Precious: A Feminist Must-See

I had to post a link to the new movie, Precious:

I am halfway through Push, the book by Sapphire that the movie is based on. It is not often that so many issues women face are embodied in one character. From racism, sizism, sexual violence, domestic violence, welfare issues, colorism, ablism, and many, many more — this is the ultimate feminist primer! I am not quite sure what to make of how Precious’ mother’s character, played by Mo’Nique, is being framed as the “monstrous matriarch.” On one hand, giving her villainous character, it seems fitting. On the other hand, what does it mean that the black single mom has once again gotten this branding? This is especially interesting considering the villainous male characters in the story that seem conspicuously absent from this trailer.

On another note, I posted earlier this week about Tyler Perry. He is serving as an executive producer of this film, alongside Oprah. Again, I think we can log some progress points for Perry on this one. It will be important to see what, if any, the trade offs will be.

But, after all, I’m just a cautious optimist. Preliminary thoughts?

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23 Comments

  1. ooperbooper
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    First, everyone needs to see Precious.
    Second, Tyler Perry and Oprah were tacked on as producers after the film premiered at Sundance for distribution purposes. I think it’s great that Tyler Perry is supporting the film’s distribution but he had nothing to do with production.

  2. Rose
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Ooperbooper. I read coverage on that days ago here: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/toronto-film-festival-precious-producer-error/?scp=1&sq=Precious,%20daniels&st=cse
    However, I still think it is important to note that the two most prominent black image makers are using their status in the industry to support a movie that America, on the whole, needs to see. Especially in the case of Perry who has portrayed black women in questionable ways.
    More on Precious here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/14/arts/AP-CN-Film-Precious.html

  3. whaler
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Saw the trailer for it before “away we go”. It looks amazing.

  4. Pantheon
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I read the book, haven’t seen the movie. As I recall from the book, one of the biggest problems is that her mother isn’t a single mother– its her father who is the most abusive. I think he is gone at some point, so I guess her mother is technically a single mother then, but it seems like a large portion of the abuse suffered came from the father.
    I thought the book was really interesting, but really difficult to read since it didn’t use standard spelling and grammar. I know it was meant to give a certain feel to the book, and it did, but it really took me out of the reading experience more than most books do.

  5. JamesXL
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I hope everyone who plans to watch this movie can do so from an objective standpoint. From just the trailer, this movie appears to be less feminist than the hype would have us believe. Visibility vs. Invisibility. Need I say more?
    Keep an eye out for what is NOT shown, as well as what IS presented in such neat little packages.
    I mean cmon, really? The pretty light skinned lady with the high cheekbones and straight, thin, nose saving the Overweight, Destitute, Dark Skinned, Low-Esteemed, Round-Nosed girl? Exactly what kind of dichotomies are they trying to create here?

  6. JamesXL
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy, you think that’s bad?
    Try reading some of the stuff Faulkner wrote. ;)
    Great writer with great insight, but those books were just damned hard to plow through.

  7. Hara
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Oprah and Perry came on after it did well at Sundance. To be clear, their involvement insured distribution and is great, but, not at all involved in it’s development, production or even post.
    I read the book approx 12-15 years ago and was stunned by it. I’m THRILLED to know it is being distributed and look forward to watching it.

  8. Tara K.
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Is this out and playing? I thought it wasn’t.
    The trailer definitely seems like a mainstream-friendly one (to some extent); I think the movie will be better than the trailer would have you believe.
    That said, I don’t have any opinions yet, as I haven’t seen it. I’m excited too, though. My biggest criticism thus far is just that it is yet another film that fall into a familiar arrangment: black comedies focus on middle-class black women; black dramas focus on black poverty. Both lead to depictions that black women need only a little money to be happy and money is their only dissatisfaction in life. Etc.

  9. Pantheon
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read Faulkner, but I think I had trouble with Angela’s Ashes, too. And Shakespeare. I read enough that when I read in English I’m not usually conscious of the fact that I’m reading– but when I try to read in another language or another dialect of English, its really a lot of work. It gives me more of an appreciation for people who don’t like to read.

  10. Toni
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I read the book after seeing the trailer when it was posted on Feministing a couple months ago. It was very powerful. Precious does change quite a bit.
    Warning Spoilers ahead:
    While Precious stops being homophobic (or atleast a lot less homophobic) she is still quite racist at the end. Her problems were not caused by white people, they were caused by other black people.

