Before I saw Lee Daniel’s “Precious” I perceived it as a poorly made exploitative racist film that perpetuates the worst stereotypes about black people. Six months later and eight dollars poorer after watching Lee Daniels’ “Precious” at a matinee, I still see the movie as a poorly made exploitative racist film that perpetuates the worst stereotypes about black people. Critics hail this movie as a masterpiece of film-making, I regard it as the most offensive film since Birth of a Nation.
Adapted from the novel “Push” by Sapphire Precious is tells the story of Clarice “Precious” Jones, a morbidly obese sixteen-year old with a lot of issues. Stuck in the eighth grade reading at a second grade level, She’s pregnant for the second time by her father, a nameless man mixed among a montage of bacon grease and Vaseline. Kicked out of school, she’s sent home to her mother Mary, a foul-mouthed stereotypical Regan era welfare queen who only cares about making welfare money off her daughter and keeping her case open so she cans sit on her butt and watch TV all day.After getting knocked out by moms and in between a profanity laced argument between Mary and Precious we watch as the enthusiastic Principal (who was apathetic as she kicked Precious out of her wonderful public school) comes out in the rain (This doesn’t happen in real life. I went to public school in the 1980’s and no one came out to your house; they just pushed you to the next grade regardless of your grades) to tell her about Each One, Teach One, an alternative school where she can get her GED. Oh Precious can get an education but just not in HER school. Don’t you just love the liberal hypocrisy!
The next day (or a few weeks later can’t really tell in this movie because the transitions are so choppy in this incoherent movie)Precious over her mother’s objections (she wants her to be a welfare queen like her) signs up for Each One Teach One, an alternative school full of colorful clichéd characters like Stand By Me, Welcome Back Kotter, Stand and Deliver, or whatever teen movie they were pulled from so she can work towards getting her GED. The class is led by Miss Blu Rain, an attractive light skinned woman and one of many light skinned/white saviors featured prominently in this movie. We’re also introduced to Ms. Weiss, a haggard welfare caseworker, another light/white savior. While getting ready for her first day at her new school, Precious sees herself as a skinny blonde white girl. (A pitiful attempt at symbolizing her self-hate) Shawn wanted to see about getting a refund for his movie ticket but didn’t want drama. So he endured another hour and a half of nonsense, including a visual of Precious and Mom in a scene from an Italian movie she’s watching on PBS one night.
As her fellow students help Precious on the road towards literacy, and a healthy pregnancy, Problems pile up on ol’ perpetual victim Precious. In between fights, guys dissing her and tripping her up, Her mom yelling at her for not cooking the pig feet and Macaroni and cheese right, Mary and Precious and her grandmother try to pull a fast one on welfare case worker which makes home visits. There we meet Mongol, Precious’ daughter born with Down Syndrome that stays with her grandmother so she can keep the welfare duckets rolling in.
But wait a minute there’s a BIG PLOTHOLE HERE. Wouldn’t Mary want Precious to keep Mongol and take care of her herself instead of parceling her off to grammy? SSI (Supplemental Security Income) paid $400 a month for kids with disabilities back then. And SSI checks (paid for by Social Security, a branch of the Federal government) don’t count towards income on welfare cases. Also, being a parent or guardian to kids with disabilities entitles parents (and relatives) to qualify for a Section 8 voucher (another federal program) and Section 8 housing. But Mary must be one of those illiterate Welfare queens who is SMART ENOUGH TO MANIPULATE CASE WORKERS for a STATE WELFARE CHECK but DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO MILK THE FEDERAL SYSTEM FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS.
Oh yeah, and welfare case workers didn’t make home visits back then. I grew up on welfare back in the 80’s as a kid in New York City and Case workers NEVER came for home visits (TOO DANGEROUS). Every visit to welfare offices in the 1980s was face-to-face at the HRA office (sat in many a waiting room during my childhood).
After the welfare mess is settled, the movie lightens up as precious steals some chicken, (Even though this would have been nigh impossible due to all the INCH THICK BULLETPROOF GLASS in eating establishments back then in the South Bronx and Harlem Plus customers placed their orders and paid FIRST.) Enjoying her snack, precious soon gets sick, and pukes, then off to class where the labor pains kick in. We meet Precious’ dream man and the Sweathogs rally behind their classmate for some happy times.
After Abdul is born and Precious leaves the confines of the hospital and her light skinned dream man orderly, Mary welcomes her grandson home by slamming the baby to the floor and attacking Precious in a violent assault which climaxes with Mary throwing her color TV five stories down and missing her by an inch. Precious then breaks into Each one teach one with her baby and the movie starts falling apart. After a struggle with City services, (no help) Miss Rain allows the now homeless Precious to stay with her. It’s here that we find out Miss Rain’s a lesbian (not that this has any relevance to the plot, other than to reflect Sapphire’s and Mr. Daniels sexual orientation.) Big deal.
