ColorLines Reviews Precious, Even If You’re Not Going to See It

By Julianne Hing Oct 30, 2009

Check out Juell Stewart’s review of the movie Precious on ColorLines. She provides a little political context for 1980s Harlem, where actress Gabourey Sibide’s character Precious was growing up. Stewart writes:

But director Lee Daniels makes the critical mistake of ignoring the social and political reality that his characters inhabit. To ignore 1987 Harlem as the foundation for the permanent Black underclass created by the Reagan Administration through its abhorrent social reform policies—including the War on Drugs and welfare reform—is to ignore a crucial aspect of his characters’ lives.

Stewart makes the connections the film doesn’t: when it comes to poverty and communities of color, it’s never just about the personal story. It’s also about the laws and political context that often shape the conditions of people’s lives. So after you’ve read Stewart’s review, it seems like the only question that remains is whether or not you’re going to see the film. I know a lot of people who are still undecided about sitting through what everyone knows is a brutal and violent film, and I count myself as one of them. There are so few Black movies–besides Tyler Perry’s films, and even Precious has Perry’s stamp on it–that get mainstream exposure. It seems like it should be a refreshing change to welcome a film with an honest story and complex characters where Black actors are leads, and not just sidekicks and security guards. And American audiences have been obsessed with so-called reality TV for over a decade now, there should be no reason to be squeamish about "real" grit and suffering and poverty. But I haven’t a strong enough stomach for violence (even the genre du jour of vampires and zombies) and so have even less interest in seeing what everyone is hailing as the authentic brutality inflicted upon a young Black woman in Precious. I would not watch the video of 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beaten to death by his classmates. I could never, ever look at the reported cell phone photos of a 15-year-old girl’s gang rape at Richmond High. To me this film would be as awful and haunting as cell phone videos of real death, and seeing violence of this kind, even if it’s passed off as art, is a kind of voyeurism I just don’t want to participate in. Violence in communities of color must be discussed, but it will never be entertainment. I think I’m going to be sitting this one out.