want to support black literiture since i tend to shy away from it on the regular (another conversation for another time, ya’ll).

      lol, this is the perfect time and sh*t. what the hell are you waiting for, brunch?

  • cam1ll3

    i’ve heard good things, as depressing as the book is supposed to be. i’m pretty much in it for a good story. i like tyler perry, i’m wanting to see if mariah ‘s performance is as good as they say and i want to support black literiture since i tend to shy away from it on the regular (another conversation for another time, ya’ll).

  • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

    Saw it, then went home and hugged my mother and thanked her for being normal loving me. I would recommend it, but I don’t plan on seeing it again. Just like The Color Purple – I don’t need to watch that sad/horrifying ish happening to the black woman again, either

    • RedBeanzNRice on a Diet

      @Selah,

      Better not let BBM or Luvvie hear you talkin’ bout Color Purple that way!

      • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

        @RedBeanzNRice on a Diet,

        Don’t trip, I’m not bashing TCP… just saying I don’t need to sit and watch it over and over again to get the message lol. Trust, all my friends can quote that bad boy anyway so it’s just LIKE watching it.lol

      • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

        @RedBeanzNRice on a Diet,

        Don’t trip, I’m not bashing TCP… just saying I don’t need to sit and watch it over and over again to get the message lol. Trust, all my friends can quote that bad boy anyway so it’s just LIKE watching it.lol

    • RedBeanzNRice on a Diet

      @Selah,

      Better not let BBM or Luvvie hear you talkin’ bout Color Purple that way!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Selah,

      yeah. reason number 4 is why it took bedroom extortion for me to finally break down and watch the color purple 3 years ago

      • http://twitter.com/s0_flyy s0_flyy

        @The Champ,
        I guess that’s what it’s gonna take for me to see the Color Purple too. I have still yet to see the movie. I don’t like to see my people exploited on screen. I know the history… ugh. Just like Roots… always something I meant to do but will probably happen on my own time or through some serious extortion. Precious is gonna fall right into that category. I wanna see it b/c I want to see how it all plays out but I don’t wanna see well… just b/c.

      • http://twitter.com/s0_flyy s0_flyy

        @The Champ,
        I guess that’s what it’s gonna take for me to see the Color Purple too. I have still yet to see the movie. I don’t like to see my people exploited on screen. I know the history… ugh. Just like Roots… always something I meant to do but will probably happen on my own time or through some serious extortion. Precious is gonna fall right into that category. I wanna see it b/c I want to see how it all plays out but I don’t wanna see well… just b/c.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Selah,

      yeah. reason number 4 is why it took bedroom extortion for me to finally break down and watch the color purple 3 years ago

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      @Selah, I’m late to when this post was active, but I said the same thing over on Twitter. I generally felt the same sentiment after watching it and The Color Purple, movies that have a lot of similarities.
      -unfortunate-looking (read: uber ugly) dark-skinned Black woman used, abused, and persecuted by someone she lives at home with.
      -getting molested and having two kids by a father figure before 18.
      -the main character daydreaming.
      -Oprah Winfrey involvement.
      -Neither can read in the beginning.
      -Black men ain’t sh*t in either one.

      Precious seemed like it was about people who saw/read The Color Purple and decided to live out a similar life in order to crank out TCP ’09. EA Sports, it’s in the game!

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      @Selah, I’m late to when this post was active, but I said the same thing over on Twitter. I generally felt the same sentiment after watching it and The Color Purple, movies that have a lot of similarities.
      -unfortunate-looking (read: uber ugly) dark-skinned Black woman used, abused, and persecuted by someone she lives at home with.
      -getting molested and having two kids by a father figure before 18.
      -the main character daydreaming.
      -Oprah Winfrey involvement.
      -Neither can read in the beginning.
      -Black men ain’t sh*t in either one.

      Precious seemed like it was about people who saw/read The Color Purple and decided to live out a similar life in order to crank out TCP ’09. EA Sports, it’s in the game!

  • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

    Saw it, then went home and hugged my mother and thanked her for being normal loving me. I would recommend it, but I don’t plan on seeing it again. Just like The Color Purple – I don’t need to watch that sad/horrifying ish happening to the black woman again, either

  • Satya

    I saw the Precious on Thursday. I thought Mo’nique did some great acting, but I don’t think it was Oscar worthy.

    As for 2- I didn’t even realize the whole sub-plot of the mulatto saving the darky. A cousin of mine pointed that out and I didn’t even have a response. I just thought of Paula Patton as the nice teacher who helped her obese illiterate student. And btw I didn’t like the way the movie ended.

    I would say just read the book. The mental picture I had painted of the story was a bit different from what happened on screen… but isn’t it always

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Satya,

      The mental picture I had painted of the story was a bit different from what happened on screen… but isn’t it always

      please expound and sh*t

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Satya,

      The mental picture I had painted of the story was a bit different from what happened on screen… but isn’t it always

      please expound and sh*t

  • Satya

    I saw the Precious on Thursday. I thought Mo’nique did some great acting, but I don’t think it was Oscar worthy.