  11. Toni
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I read the book after seeing the trailer when it was posted on Feministing a couple months ago. It was very powerful. Precious does change quite a bit.
    Warning Spoilers ahead:
    While Precious stops being homophobic (or atleast a lot less homophobic) she is still quite racist at the end. Her problems were not caused by white people, they were caused by other black people.

  12. chersolly
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I work for a GED center in an inner-city. Precious reminds me of so many of our students. A few months ago, I saw the trailer with one of my co-workers, someone who was once in Precious’ shoes, and we just sat there crying.

  13. LalaReina
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I read the book and I’ve heard good thing so I plan to see this movie and let me for once give Tyler and Oprah some kudos. Marketing is going to be interesting. I remember when Oprah’s ‘Great Debaters’ came out and while I’m usually there in any Denzel movie I avoided it because I thought it would be preachy and “positive”. Seeing the dvd it was an excellent movie. We’ll see how this goes.

  14. Tracey T
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I agree but give them the benefit of the doubt to some extent because I think it was done consciously. Based on a trailer I saw, I think they adress the the problem of a conventionally beautiful person telling someone who is conventionally ugly and the opposite of what is considered pretty that they are beautiful and can do well. And I do think that it can sometimes be patrionizing and somewhat annoying to have someone that is the polar opposite of you tell you things like that.
    Still, it is a very huge benefit of the doubt, maybe I just want to believe a bit to badly that they did put serious thought into the casting and that this wasn’t and unconscious oversight. Even then, it is still highly problematic to have the thin light-skinned woman as one of the only positives in a heavy dark-skinned woman’s life (esp. when her abusive mother is also heavy and dark-skinned).

  15. Timshel
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I was starting to feeling sorry for Precious until I heard she had a baby in high school. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard for her to keep her pants on.
    Other than that, though, seems like a fairly decent, predictable “feel good” movie. I’m sure the army of Lifetime viewers will be more than satisfied.

  16. Pantheon
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    You’re… kidding, right? Spoiler, but as I recall the baby comes from her father raping her.

  17. amy_sarah
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Precious just won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, happening in my little city, so it seems like the film is definitely getting into the mainstream + getting great audience responses, which is nice for a feminist-friendly film. I’m excited to see it!

  18. lucierohan
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I sense a troll.

  19. Rachel
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    I do think this looks good, and I’d love to read the book, though I’m not sure I could handle it alone. Just a quick question though: Why is the “savior” always a light-skinned woman????
    This is true of EVERY “amazing-teacher movie,” and this one doesn’t look any different–though I do give them credit for more apparent emphasis on the struggles of Precious herself. Am I alone on that one though??? I know it’s easier for light-skinned people to help from a position of privilege, but can’t we give some credit to black, specifically black women who save themselves, and/or lift up the people around them from a position of oppression??

  20. arynne
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    That’s how I feel every time I read Hagrid’s character in Harry Potter. Also, I attempted to start Trainspotting, and couldn’t get through the first page. A Clockwork Orange, however, was mildly difficult. I think this is because I was 13 at the time. I was a younger, and therefore, better/faster learner.
    Also, I discover how privileged I am every day. I have never thought about people who don’t like to read that way. I actually can’t stand people who say they don’t like to read. But, damn. Thanks!

  21. arynne
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Oh my god… I meant to reply to Pantheon above, and had to sign in… which threw me off. I just went down to the comment box and pasted what I wrote.

  22. arynne
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    That’s how I feel every time I read Hagrid’s character in Harry Potter. Also, I attempted to start Trainspotting, and couldn’t get through the first page. A Clockwork Orange, however, was mildly difficult. I think this is because I was 13 at the time. I was a younger, and therefore, better/faster learner.
    Also, I discover how privileged I am every day. I have never thought about people who don’t like to read that way. I actually can’t stand people who say they don’t like to read. But, damn. Thanks!

  23. demolitionwoman
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Are you actually calling Precious racist against white people? Seriously? The basic, 101 definition of racism is power + prejudice. Precious may have some prejudice against white folks, but is not in a position to be racist.
    You may want to check out http://resistracism.wordpress.com/racism-101/ for further info.

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