Precious- A Soliloquy for Survivors


root - Posted on 01 January 2000

A Womynist Movie for all tortured women

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, Daughter of Dee

The pain of a thousand mamaz and daughters - the pain of isolation, capitalism, racism, sexism, violence and poverty - the pain of women, the pain of children- too much pain for a film screen, a book, or a dream...-

Hot , thick tears consumed my face carving deep rivers into my skin, deep rivers with no bottom. As i stumbled out of the new movie Precious; based on the novel Push by Sapphire last night an empathic usher held out his hand as i passed him to comfort me- his eyes holding mine for a just a second - a long enough second for me to know he is one of us - one of the many quiet humans who roam the earth with half filled cups of sanity and over-filled cups of sorrow from the abuse at the hands of our mothers and/or caregivers.

I went to the theatre to see Precious in trepidation of a movie filled with harmful depictions of poor black mothers and children on welfare, poor women, poor people, racist, classist images that constantly fill the pages, mouths and broadcasts of corporate media channels, politicians and ignorant US citizens by the minions. I went in trepidation of something my own brilliant and tortured African/Boricua/Irish mama coined "Motherism" the blaming of all ills in a US capitalist system that criminalizes poor women rather than support them, on the mama. I went to the theatre ready to be indignant , mad, and critical of more outsider art about us - without us.

Instead i found a movie about my mama, my mamas mama, and most devastating of all, about me A movie so layered and complex and beautiful that had so much to do with the struggle of poor women, and women period in this patriarchal, racist, classist, society that intentionally isolates people from each other - women from their matrilineal lines, families from their support systems. A movie that is about women and their constant onslaught of abuse by predators - not just predatory men - but predatory non-profit industrial complexes and predatory education systems and predatory shame.

Early on the movie centers us in the perpetually dark apartment of Precious and her mama lighted almost solely with the running lie of a television screen piping in images of game shows offering quick entrance into wealth and whiteness. We see the seemingly horrible ( and oscar -winning) depiction by Mo'Nique as an abusive hateful mama to her own daughter, attacking her own because of jeously over a man. An attack so common in a society that has us competing with our own girl-children for love, survival and perhaps the worst thing of all, so we wont fall into the logical progression of capitalism, aloneness and desperate isolation.

We watch the alone-ness of 16 year old illiterate Precious adrift in her high school classroom passed between grades without so much as a glance. A very real portrayal that happens much more often that one would want to know in Amerikkka over-stuffed, under-funded classrooms filled with poor children of color long ago sorted, separated and forgotten by linguistic domination, racist and classist funding streams. You watch Precious have a crush on her white male math teacher because he at least calls on her and expects her to finish her work.

The camera rests on the beautiful and textured face of the actress Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe moving across her deep chocolate features from below. With this angle you not only see her admixture of pain, confusion, and fear, but her pride and clarity and ultimately her deep heroism .

Eventually we find out that Precious is pregnant with her second child from rape by her father - an act of abuse carried out with her mama looking on impotently. The depth of this horribleness and director Lee Daniel's gaze sets the viewer up to be extremely angry with the mama - and that's where the uncomfortableness begins. Like all silenced and hated people my welfare dependent, mixed race, daughter of poor woman of color skin crawls when i see one dementional racist characterizations of african descendent mamas on welfare being crazy , abberant demons like the embodiment of every racist stereotype that would make Daniel Moynihan* proud.

But then something happens, something that has to do with the power of women-centered narratives and the power and love of women - women of color healing, silencing men and white people in their wake-

We as viewers, together with Precious, discover sister-hood, sister-hood of her mandated alternative high school- sisterhood of her teacher. and sister-hood of her new-found friends all in struggle to somehow "make it" and with the teachers help, heal through the art and love of writing and reading and talking and thinking.

At its core Precious is about women. women in all our beauty and horrible-ness brutality and strength. In one scene this theme was underscored by a filmic "trick" a filmmaker friend once told me about, that whenever one fillmmaker shows another film in in his or her movie- its a metaphor for the theme of the overall movie, In one typically destructive scene - this time rooted in food and its relationship with mama and daughter they watched a televised rerun of the Fellini film The Women, a perfect metaphor for this powerful womyst movie.

This movie was also about the gaze between people- a gaze filled with so much more than the moment- filed with fear, and hope and desperation and dreams and hope and hate and above all desire, Every-time the camera rested on precious- as she rested her eyes on mama - you saw everything she wanted to see- didnt want to see - dreamed of seeing - couldnt stand to see- - you also saw everything her mama couldnt be- wanted to be- wasnt - u saw the pain of a thousand nights and days and mornings beween a mother and daughter in struggle - between a family in crisis - between two women who were at once in love and in hate with each other - and at once deeply dependent on one another the way only family can be.

This movie was also about consumerist media and the depth of its power to reach us and speak to us in our isolated, capitalist apartments and rooms, houses and corners and lie to us and make us want - make us desire everything us poor people never have access to but always are taught to want.

But above all this movie was about the strength of our mothers and our daughters to get through an endless onslaught of "little murders of the soul" as my mama used to call most of her life.

At one point towards the end of the movie, Precious says a line in a narration to herself that will resonate with all abuse and torture survivors. "Nowadays, all that (pain) seems like a really bad dream that i dont really remembe.r"

As she says this line i listen and nod in immediate understanding and then catch myself with the irony, until, I say quietly through more tears, you see a brutal, terrifying and brilliant wake-up call like this movie.

* Daniel Moynihan helped shape welfare code with his "Study" of single mother-headed households in the projects in New York in the 1960's. With one sweep of his "outsider" pen he criminalized and pathologized our matrilineal households as abberant because they didnt fit his idea of a sane and healthy nuclear family

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