    As for 2- I didn’t even realize the whole sub-plot of the mulatto saving the darky. A cousin of mine pointed that out and I didn’t even have a response. I just thought of Paula Patton as the nice teacher who helped her obese illiterate student. And btw I didn’t like the way the movie ended.

    I would say just read the book. The mental picture I had painted of the story was a bit different from what happened on screen… but isn’t it always

  • sanen85

    I just finished reading Push a couple of weeks ago and in the book, there are other characters of all colors who have had similarly hard lives. Either way, I’m torn on seeing the movie. I don’t like crying in the movie theatre.

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @sanen85, I’m really disappointed with the casting of Paula Patton because her character IS CLEARLY not a lightskinned character in the book.

      • sanen85

        @Liz, To be honest, I had to google her just to find out who that was. I guess she’s supposed to be playing Precious’s teacher, and you’re right, she was clearly not a lightskinned character. I guess I had envisioned that there would at least be one or two 2520s in the class to round out the hispanic and black characters. At least, it felt that way in the book. Looking at the cast, I guess I was wrong.

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          @sanen85, I think that’s why even though I LOVED the book, I can’t ride or die for the film because this is such a blatant misuse of the storyline, and it doesn’t do much to show how Precious overcame her colorism issues over time. To me, the colorism and beauty themes were way more important than the sexual abuse and poverty themes, so I can see why folks think this film is pathos pr0n.

          I understand why Sapphire was reluctant to let PUSH get made into a film; it’s a complicated story. I wonder if she’s really happy with this rendition of it though…

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          @sanen85, I think that’s why even though I LOVED the book, I can’t ride or die for the film because this is such a blatant misuse of the storyline, and it doesn’t do much to show how Precious overcame her colorism issues over time. To me, the colorism and beauty themes were way more important than the sexual abuse and poverty themes, so I can see why folks think this film is pathos pr0n.

          I understand why Sapphire was reluctant to let PUSH get made into a film; it’s a complicated story. I wonder if she’s really happy with this rendition of it though…

      • sanen85

        @Liz, To be honest, I had to google her just to find out who that was. I guess she’s supposed to be playing Precious’s teacher, and you’re right, she was clearly not a lightskinned character. I guess I had envisioned that there would at least be one or two 2520s in the class to round out the hispanic and black characters. At least, it felt that way in the book. Looking at the cast, I guess I was wrong.

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @sanen85, I’m really disappointed with the casting of Paula Patton because her character IS CLEARLY not a lightskinned character in the book.

  • sanen85

    I just finished reading Push a couple of weeks ago and in the book, there are other characters of all colors who have had similarly hard lives. Either way, I’m torn on seeing the movie. I don’t like crying in the movie theatre.

  • Buxxy

    Oh wow, hmmm I can say I understand your point, but I can’t say I fully agree. Personally I plan on watching the movie because I love the book. Despite popular opinion, I believe it was beautifully written and the growth of the characters really moved me. Push has a special place in my heart and I have to see if they did it justice. The whole issue with colorism, I can understand that. Sigh… I don’t know. I just feel like there are a lot of other movies that made Black people look bad and this is not on the top of the list. I think you should reconsider your decision. If for nothing more than to use it as a talking piece (or maybe that is just the grad student me talking).

    I do feel like we find an issue with everything. For example, I spent yesterday debating the first Black Disney princess and how she is portrayed from her name to her prince to the story line. A part of me hates her portrayal and the other part is proud to see that she is actually inducted. I feel the same way about this movie, it may not be the best but I am glad that this story is told. If it can touch people then why not support it?

    Just my nine cents….

    • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

      @Buxxy,

      why do you get 9 while the rest of the world gets 2? lol

      • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

        @Selah,

        lmao probably cuz she light skint (with good hurr) and got them extra “light skint” cents…

        • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

          @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean,

          that’s always how it is. smh. LOL

        • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

          @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean,

          that’s always how it is. smh. LOL

      • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

        @Selah,

        lmao probably cuz she light skint (with good hurr) and got them extra “light skint” cents…

      • Buxxy

        @Selah,

        God favors me more than the other inhabitants of this world… ::dusts off my shoulders::

        • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

          @Buxxy,

          Naw, Gem of the Ocean already busted you and you light-skinneded-ness out. lol

          • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

            @Selah,

            she’s right. God favored her with light skin. LOL!

          • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

            @Selah,

            she’s right. God favored her with light skin. LOL!

