In Blog by darlene2 Comments

I saw the movie Precious some weeks ago, and since then, I have thought about the story, its art, and its implications in America. Set in Harlem in 1987, it is the story of Claireece, a sixteen year old African-American girl who is pregnant for the second time by her absentee father. She lives with her cruel mother who abuses her verbally and physically on a regular basis. The abuse is so hideous that some scenes are difficult to watch. The language from the mother is so rancid that the watcher becomes Precious, and feels the snare of the mother’s words and craves the fresh air of freedom. In those scenes I will say, I experienced art.

Precious flounders in school, and we learn she is illiterate. In these circumstances, Precious’ inner strength becomes apparent; she has a will to have more and be more than what her mother tells her she is worth. She becomes literate in an alternative school and so learns to strive to get out of the darkness of her current circumstances.

All should be good in the world of art and resolution of narrative, right? No, not for me. It is true—Precious overcomes. However, she is left with two children, one with Down Syndrome, and to add to her impoverished circumstances, she learns she has contracted the HIV virus. I left the theatre with a feeling of defeat. I envisioned Precious in a few years on welfare, struggling to care for her children until she becomes riddled with full blown AIDS. She could gain access to the best cocktail of preventative HIV drugs available. But I couldn’t see the end to her struggle. A single, poor, black mother, with just the foundations of literacy behind her— any form of the American dream seemed like a ninety degree climb. Where is the triumph or even a glimpse of real freedom from her tragic past?   For me, there is an overriding fear that a movie like Precious re-kindles and  perpetuates ugly stereotypes of the potential of the the African-American female.

While the producers and writers of the film achieve success in casting the right performers for the roles, while the movie achieves artistic excellence on many levels, and while it presents a topic that may prompt a victim or two to come forward with the dark secrets of her life, there is another sub-plot that is left out of this script. A story that portrays an African-American girl’s future as one not so burdened by the fall-out of her circumstances that she is doomed to a perpetual life-long struggle or even an early death. There is a story that needs to be picked up from the cutting room floor and restored. It is the one of a victorious African-American girl who has a future of real triumph, of real hope, of real redemption.


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  1. Yvette

    I have not seen Precious-although it was on my to-do list. I will say that from an artistic standpoint; it seems that when an African American Woman is in dire straits on the big screen – those powers that be in world of movies sit up, take notice and decide to shower actresses with awards. Monster’s Ball and even Dreamgirls are the most recent to fit this bill.
    With regard to the storyline itself and how it was portrayed or even why it was portrayed on the big screen leaves me scratching my head. I have spoken with many of my sisterfriends and have received many views. Regardless of their like or dislike of the movie, the abuse and the life of Precious leaves far too much to be desired and brings too many tears. At this juncture in our nation I would think our youth could be portrayed in a more positive light as I feel it is our job to leave a positive deposit in the earth for the next generation and to be a model of what they should aspire to in every area of our lives-this includes what we create and put out on the big and small screen though our extremely talented minds.

  2. darlene

    I love what you say here, Yvette. Artists need to be wary of gaining some kind of artistic ground at the expense of the dignity of a culture or gender or, as you well articulate, our youth. Thanks for your comment.

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