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 resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • 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.

      • 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://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://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://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!

  • 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

  • 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…

  • 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

      • 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!

          • 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://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://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

  • Leila

    I see what you’re saying about Antwone Fisher because I saw that opening weekend but I’m passing on Prescious. I like going to the movies for an escape and this looks very intense and depressing but I also heard that it has very good acting so I will rent it when it hits netflix.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Leila,

      I see what you’re saying about Antwone Fisher because I saw that opening weekend but I’m passing on Prescious

      in your opinion, what makes fisher a potentially enjoyable experience but not precious?

      • Sula

        @The Champ,

        The happy ending in Antwone Fisher is an easier pill to swallow than the more realistic ending of Precious.

  • http://www.blacknbougie.com OneChele

    A friend of mine saw it and has been in a deep, melancholy, and introspective “how did we get here” mood since Friday.

    Based on that, I plan to see it but not right now. I’m kind of up to my quota on sad, depressing, how horrific is this, somebody come save us “entertainment” at this moment.

    • overit

      @OneChele, ok! ninjas still gotta go to work and school!

  • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

    i havent seen the movie yet becuz its not playing in a theater near me. if it doesnt come to pgh by thanksgiving, ill just see it while im in atlanta.

    but i am looking forward to seeing the movie. the reasons Champikins doesnt want to see it are the same reasons im intrigued by it. while the film is tackling many undesirable themes and issues, i think thats all the more reason to support the film. becuz it makes the viewer uneasy and uncomfortable. from what i can tell, its seems realistic in a way that its actually kind of comes across as unreal to those of us who are privileged and far removed from such a life. idk really. i guess ill soon find out.

    besides, i think the casting is interesting within itself and id like to see how the actors carry this film. theres enough glamorous stars in their who have less flattering roles. and its always entertaining (to me) to see the fab look drab.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean,

      its not in the burgh yet? are you sure?

      • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

        @The Champ,

        yes, im sure. its not playing in lincoln, ne (my current location) either. so ill just assume ill see it thanksgiving night with my bff and/or brother.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean,

          what the hell are you doing in nebraska?

          • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

            @The Champ,

            eating corn.

  • shay-d-lady

    for the record tyler didn’t cast this..he and oprah put the money up but its not a tyler film
    I also don’t know if its colorism just because paula is light skinned I mean in the book the teacher actually was a bit of a detriment to precious. I plan to see it.. I liked the book ( except the ending) and wanna see how it plays out and that’s my whole motivation. not because of any of the bull shyt reasons being used to drum up ticket sales.
    its a fictional sad as movie based on a pretty good book….why can’t it just be that?

    • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

      @shay-d-lady,

      lol i <3 you shay-d. you keeps it real.

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @shay-d-lady, i agree. my only issue was casting of Paula Patton since the book seems to go out of its way to point out Precious’ teacher is darker skinned and has dreads. I was picturing a whoopi goldberg type actress, and I get Paula Patton? really? that seemed a bit of a significant stretch especially since colorism is a major theme in the book. seemed like an asshole move to me.

      • http://stickwithyocat.blogspot.com/ V.E.G.

        @Liz,

        Chile, you know movie producers do their own thang when casting for films and often ignore character descriptions from the books inspired by the film.

        I was horrified when Oprah cast a young Halle Berry in her television film adaptation of “The Wedding”.

        Shelby was black in the book but she was a black woman who looked white. And Oprah cast Halle. Yeah, in real life Halle’s momma is white but you wouldn’t know that ish unless she told you.

        It took me a while to get over the poor casting and just learn to accept that the film is never, ever going to be an excellent or accurate representation of the book.

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          @V.E.G., re: The Wedding, REALLY? I never read the book and would not have known that detail. I think things like this are critical where race play important roles in the story…and in the case of both films it strikes me odd this is overlooked since Black people are involved or leading the creative process.

      • InnerDiva

        @Liz, I pictured Vanessa Williams (from Soul Food on TV, not the movie) as Ms. Rain.

        I saw the movie during opening weekend in NYC, and I thought it was pretty good. While it left out Farakhan’s influence on Precious, I felt it captured most of the original story.

        The audience was a mix of black people, white people, men, women, teenagers, gay people, straight people…

        • http://lizburr.com Liz

          @InnerDiva, ahh you’re right. I think that Vanessa Williams would have been a great casting choice for Ms. Rain!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @shay-d-lady,

      “for the record tyler didn’t cast this..he and oprah put the money up but its not a tyler film”

      i know, but i don’t think its a coincidence that the colorism charge comes up with practically everything t.p. puts his name on.

      also, if a fictional book and movie is based on and lauded for its realism, it stops becoming just a fictional sad ass movie based on a pretty good book. basically, if you make it a point to be judged on your realism, then i’m going to judge you on your realism.

      for instance, while the bluest eye is one of my favorite books, casting a fair-skinned girl as pecola in a screen depiction would probably ruin the movie for me

      • miss t-lee

        @The Champ,

        “for instance, while the bluest eye is one of my favorite books, casting a fair-skinned girl as pecola in a screen depiction would probably ruin the movie for me”

        They will totally ruin that story if they ever try to make it into a movie.

      • Yonnie3k

        @The Champ,

        I guess there are some cases where TP’s protagonist is light skinned(ed) and the antagonist is dark, but I can also think of instances where the protagonist is dark – the lead from Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Idris Elba in Daddy’s Little Girls. I don’t think there is necessarily a trend in his movies.

  • http://twitter.com/jennimichelle Jennifer

    Ok. So much to say about this but I’ll just address #2. I’m so over that mindset. Having a background in social work and having worked only in the non profit sector, I have a huge problem with blacks that have problems with non-blacks helping, excuse me, “saving” black youth. The reality is that if the *black* parents, community, and school system hadn’t somehow failed the black youth in the first place, we wouldn’t need anyone to save them. So I suppose if a youth cannot be paired with a social worker/mentor of their same race then they’re better off without any help right?

    • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

      @Jennifer,

      you bring up a good point. im not a fan of the anti-white/light saving darkies film sentiment either. im hearing the same thing about The Blindside with Sandy Bull. why not just focus on the fact that “at risk” youth are being saved, period? does it matter by who?? celebrate the victories.

      and if color is really a problem, why not encourage more black, darker skinned folks to go into social work, teaching, service careers to be the captain save-a-colored??

      • http://nianaturally.blogspot.com insomN.I.A.

        I just wonder, who is the intended audience for this movie? B/c I never thought it was a secret that there is sexual abuse, physical abuse, and extreme poverty in the black community, along with a lack of access to health care and lack of quality education. And Reagan told us years ago about the welfare queen, so is this movie really intended for black folks? Or even intended for socially/culturally white people, because these same issues are prevalent among our white brethren.

        I agree with your all of your points, Champ. My sister wants to see it this Saturday, but the Buckeyes are playing, sooo…. I probably won’t be able to make it.

        I’ll have more to say at a more decent hour….

        • http://nianaturally.blogspot.com insomN.I.A.

          @insomN.I.A.,

          this shouldn’t be here. it’s not a reply to Gem and Jennifer… smh

        • http://blkbond.blogspot.com BlkBond

          @insomN.I.A.,

          The Buckeyes?!?!

          Yeah, I think you can go see precious. Twice.

          Bond.

        • Sula

          @insomN.I.A.,

          I just wonder, who is the intended audience for this movie? B/c I never thought it was a secret that there is sexual abuse, physical abuse, and extreme poverty in the black community, along with a lack of access to health care and lack of quality education. And Reagan told us years ago about the welfare queen, so is this movie really intended for black folks?

          What does it matter WHO the audience is? An author, an artist, a musician all create things… whoever consumes those things end up consuming it. Stories are there to be told and Precious is one of those stories. To me, we either like it or we don’t… but stopping stories from being told just because we don’t “like their premises” is asking a lot, imho.

      • Me fail english?

        @The One & True GEM… of the Ocean,

        “why not encourage more black, darker skinned folks to go into social work, teaching, service careers to be the captain save-a-colored??”

        Word. Especially since I’ve been volunteering/working with non-profits since I was 15 years old and more often than not (unless I do smthg with my sister’s sorors, Urban League or a church group) I am the only black or brown face that is NOT a client. smh.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Jennifer,

      “So I suppose if a youth cannot be paired with a social worker/mentor of their same race then they’re better off without any help right?”

      i’m not saying that. any help a kid gets is perfectly fine with me. you’re barking up the wrong tree

      i’m not referring to real-life instances as much as the tired movie theme.

      to me, this theme is along the same lines as the “homely girl gets picked on and can’t find a date, but takes off her glasses and becomes a supermodel” and any other movie cliche you can think of, and after watching 290 or so movies with the same premise, it gets tired

    • Caballeroso

      @Jennifer,

      In line with #2, surely there are instances where a black person has stepped in to save another black person…or even stepped in to save a white person. I’d like to see this portrayed for a change. It seems that every year I’m bombarded with a new “2520 steps in to save darky” movie.

      On top of that you’ve got the whole “white washing” effect where non-blacks take on the role of the hero, whereas in the reality of the actual event, that hero was black. Just within the past two weeks we’ve seen a 2520 female police officer take credit for bringing down the Fort Hood gunman. In reality, it was a black male officer who fired the shots that ended it.

      “Others” rarely interact with us. Their only knowledge of us is based on what is portrayed in the media and the one or two of us that they work with. How are we ever to truly be recognized as equals if all they are ever shown are negative portrayals and those where our only saviours are them?

      • VeronicaCorningstoneD

        @Caballeroso and The Champ,

        WORD. I really can’t co-sign this enough.

        • shatani

          @VeronicaCorningstoneD,

          Best. Screen name. Ever!

      • http://blkbond.blogspot.com BlkBond

        @Caballeroso,

        You. Are. The. ILLEST.

        x______________

      • http://www.flaglerhill.com Blaze

        @Caballeroso,

        You’re right on point with your comments. You never see movies that show a black as the hero saving another black which happens all day, everyday but never glorified.

        Good points.

      • http://twitter.com/jennimichelle Jennifer

        @Caballeroso, @The Champ,

        “i’m not referring to real-life instances as much as the tired movie theme”

        Well maybe I should have clarified because I was definitely talking about real life instances. I get that people are tired of the non blacks “saving” blacks movie theme. And there’s nothin wrong with wanting to see blacks in the “hero” role. I get that. What I don’t get (and perhaps this is not what you meant) is when people get upset over these very real portrayals…and again I’m speaking from a social service perspective. It seems to me, that people would rather get upset about the color of who is helping whom rather than be upset about why the client is in that position in the first place. I guess it’s an easier issue to address.

        Perhaps we need movies like “Precious” to inspire more blacks to go into the social service field. While alot of us are way too familiar with and even tired of stories like this, there are those (blacks included) that are not.

        • http://twitter.com/jennimichelle Jennifer

          @Jennifer,

          Oh. And Go Bucks.

          • http://nianaturally.blogspot.com N.I.A. naturally

            @Jennifer,

            Whoohooo!!!

        • The One & True GEM… of the Ocean

          @Jennifer,

          i feel you on this.

        • Sula

          @Jennifer,

          It seems to me, that people would rather get upset about the color of who is helping whom rather than be upset about why the client is in that position in the first place.

          Word. Life.