          • Buxxy

            @Selah & @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

            LMAO! Nah, Im bronze baby with nice hair… I wont front. Far from light skin, the darker the better ::raises fist::

          • Buxxy

            @Selah & @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

            LMAO! Nah, Im bronze baby with nice hair… I wont front. Far from light skin, the darker the better ::raises fist::

        • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

          @Buxxy,

          Naw, Gem of the Ocean already busted you and you light-skinneded-ness out. lol

      • Buxxy

        @Selah,

        God favors me more than the other inhabitants of this world… ::dusts off my shoulders::

    • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com Selah

      @Buxxy,

      why do you get 9 while the rest of the world gets 2? lol

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @Buxxy, I loved the book. so in some sense, i can’t say I hate the film. I do think the film didn’t capture the whole message of the book and in some ways failed to fully explore critical issues in the book, particularly those centered around race.

      • RedBeanzNRice on a Diet

        @Liz,

        It’s always funny to me how people call movies “films”. There’s a difference, and Tyler Perry doesn’t put out films, he puts out movies.

        Movies = Guilty pleasure
        Films = A work of art

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          I hear you, but for the most part Tyler and Oprah both didn’t come in until the end. Like, the film was finished already, was making the film festival circuit (hence the word “film”), and those two came in to save the day by adding their names for support and for check-writing purposes (to aid in making sure it got proper distribution, etc.). So, in terms of the creative process TP’s hands weren’t even in the mix. In that respect, I think it’s safe to call this a ‘film’ by all intents and purposes. That also explains why the film is such a significant departure from any other TP movie we’ve seen.

          • http://musicmakesmehigh.wordpress.com Reecie

            @Liz, thank you for stating this. a few people have it confused. it is NOT a Tyler Perry movie. Please don’t hand out those accolades to him (if anyone is gonna hand them out), he didn’t direct it. lol.

            I enjoyed reading the book–earlier this year when I heard about the acclaim for the film at Sundance. I’m gonna see it to see how it compares…

          • http://musicmakesmehigh.wordpress.com Reecie

            @Liz, thank you for stating this. a few people have it confused. it is NOT a Tyler Perry movie. Please don’t hand out those accolades to him (if anyone is gonna hand them out), he didn’t direct it. lol.

            I enjoyed reading the book–earlier this year when I heard about the acclaim for the film at Sundance. I’m gonna see it to see how it compares…

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          I hear you, but for the most part Tyler and Oprah both didn’t come in until the end. Like, the film was finished already, was making the film festival circuit (hence the word “film”), and those two came in to save the day by adding their names for support and for check-writing purposes (to aid in making sure it got proper distribution, etc.). So, in terms of the creative process TP’s hands weren’t even in the mix. In that respect, I think it’s safe to call this a ‘film’ by all intents and purposes. That also explains why the film is such a significant departure from any other TP movie we’ve seen.

      • RedBeanzNRice on a Diet

        @Liz,

        It’s always funny to me how people call movies “films”. There’s a difference, and Tyler Perry doesn’t put out films, he puts out movies.

        Movies = Guilty pleasure
        Films = A work of art

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @Buxxy, I loved the book. so in some sense, i can’t say I hate the film. I do think the film didn’t capture the whole message of the book and in some ways failed to fully explore critical issues in the book, particularly those centered around race.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Buxxy,

      I just feel like there are a lot of other movies that made Black people look bad and this is not on the top of the list.

      see, i’m not one of those people who think that only “positive” depictions of black people should be shown on screen. i’m a big fan of realism, but i’m not a fan of having that realism pandered to me, and the entire precious phenomenon reeks of pandering to me

      again though, i’ll admit that my sentiment may be unfair since i havent seen the movie. but, i’ve read and heard enough about it to suspect that i’m right, and i’m not in a huge rush to prove myself wrong

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Buxxy,

      I just feel like there are a lot of other movies that made Black people look bad and this is not on the top of the list.

      see, i’m not one of those people who think that only “positive” depictions of black people should be shown on screen. i’m a big fan of realism, but i’m not a fan of having that realism pandered to me, and the entire precious phenomenon reeks of pandering to me

      again though, i’ll admit that my sentiment may be unfair since i havent seen the movie. but, i’ve read and heard enough about it to suspect that i’m right, and i’m not in a huge rush to prove myself wrong

  • Buxxy

    Oh wow, hmmm I can say I understand your point, but I can’t say I fully agree. Personally I plan on watching the movie because I love the book. Despite popular opinion, I believe it was beautifully written and the growth of the characters really moved me. Push has a special place in my heart and I have to see if they did it justice. The whole issue with colorism, I can understand that. Sigh… I don’t know. I just feel like there are a lot of other movies that made Black people look bad and this is not on the top of the list. I think you should reconsider your decision. If for nothing more than to use it as a talking piece (or maybe that is just the grad student me talking).

    I do feel like we find an issue with everything. For example, I spent yesterday debating the first Black Disney princess and how she is portrayed from her name to her prince to the story line. A part of me hates her portrayal and the other part is proud to see that she is actually inducted. I feel the same way about this movie, it may not be the best but I am glad that this story is told. If it can touch people then why not support it?

    Just my nine cents….

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