Soon after Precious finds temporary shelter at a halfway house, we get some mumbo jumbo about workfare (which actually didn’t start until 1988) and home health aide training for a minimum wage job that could stop Precious from achieving her GED, but none of this is developed or explored. This all reaches a climax as Precious is told in the halfway house by her mother that her daddy has died of AIDS and she should get tested. Soon after that we learn Precious has HIV as well. It’s not soon after this that Precious reveals things to Miss Weiss (but not before stealing her case file, and reads what’s in it with her each one teach one buddies.)
A few months later (Again, hard to tell due to the choppy transitions in this movie) in the social service office the empowered Precious who can now read and write at an eighth grade level has a confrontation with her mother where mom breaks down and confesses to all the abuse Precious has endured. Giving up once confronted by the White establishment, she hands her back Mongol and Precious goes off with her kids and we’re supposed to believe she has hope for a brighter future.
I mean seriously WTF? WHERE’S THE HOPE? HIV IN 1987 is a DEATH SENTENCE. AZT which was STILL IN CLINICAL TRIALS hasn’t been RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC YET. (It was released in 1990 for prescriptions). THE DIVISION OF AIDS SERVICES IN NYC HASN’T BEEN ESTABLISHED YET. In reality, due to the lack of financial resources, medical resources and medical technology back then, po’ Precious would have GOTTEN FULL BLOWN AIDS AND DIED in 1988 or 1989 and her kids would wind up WARDS OF THE STATE or BACK WITH MARY WHO WOULD HAVE MILKED THE HELL OUT OF THOSE KIDS DISABILITES TO GET AL THE GOOD GOVERNMENT BENEFITS. And the most Precious would have gotten for all her hard work was a patch on the AIDS QUILT if Miss Rain could arrange it. (Remember that patchwork of thousands of AIDS victims unfurled every year in DC? It’s currently in storage somewhere at the Smithsonian while the AIDS pandemic continues to claim victims worldwide)
Precious isn’t a deep thought-provoking film. Director Lee Daniels uses exploitative images to deflect the viewer’s attention from shallow storytelling and weak character development. The viewer’s emotions are so caught up watching the graphic violence, profanity, sex, and twisted behavior of the characters that they have no idea they’ve been swindled by a con artist.
Precious isn’t inspiring, nor does it uplift. It’s an emotionally manipulative film that secretly masks a shameless cash grab by a consortium of self-hating uncle toms (Daniels, Sapphire, Fletcher) who with the aid of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry seek to pander to white America and sell them the story about black life they’re most comfortable with. This group of sell-outs laughed all the way to the bank at the expense of Black America; thanks to this film adding to the current trend of degrading images, a generation of brothers and sisters are now going to grow up thinking the behavior in this movie is the rule for black life and not the exception.
What’s even more dangerous than the twisted visuals within Precious are the institutionally racist themes in the undertones of the message in this movie. Underneath the false messages of love and hope, is a message that African-Americans are inferior. In Precious “White” is right; Everyone who approves of Precious is either white or light skinned and without the validation and approval of these individuals she can’t overcome the odds. Dark skinned black people are seen as inhuman, savage, and violent. They only speak in profanities and act like barbarians. Without the help of the white establishment (government services) to educate blacks there’s no way for Precious to become “civilized” functional person. Only when whites love and approve of Precious her can she learn to love herself. What a load of CRAP.
Director Lee Daniels takes his self-hate to a new level of depravity surpassing the degrading images he presented to the public in Monster’s Ball. In between his clumsy and inept visuals we have the same old racist stereotypes from the Antebellum South repackaged in a brand new box. We have the big illiterate who must be saved by the great white society, the fat welfare queen mammy who only speaks in a dialect of profanities, the anonymous faceless black male who is depicted as a monster but never developed as a full character, the nappy headed child who follows Precious around, and the light skinned and white heroes who teach our hero to love herself. Ideas about what black life should be like straight from the Ku Klux Klan from a black man more dangerous to African-Americans than the KKK, Skinheads, and the Aryan Nation combined. Seriously, if Daniels could get$60 million in ticket sales out of brothers and sisters and has the influence to win international acclaim for this patronizing, self-hating, anti-black propaganda, I shudder at what else he could be capable of.
What angers me more than this movie is what transpired behind the camera. Behind the scenes, Mr. Daniels showed a lack of integrity in promoting this film. Knowing that Precious would have African-Americans seen in a negative light, he still released it at Cannes anyway as a “story of hope”. That shows malice of forethought and a depraved indifference to his brothers and sisters in the black community. I truly loathe this man and everything that he stands for. With every film he makes he sets the African-American community back a century. It doesn’t matter that he’s hurt the future of the black community with his movies, he’s got his millions right now.
There’s nothing “Precious” about this movie. It’s pornography masquerading as art.
Anyone with an iota of black pride should avoid this movie and any other Lee Daniels films. They’re TOXIC.