have you seen precious? reading group anyone?
haven’t seen it? see it. yeah you,
see the movie. cuz its not just the movie. it is the scene before the movie. its saturday night, union square, im at cosi’s, waiting for my folks, across the way from the theater. its is the groups of women, the femmes, the butches, the black women, the stunning fat girls, the two white women at the bar like, “top us off, please, we’re trying to get drunk before this movie.” it is the red and black book clutched in the hands of the young woman with the empire braids crossing the street, the young asian man on the subway platform, the older white woman smashed on the morning q train. it is gabourey sidibe on the cover of the sunday new york times magazine. it is the word that is never on lips and rarely on minds: incest.
it is visibility, visible. in black and red paperback. in sold out sold out sold out blinking red against the black saturday night marquee.
i saw “precious” this past saturday. “precious” is the movie adaptation of sapphire’s novel, “push.” push is told from the perspective of precious, a victim of family violence in many forms, including horrific incest. the novel, and the movie, parallel her healing process with her learning how to read and write at an alternative school. in this way, precious/push is a commentary on how learning heals. it is a pedagogical work, it comments on teaching and learning by and for and with oppressed populations and deserves to be contextualized in the line of other people we give props to who have shaped this field, including the urban work/youth speaks favorite, paulo freire.
i recommend that you see the movie. it works, it works on many levels. mo’nique is amazing. in fact, everyone did they part. if you scared that its going to be too much, please don’t worry. this tyler perry and oprah winfrey backed film is hard hitting but with an eye on mass appeal, there are enough spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine go down. in some ways the movie is a bit too saccharine. on the other hand, in a society where most don’t talk about incest, much less tell their own survival stories, a slight nod towards disney-fication may exactly what the mainstream doctor ordered. for me, it would have been helpful too have felt at least once like i was falling, like i was hopeless, like there was no net and this would never, ever stop. because that’s how it feels when you going through it. in precious, i generally felt the presence of a net that would catch me the viewer before i fell too far or too hard into hopelessness.
but hopelessness is a real part of the experience. as a survivor of incest, i can say that while you’re going through it, there is almost no balance. it can feel like the abuse is everything. and it can feel like it is nothing, like nothing wrong is happening. then, if you lucky and if you strong, you keep cracking light in the concrete of your experience, until you, your seed has air to breathe, the soil it needs, to grow.
while director lee daniels did not go by the book in some core ways (in the movie ms. blue rain is light skinned, no locks and tyler perry’s missionary christiandom is obvious in a few distracting scenes), in most ways he lets the audience see the world how precious sees the world. when she is being raped, she sees in non-linear montage. when precious shows up to school after bearing beatings, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse at the hands of her mom, we see how her vision and hearing is cloudy, disjointed.
i’m over here on the 6th floor of tisch. just got out of ed guerroro’s film class on horror and sci-fi. he offered this definition of hegemony: hegemony is how the ruling class manufactures consent to their rule.
precious and push tell a story that is not often told, and less often heard. so maybe, just maybe, when we tell our true stories, we stop consenting to the kind of rule asks us to check the safety of family life at the door to the store, the school, the job. by telling my story, by learning every day new things, i am actively breaking down the hegemony that surrounds me with silence.
go see the flick man.